Studio Diary #19: Improving The Vibe

My Studio Diary is where I talk about my experience with my home recording setup. You’ll get the good along with the bad. And today, I’m definitely addressing the bad.

It’s Not Working For Me

When I did the home studio gear upgrade last year, all I did was swap out old gear for the replacements. I didn’t change the location of anything in the room. The amps and cabs are still sat in exactly the same place they’ve been sat for most of the last decade.

I can’t explain it in any other way: it just hasn’t felt right.

It’s not a problem with the gear. It all works, and it (mostly) achieves what I set out to do. It has been easier than ever to explore what new (to me) pedals can do. I think I’m finally happy with the quality of the recorded sounds, especially since adding the Torpedo CAB M last month.

And yet, other than band rehearsal, I’m not recording music at all any more. As the saying goes, that does not bring me joy. It needs fixing.

The Emphasis Is Wrong

I honestly don’t care if you think this is all a bit silly. This is my creative space, and it needs to work for me.

Let me explain what the room’s like.

For the past five years, my desk has been in a corner of the room. It’s a practical place to put a desk, especially in a small room that’s used for multiple things. It’s where I sit and work in my day job, and it doubles as my main recording / listening station on evenings and weekends. My studio rack, amps and cabs sat against the rest of that wall and another wall, with the third wall taken up by much-needed storage. The final wall was left empty otherwise there’d be no space in the room at all.

Being sat in the corner of the room has finally gotten to me, I guess, especially as it is the far corner from the door. It’s a very small room, so it’s never going to feel spacious. It just doesn’t feel open any more. It makes me feel hemmed in.

As I’ve gradually built up both the gear I use for work and my guitar gear, the gear has been taking over the room. Apart from the stuff that’s gone into the studio rack, it’s all odd and awkward sizes. It’s turned into quite the sprawl, with a lot of dead space.

I’ve ended up with my four 1×12 cabs being the focal point of the room. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen photos of some of the amps stacked on top. The rest of the amps ended up on a very pretty FJÄLLBO storage unit from IKEA, with the Acus acoustic amp and Roland SPD-SX just awkwardly on the floor.

The solution, for me, has been to move (almost) everything around in the room.

Time For A New Layout

First and foremost: the focal point isn’t the amps and cabs any more: it’s now my desk. It’s still up against a wall, but it’s now placed centrally, and close to the door. This has delivered immediate improvement.

The room immediately feels open.

Why is that? It’s because this room’s not quite a square. I’ve moved my desk to be on the shortest wall. That puts my back facing the empty wall I mentioned earlier. That creates a feeling of more space – even though I’ve used this as an opportunity to add a second desk for my day job.

I’m not quite ready to add some proper studio monitors, but at least when I do, I’m happy that they’re going in a better location than they would have last year.

It took a whole day to empty the room, build the new desks, and move everything back in. And by move, I mean finding places to dump things. A lot of the gear isn’t wired back up yet. It’s going to take a bit longer before I’m ready to do that.

Nothing Comes For Free

One consequence of changing the layout is that the amps and cabs can’t be sprawling any more. They need a proper home. Specifically, I need some new furniture to sit them on, so that I can stack them out of the way.

Amps and cab dimensions are, by and large, still stuck in the era of imperial measurements. Much of normal life has moved on, and modernised to the metric system. That’s especially true of furniture, especially because so much of it is imported.

That alone makes it really hard to find shelving and storage that’s a good fit for amps. They’re either too small, or (like the IKEA unit I’ve been using for the last 18 months) you end up with a lot of dead space. And hence the sprawl that I’m trying to address!

There’s a couple of other problems too:

  • The space I’ve got for my amps is a bit of an odd size at 62 cm wide and 120 cm high. Anything bigger won’t physically fit, and anything smaller would be too small for my amps and gear to fit on. I haven’t found any furniture to fit those dimensions.
  • To save costs, most furniture isn’t made from wood any more, and just isn’t strong enough to hold even a small combo like the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6. You should have seen how bowed my old desk was when I took it out of the room, and that hasn’t had anything as heavy as an amp on it.

I’m left with two choices, really: either I find someone who can make what I want to my spec, or build something myself.

I haven’t done any woodworking since the mid 80’s, and I’m an utter novice at anything involving DIY. So naturally, I’ve gone with the second option …

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