My Studio Evoloution

I am glad, after ten years of trying, to finally, finally have found a setup that works for me! Why has it taken so long? I’m glad you asked! The answer is because I am incredibly picky about my personal space. And that’s not so much because I’m a picky person in general, but because I do music as a part time hobby, along with writing, photography, blogging and grad school work. And from a purely functional standpoint, it’s hard to cram all that into one work area and not walk into the room and experience a creative block because it feels like everything is crammed into the room.

Over the years, I’ve bought and sold gear, minimized and maximized my setup and nearly a decade later, I felt that I had honed down in on what it was I wanted from a work space, much to the relief of my wife. I then set about on a plan to put all those things I had learned into one complete (and hopefully final) room configuration.

First and foremost, I realized I wanted a home office and not a studio. I wanted a place in which could sit and use the computer comfortably that was relatively free of clutter and allowed me to also utilize my music gear in a modular fashion, while also providing some storage and a place to put and play my record collection.

Now the two sort of wrinkles I had to iron out was that I still wanted to use my laptop and 61 semi weighted controller. I like using a laptop for the portability (school, live shows etc), but at home, I like using it with an external monitor and keyboard. but now the issue became what do I do with the laptop when I’m using it at home? How do I attach my gear to it? And then there was the other issue of what do I do with my controller? It’s not small by any stretch of the imagination, clocking in at nearly four feet long and being nearly 5-6 inches thick.

So now lets jump into the way back machine and I’ll take you on a tour of the evolution of my studio and how I finally solved these problems. Now brace yourselves, for we are now truly going on a voyage inside the mind of madness..

This is the studio that started it all! Way back in ’95-’98 I used a Marantz tape recorder, a Roland XP30, Cakewalk and Cubase to produce and arrange custom music and sound effects for theme parks throughout the southeast that ran special Halloween events such as Bush Garden’s Howl ‘O Scream, 6 Flags over Georgia and other places.

Man those were the days! I can’t even tell you what kind of computer I used.. I just know it was beige. This setup ceased to be around 2000 after I graduated and moved home for a year. This desk met it’s fate during the move by getting blown out the back of my pickup truck, landing on the road, smashing and then sliding into a storm drain.

In 2002, I purchased the house I am now still living in. Having only been married two years previous to that and this being our starter home, I scored a free desk from work that was being discarded. It was a sweet piece of mid century modern furniture, but it made a lousy studio desk. In this photo I’ve got a Soundcraft Folio Notepad mixer, a Boss DR-202 my M-Audio 61Es, Ensoniq ESQ-1 and was using Fruity Loops at the time. I think the manual under the microphone is for Reaktor Sessions.

Shortly after the starter desk, I bought this one on a close out from office depot. The addition of the CPU cupboard really help neaten things up.

And the some time after that, I sold the desk to my sister at a profit (heh heh heh heh), bought a cheapo Target one and a second hand laptop since my PC blew up and I was starting gradschool.

I finally convinced my wife to let me buy a new laptop, since I need one for school. Here’s my Dell E1505 dual 1.6 that lasted me 5 years. It’s still working (I’ve since given it to my wife), but I felt it was time to get an upgrade in the CPU department. I’m now running an Asus dual 2.6. In this photo is also my Micro X, which I got at a great deal from a fellow forum member. At this point in time, I’ve begun saving for an Access Virus C. And I’ve also made the switch to Ableton Live.

Here is where things go a bit… wonky. I’ve just scored a Virus C desktop for less than half of what I was anticipating to pay. So what do I do? I run out and buy a Nord Lead 2 & Radias. To house it all, I buy a giant (nearly 7×7), industrial grade L shaped desk to sit it all on. I now have no space in the room for anything else.

I’m deep into grad school and writing now and suddenly, the laptop keyboard is becoming a pain and I’m starting to feel the toll that wiring up multiple synths, multiple cats and the sticky, rewiring hands of a five year old brings.

Notice the keyboard under the desk. I made a shelf out of a board and drawer slides. It worked, but it also presented another set of problems. It was too low to play comfortably and I had to sit further out from the desk as it left me little room for my legs.

The giant L desk has been sold, once more at a profit. Ikea Tampa opens and I buy an Expedit desk which is joined to a 4×2 Expedit bookcase and another 4×4 Expedit bookcase. The gear now resides on a 3 tier Quiklok; take it from me, these things are absolutely tough and can hold a great deal of weight.

As a sort of work around, I’m pivoting the laptop 45 degrees depending on what I’m doing. To the left for working on gear and then to the right for home work, writing etc. And for some reason, this pisses me off to no end.

So I figure maybe having two computers may be a better solution. I buy a used Mac book (just to give it a try) as my internet computer and I construct a sort of computer station out of the keyboard stand for my music laptop. And once more I’m pissed off. I don’t like the Mac, early middle age is in full swing and I’m having less and less time to want to worry about wiring stuff up and dedicating so much space to stuff I hardly use. The other gear at this point is stored on / in the bigger Expedit bookcase.

So the Mac is sold for what I payed for it, most of the gear is in storage and I’m using a mostly software setup at this point. The keyboard on the laptop starts going out in places (it’s in excellent condition otherwise), so I purchase a wireless keyboard and a 23 inch monitor. The laptop just sort of sits on the floor now, which I find really irritating. Hooking gear up is easy as I have a USB hub on the back of the monitor, but the desk is higher than the average 32 inches and with the thickness of the 61ES, it’s difficult to play. I start becoming quite irritated with the setup in general along with developing a blood thirsty rage because the bookcase and desk just make the room feel too heavy and dark. The cubbies encourage clutter and it’s hard to clean and I seriously start looking at options to make the room work and feel better.

I scored a free rack and started making a setup again using the keyboard stand on the other side of the room. But now I have a new problem. How do I get sound from over there, to my laptop on the other side of the room? I’m finding it hard to control a rising tide of profanity at this point with the setup.

I’m now firm in my conviction in that I need a desk that has some sort of compartment or drawer that I can hide my laptop in so that I can have access to the power switch, DVD drive, SD card reader etc. I also need a work surface that’s large enough for my controller. I considered designing and building my own, but I priced the wood out and it turned out to be more expensive than I anticipated. After a couple scans of Ikea’s website for an alternative, I find the two drawer Micke desk. I take my laptop to Ikea and try it out. I’m able to fit the laptop in the drawer and still have enough room to open the DVD drive! I decide to buy the desk.

The new desk is a little more than half the width of the old one, but I also gain another foot and a half of length. One nice, simple surface that’s easy to clean. Another huge benefit is that the desk is at 29 inches high. If I want to work on music, I simply put the controller on the desk and raise my chair and everything sits at a normal and comfortable playing height. If I want to write, I simply put the controller away, the wireless keyboard back and lower my chair.

Here is my laptop in the drawer. 1.25 inch vent holes have been drilled in the bottom of the drawer as well as the back of the desk for power, USB and video.

My audio interface and LPD8 are Velcroed along with a USB hub on the 61ES, so setting up is as simple as setting it on the desk and plugging in the hub to the hub on the back of the monitor. And when it’s not in use, it simply goes back into the closet. When I want to use my hardware gear, I roll the rack into the house from the garage. Mainly from my hardware, I tend to sample from them and import the audio into Live, so I tend not to use it as much as my software, but it’s there when I need it.

I’ve taken the bookcase from the old desk and turned it on it’s side as a media cabinet. I need to get a new working record player. The albums with their faces out are are actually resting on storage cubes from Ikea. In them, I keep my wires, pedals, headphones, groove boxes and such.

And last but not least, my larger Expedit bookcase. I keep my books, software boxes and cameras on it.

It’s been a pain and a long journey, but I feel I finally have a room that works the way I want it too! And I can say is that is a helluva lotta desks!

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