Hello, all of you wonderful people, and also welcome what I imagine to be, perhaps, many more people reading this blog than usual, after seeing a flurry of applicants to the Private Members Area on our Facebook community! It’s lovely to have all of you onboard in any case, but to anyone new, welcome and I hope you enjoy this blog.
Today, I want to talk about General Maintenance both, physically and mentally, as unfortunately, they’re often overlooked (albeit a necessity for normal functionality overall). That in mind, I’m hoping that by the end of this blog, I will have convinced enough of you reading to take a genuine time off to take care of all the cobwebs needing attention, care to the things that need fixing or replacing, and a potential for a much brighter and fresher start to the new year than you maybe once envisioned!
So with all that said and done, let’s dive in!
Cleaning And sorting
It goes without saying that the environment that you surround yourself in daily has an impact on the quality of your work. To me, my studio is a reflection of myself and thus, when people walk in, I want them to know that I take care of my surroundings and pride in the appearance of where I work and in extension, my work itself. That said, sometimes things in the studio can be a little back to back when you’re booked up and have a lot of clients in or out each week, but now is the time to help you help yourselves in figuring out how to get around that problem.
A while back I remember talking about the broom/mop holder that fits on the wall in my studio; it’s the perfect width to hold microphone stands and when in a rush in between setting up and setting down with back to back clients, it’s shown just how useful it can be over and over again. I also have 2 hooks that are stuck to the side of my desk, held together with the adhesive they come with, that I use at the end of the session to hold my headphone pairs just in reach to grab them when I’m not using them.
The main point I’m making here is that a few outside the box ideas ended up saving me a lot of time and stress in the long run. This year, after realizing I still have work to do in my own studio environment, I’ll be looking for a way to better store all the cables I have that whenever I need them, they wrap together like a pit of snakes that is almost impossible to untangle!
A last bit of advice and something to make both you and the recipients happy this holiday season, is to think about recycling some of your old, unused studio equipment you don’t use to a music department at a college or school. Just before COVID hit, I donated a couple of items (if I recall correctly it was a dbx compressor/gate, and I think a Peavey stereo graphic equalizer) that I knew the college would get good use out of. Most of the bits they had to work with where of a similar age, but it gave some more hands on use with outboard gear that many students wouldn’t have ever had prior to me donating them - and it definitely made my holiday period nice knowing I’d given back asking nothing in return; in fact writing this is the first time I’ve even made it public since donating the items nearly 3 years ago.
This is identical to the dbx unit I donated all those years ago which I'm sure has received heavy use from students on their journey to making music
Fix it, for God Sake
Another place I think most of us will fit into in one way or another, is that we have something or a few things that need fixing. I know I’ve got about a thousand cables that I could probably fix quickly if I made time for it, but alas I’m also a beneficiary of the advice in this blog post it would seem.
If you’re not already educated on soldering, it’s honestly not a difficult skill to learn as a beginner and practice will definitely make perfect in the long run. There’s many videos available online, and once you learn how to solder, you can not only fix things like cables or loose guitar connections, but you will then have the skills required to start learning more complicated tasks such as electrical engineering that can lead to building your own guitar pedals, or even better, your own outboard gear! A great how-to video is below which I share with any client that walks in while I’m mid-fixing a cable and asks how I learnt:
Another good point to note for those that have a habit of overlooking it, is that it’s not just the tangible and physical things that can do with a fix or a good cleaning this year, but also your digital build-up as well. Each year, I always make a day free to look after the hard drives I work with and delete old files, projects no longer in use, or files that were only used for a short time that have been forgotten yet take up a lot of space collectively.
For those that aren’t aware, the size of files or programs individually doesn’t have as much impact on your system, compared to say the same volume in gigabytes a program takes up by itself but in 10,000 tiny files that the system has to sift through each time it tries to locate anything on your hard drive. But, there’s a few tools built into each computer that allow for automated clean-up and ordering of files. On windows, Disk Clean-Up is a command you can run from the start menu, as well as Defragmentation, both of which will do wonders to your hard drives and computer if you’re not using a Solid State Hard drive for whatever reason (thankfully this is one of the many perks of SSD hard drives in that you don’t have to do these tasks).
Rome wasn’t built in a day
This is a time for you all to take some time to yourselves to recover, to rest, to recuperate. Burnout is a real thing and honestly, it sucks when it happens to you and, if you’re like me, it happens when you were naïve enough to think that you weren’t susceptible to it.
Not only is this a perfect time for you to start planning to catch up with people you’ve not seen all year, but it’s a time where almost every other business on the planet that acknowledges the festive period also shuts their doors at least for 4-5 days and your studio doesn’t have to be the exception; do the same, and take care of yourself.
I’ll leave you all with this last thought from a book I’ve been reading and referring to all year that has given me not just peace of mind, but in this one section alone, helped me reaffirm this message to many friends and artists I have been working with that also a reluctant to take time for themselves. So I hope you all take something from these next words and if you can find a copy, make sure you get yourself this book:
‘I am fooling around not doing anything, which probably means that this is a creative period, although of course you don't know until afterward. I think that it is very important to be idle. I mean, they always say that Shakespeare was idle between plays. I am not comparing myself to Shakespeare, but people who keep themselves busy all of the time are generally not creative. So I am not ashamed of being idle.’ - Freeman Dyson, taken from the book ‘The Psychology of Discovery and Invention’ By: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi