The Great Musical Overhaul (Part the First)

Hi!  Andy here.  My musical world is in need of an overhaul.

My “studio” has been through a variety of incarnations over the years, all of them usable but none of them quite right.  My most ambitious effort involved an entirely separate writing space in the attic, but kept “studio A” in the second floor bedroom like always.  I wrote about the setup process extensively.  It didn’t work out.

In fact, at this point the whole system’s broken down.  I can’t trust my patchbay any more, and I’m not sure how much faith I can put in my formerly trusty Ramsa mixer.  I’ve got gear in the way that I hardly ever use, and gear that I can’t live without but that I can’t afford to have fixed either.  I’ve got “dream” equipment which I can’t bring to bear because I can’t make it work in the setup I have.  I can’t even sit down in “studio A” without biting back a surge of frustration which rolls up like nausea from my abdomen.

I’ve tried several repairs, reboots, and rebuilds, but nothing has reached deep enough to make a difference.  A simple reboot won’t work.  Permanence.  I need permanence.  It’s time to start anew.

And it feels good.

Jim Schreck came up for a consult yesterday.  Jim’s day-job is in radio, so studio workflow is an all-day-every-day thing for him. Just the guy I need to talk to.

Our starting point was to establish a mission statement, so we’d know when we were off-topic.  That was easy enough, because it’s the same thing I’ve wanted for years:  a mixing environment with work stations for composition and equipment repair.

With that in mind, here’s what we came up with:

  • The attic is a near-perfect environment for what I want to do, so I’m abandoning the bedroom setup and moving into the attic.  This will be my ‘ultimate setup,’ and I’m going for a professional look here.  Why not?  I’m worth it.
  • I love my computer-cube mixing desk.  It’s perfect. So that’s going to be the centerpiece of the studio.  Whatever console I wind up using will live there.
  • To the right of the mixing desk, within reach:  a short equipment rack, low enough to avoid interference with the monitors, and with a substantial counter on top.
  • Multitrack tape decks will live on this countertop, wired into a patchbay for immediate access.  No more time wasted when I have to switch formats.  There will be space for the DA-38 as well.  I might just buy a second one for permanent installation.
  • A mixdown cart.  This’ll be home to the tape decks I use for mixdown, and any mixdown processing gear.  When I’m using it, I’ll roll it right up to the left side of the mixer.  And when I’m not using it, it’ll be out of the way.  That’ll give me room for incidental tracking during the mixing process, should the need arise.
  • There’ll be a separate “Inspiration Station” as well (Jim’s phrase).  This will have the sparest possible setup—a four-track, some sort of monitoring system, and a few elemental tools for composition.  That way when I wake up in the morning with a song in my head, I can run upstairs and put it straight to tape.
  • There’ll be a repair station as well, which fortunately already exists in a near-ideal format.
  • Summer’s coming, so climate control will be a priority.  I checked the This Old House calculator form just this morning.  Our current window a/c unit should do just fine.

I’ve got the woodworking skills, and Lord knows I have tools.  I’m sure I can build the custom rack setup I want.  Recent adventures in wiring have convinced me that I’m up to the inevitable soldering as well.  And I’ve got a pile of top-notch patchbays just waiting to be put to good use.  I see no reason to expect anything other than good results.

I’ll keep you all updated here.  Frankly, I’m excited.  I think this’ll be fun.

About andysmash

North Coast punk-rocker/theologian. A good head for gears and an eye on the far horizon. DIY recording artist and frontman for the Rust Belt Hotrods.
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