October 11, 2013

I'm Givin' Her All She's Got, Captain...

by Chris Randall

This post initially was just a quote of the complete St. Crispin's Day speech from King Henry V. But I thought that might be a bit opaque. So, in the interests of providing a pop culture touchstone, I'll say "Houston, we have a problem."

The above photo is my little work desk on any given day. Some days, you can replace the Arduino stuff with splicing tape and reels of 1/4", or various little desktop synths, or like four laptops, but in general, that's what I'm looking at. That needs to stop. We need to think about WORKFLOW, basically. Part of the problem is that my office is equal parts R&D lab, light industrial assembly, recording studio, and graphic design shop. I'm hoping, at some point in the not-too-distant future, to move the "light industrial assembly" portion of the proceedings to points elsewhere. (This depends on you, dear customer. Make it so!) So I'm left with the other three, all of which are messy.

Anyhow, my point, such as it is: with our new house, which we're (finally) moving in to this week, I have a blank slate. Cooks always talk about the Triangle (stove, refrigerator, sink) and I feel that musicians generally use a similar setup. What I'd like to hear about are crafty solutions for the instruments <-> desk <-> multi-purpose area. What did you do that solved like 18 problems and left you with a ton of storage and a clean work surface? Please tell me.


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Oct.11.2013 @ 11:22 AM
My current studio apartment is fairly ideal for this. I have a desk and flight case on a stand that has most of my electronic music stuff, and my guitar and bass are hanging overhead. Next to it, I have a desk that's mostly normal computing. One table on wheels in the center that I try to keep free for eating or impromptu projects, and another that currently has too large of a printer and a backup machine, but is supposed to be the dremel and soldering workstation (I need to build a stand for the computer and printer so there's more room there).

Those help a ton, but there's no storage in any of those places. The thing that makes it work is that one whole wall of the apartment has built in cupboards with various combinations of shelves and drawers, and even glass doors on one of them where I can display some things without getting them dusty. If I need to clean up either the whole place or one work surface, I can give each project it's own shelf, and tend to bag any parts I'm worried about losing.

I've seen photos of circuit bender's workspaces and more than once I've seen a huge work table, with a stack of tons of plastic storage bins for each project. I have to imagine this would be hard to get to the lower sedimentary layers, so one way would be a combo of simple shelves and bins that fill up the space well. I'd be tempted to use clear bins so I could see what each project was, but I know from my current setup that what makes this work for me is the fact that I can hide everything from sight. This makes it look like I'm extremely organized and tidy.

tldr: shelves, drawers, doors.

Oct.11.2013 @ 11:38 AM
get rid of stuff. that's the only thing that helped my 'problems'. if i could snatch a good desk with rack spaces built in like an argosy or similar... then that might help some more... but spending that kind of cash on a desk is something i have a hard time doing.. perhaps building my own at some point but i lose patience and woodworking is not my strong point... so generally i'm fucked. i'm obsessed w/ergonomics so i'm never satisfied.

more flat spaces w/table top area helps.. shelves out of my line of site when i'm working on music related things... a laptop i can take to another room and focus on that...

i do have a patch bay and can easily unplug a synth's (or other audio thing's) audio/midi/power and move it away so i have a clean work space.

so, get rid of stuff, shelves, obsess... move things around.. find the sweet spot.

if i was assembling any kind of hardware thing or doing DIY projects i'd have to have a separate workspace. its own table.. other side of the room.. in another room... my brain craves compartmentalization

Oct.11.2013 @ 12:17 PM
I still use a laptop. I want to upgrade to a tablet and say Push, but tablets are not quite there and my laptop doesn't need to be replaced yet. Push and Maschine should have a built in audio interface, IMO, hey if MPC Renaissance ( not my style) can do it right? I also have a mac mini, am thinking the touchscreen route when Live is finally multitouch, again I have no reason to upgrade yet until something dies though.

There is this guy on youtube, I totally sweat his workflow, its just MS surface pro and maschine... though he says it can be buggy at times.

Oct.11.2013 @ 3:48 PM
Chris Randall
Yeah. The nature of my work precludes a Surface Pro or something of that ilk. Although the thought crossed my mind. Unfortunately, I need a stonking big PC at all times with three monitors. No way around it.

But I'm totally with you re: Maschine having an audio interface. I was a little surprised when Maschine Studio showed up without one. But the 3 MIDI outputs gives me a stiffy. Mine should be here in a couple weeks. Can't wait. I was going to get an Octatrack, but I think Maschine Studio is probably the way I want to go. I may still get the Octatrack. Because why the fuck not?


Oct.11.2013 @ 3:59 PM
Building a custom desk was a great investment. Custom building it with a keyboard inside helps focus the workflow to writing music - it's uncomfortable to me to surf the web, by design. If you don't have the time to build yourself there's this guy: beijerworks.com. Or, you know, Jerker.

Oct.11.2013 @ 5:01 PM
For me stuff has to be in view, or I forget about it. Some small success with keeping a project list (as short as possible) hanging in view in my small apartment, but otherwise I'm not real organized on the non-day-job projects.

I did, however, build my own stand-up desk. That's definitely been a benefit, especially since I want to keep it fairly clean for aesthetic reasons, and so I don't end up burying projects on it.

Oct.11.2013 @ 5:05 PM
I've been working a system inspired by Bob Moog's description of Raymond Scott's studio, electronic lab, and warehouse-like storage for electronic components.

Ideally, only tools one actually uses nearly daily are set up in the workspace, always ready to go. Everything else is stored in containers that are sorted into available storage space according to your expectation of how often you will access a given item - obviously things that are more often utilized should be most accessible.

Keeping things in containers also precludes the need to dust random items that might otherwise be in a corner reproducing dust bunny armies.

Actually such a system sounds simple, but takes a bit of work to set up. I number every container and record the contents and location of each in a database. Kind of extreme, but otherwise I'd be running around cursing, "Really? I lost the Fender guitar picks?" once things are in containers. Because even if one has few possessions (for an American, not an 11th Century Mongolian nomad), it's easy to forget what box a particular wrench or whatever is in if you only use it twice a year.

Also, I'm with Boobs regarding tossing or selling the stuff you're unlikely to use. Setting up a database of my worldly goods made me part with many useless, low value items I otherwise might have hoarded, because it prompted the question "Record it in a database, or trash/recycle/sell it?" It seemed doubly ridiculous to hoard and keep a database of it.

Oct.12.2013 @ 10:00 AM
You just need to get your new workspace sponsored by Bing. link [vimeo.com]

Oct.14.2013 @ 8:20 AM
dj empirical
Having, over the past two-ish years, moved from nearly 100% software to having some actual hardware (controller, monotribe, monome, very small modular), I am now finding myself in this same situation and need to revamp my setup.

Oct.14.2013 @ 4:29 PM
Change is the only constant.

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