Your Home Music Composing Studio
Yes, your home composing studio. The space where all the magic happens. There are
several things that you need to consider in setting up the idea environment for composing and to be most productive. These are:
Home Composing Studio Setup Areas of Focus
- Ambient Sound
- Feng Shui
First and foremost, you need somewhere that you can get away to and compose in private. Most of the “good stuff” that you will write, won’t happen in the first 5 or 10 minutes. Nope, it’s gonna come out after you have been sitting composing for a while, and your ideas really begin to gel. A good private composing studio will do wonders for you.
The Key to Privacy
Have a door lock. Its pretty much that simple. There are other things you can do, like asking your wife not to let your 20 month old son near you why you are composing, or like me, you can get up at 4:00 am (I’ve been getting up early in the Army so long, I can’t sleep past 5:30 am anyway).
Just get a lock on the door. I recommend getting one of those handles that have the built in lock for the bathroom, that you can put a little metal key in to unlock.
Next, you want to address the ambient sound. This may or may not be in your control, but things like not having a loud fan in the room, don’t have a TV or radio in the room. Don’t listen to internet radio, and so on.
I also recommend having soft furniture, carpet and if you can stand it, some sound foam or blankets hanging on the wall. This will help not only the ambient sound from outside, but it will also lessen your noises from going outside as well.
This is the bread and butter of your setup. The key here is to figure out your ideal workflow. For me personally, I prefer to compose on paper, so my workflow is not to complicated where I sit.
Digital Piano and Ribba
I have a digital piano, with a little thing called “Ribba Ledge” from ikea that I screwed into the wall right in front of me. This acts as a permanent, extended music stand. This is probably the best thing I have ever done, and it’s super cheap.
One note about the keyboard height. You should be able to compose for long periods of time without getting tired or sore. The biggest problem I have is pain in my shoulders and back, from the keyboard height being too high, and no back to a piano bench. So you should actually get a good computer chair and position it so your keyboard is just a little above waist level. This will prevent a lot of pain.
Another Ikea Shelf
I also have a small bookcase above my head, also from ikea (can’t remember the weird name). This is just handy to have nearby. Watch out that it doesn’t get cluttered.
Yes, the all important computer. I have an old computer that I built while I was in Iraq, sitting below me. I also mounted a monitor above the piano so I would not need a desk.
Now for the dramatic part. Turn off the computer when you compose. What?!?!?
Yeah I said it. If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of writing good music, turn off the computer. (Caveat, if you can’t play piano well enough to hear your composition, then I guess you can leave it on, but I’ll address the piano playing in the future, it’s vital). Composing by hand is how Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Chopin, Debussy… well, you get this idea. The greats did it, so can you.
Also, have a wireless keyboard and mouse, they come in handy when you don’t want them in your face, and you can put them on top of the piano, when you are not actively using it.
What I mean by capabilities, is have your necessities in the same room as you. What are your necessities? I touched on a few earlier, like a piano, and computer. What else?
- Writing materials: Staff paper, pencils, erasers, a white board (for form and general ideas).
- A printer for printing your final composition or other drafts.
- Other instruments if you play them. Have them nearby for inspiration.
- A trash can. Duh.
- A comfortable chair (super important).
- A glass of water (or beer).
Ah yes, the feng shui of the room. It has to be pleasing. Maybe throw up some inspiring paintings. It’s nice to have a window.
The most important thing. It must be comfortable. It has to feel like home. This will help focus, creativity and enjoyment when you compose music.
Let me know about your setups.