As you pack away the Christmas decorations, and have a spring-clean, how about a touch of computer music housekeeping?
The computer music revolution has brought with it enormous power and convenience. However, despite the fact that everything from synths to effects, cables and everything else is neatly contained within a computer, it still needs the occasional bit of virtual tidying.
A cluttered hard disk will under-perform, and an under-performing disk will mean that you will not get as much from the software that you’ve spent you hard-earned cash on. It also makes it incredibly difficult to find projects and sounds, slowing your creative flow…
There are also hardware related bits of housekeeping that will make your life easier. So, here are some tips to keep your computer music setup an organised haven of musical creativity.
*Remember, that it you move any files (audio or otherwise) that a project uses, you will need to direct the project to the new location of the files and re-save it (perhaps under a different filename)
These days, most people work with a wide range of musical software, resulting in a wide range of file types (projects, audio, sounds etc.). Some DAWS, such as Pro-tools, Reason and some others, can do a rather good job of keeping all of these together in one consolidated file. Despite this, you would be surprised at how quickly your disk can become a disorganised mess of files of differing types.
There is no right or wrong way to keep your hard drives tidy, but having a separate folder for projects, samples and sounds, with a folder ideally on a separate drive for audio recordings (this will prevent your hard drive from having to work too hard).
Clear out the trash…
The amount of data amassed by working on a computer music setup is huge, and hard drives equally vast. Therefore, you tend to just keep files that were mistakes, bad takes, or unused ideas.
Review unfinished projects that you haven’t opened in some time. If you still feel the project is going nowhere, either back it up and delete it, or delete it entirely. Listening to them again with fresh ears might inspire you, though. Be careful if deleting audio files that they are not used in a project without you realising…
Don’t become a collector
One of the great things about computer music is the vast range of free soft synth and effects plug-ins that are available for free. The downside is that, as these are free, there’s a tendency to just ‘collect’ these. Having so much choice can really slow down the creative process, however.
So, if you have a plug-in folder rammed full of free effects, synths and the like, have a bit of a clearout. If you haven’t used a free plug-in for over 12 months, seriously consider deleting it. Your hard drive will be healthier, and your setup will be leaner. Then, rather than trawling the Internet for things to replace it, invest your time into learning how to use the plug-ins you have inside out.
Speaking from experience, one of the most creative computer music systems I ever owned was the most stripped back. Having fewer technical choices makes you focus on ideas.
Make your setup more permanent
‘Convenience is the mother of invention’, a wise man once said. He was really onto something… Computer music studios can seem like a collection of loosely connected peripherals, but ideally, you want these to be almost ‘invisible’.
Having your rig setup so that the gear you use all the time (whether that is sound modules, effects, audio interfaces, speakers or anything else) is permanently hooked up and ready to go is the perfect way of keeping the creative juices flowing. Ever had an idea, and then spent an hour hooking all of your gear up to capture it? The inspiration evaporates remarkably quickly…
On the same subject…
Should you have to disassemble your computer music setup regularly, returning to a mass of identical cables and PSU’s can add hugely to the amount of time it takes to rig everything back up again.
A remarkably small amount of time spent labelling PSUs with the unit they are for, and (if you keep things hooked up with permanent routings to particular inputs, outputs or bits or gear) cables with which bit of gear and which in or out the connect to will speed up the whole process.
Banish the spaghetti
Cable ties will also help your organisation. There’s no right or wrong way to do it per se, but a few deftly placed cable ties around your audio cables can get rid of the mass, spaghetti of wires behind your desk.
There are plenty of other ways to tidy up your computer music rig, but these should get you started on a road to a more ‘Zen’, and more creative studio.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.