Making the most of the little you have
When you’re creating a studio – be that your first mini recording setup or a full-blown multitrack beast – you’ll often need to compromise. Whether it’s down to budget, technical requirements or resources, there often needs to be a bit of ‘meet in the middle’. Often, however, it comes down to one very simple factor. Physical space.
It’s all very well having plenty of cash to get set up or a clear idea of the gear you need. But sometimes you’ll find yourself physically limited simply by the size of the space available to you. It’s not an easy one to solve either. Sure, you can start knocking walls down, or mounting things from the ceiling, but sometimes that simply isn’t feasible.
We know this struggle all too well. I’ve had the same problem myself when I moved from a house with a room dedicated to my music gear to a new place where my only option is to house everything in the bedroom. My recording ‘career’ has gone full circle, you could say. Whatever; it’s given me a good insight into the types of studio gear for small spaces which make a big difference. Here’s a look at a few things which could help you out if you need to pack a lot of gear into not much space.
We’re going to assume that we’re not attempting to fit an entire full-band setup into the cupboard under the stairs. We have to be realistic here. We’re focusing on recording, and the gear you need in order to do that. So no full drum kits or oversized full-stacks.
A pretty standard recording rig would comprise a computer/laptop, an audio interface, a set of monitor speakers and some sort of MIDI controller. There are all kinds of extra bits and pieces you might add, but let’s agree that those components would make a decent basic setup.
Monitor speakers, for a start, can be bulky. Thankfully there are plenty of options if you wanted to downsize. We can recommend the Presonus Eris E4.5 as a superb set of smaller-sized monitors that more than deliver when it comes to functionality. You could even look at a couple of speaker stands if space on your desk is at a premium. A couple of these would fit the bill nicely.
It’s hard to recommend how to improve on your computer setup, although one thing that did have a big impact was a laptop stand, like this one from Stagg. It’s an inexpensive way of lifting a laptop off the desk, meaning you gain extra space under the laptop in which you can put your MIDI controller or audio interface. If that’s not enough, you could even remove the laptop from the desk altogether with one of these great dedicated laptop units.
Bang for your buck
It’s when you move past the essentials and start looking at controllers, instruments and other factors that things open up a bit. See, there has been a decided shift over the past decade in terms of music tech. A number of things are behind this. First, the technology required to produce music gear has improved immensely, so manufacturers can fit more capability into a smaller space.
The second is the way portable devices, like smartphones and tablets, have hugely increased the desire from consumers for gear which can be packed away into a backpack and transported here, there and everywhere. Don’t confuse portability with a lack of suitability for the studio though. There is lots of great gear out there which is both compact and full of amazing functionality.
Take, as an example, the Novation Launchpad Mini. This multifunctional box of tricks combines clip-launching capability in Ableton Live with that of a drum sequencer, synth controller and a whole heap of other cool stuff. Used cleverly, it could take the place of a number of dedicated, specialist units, and perhaps give you access to new techniques you didn’t have before.
Likewise, if you prefer proper keys, the Novation Launchkey 25 is a great way to keep the playing experience you know while also minimising the impact on your available desk space.
We know it can be hard. Trying to find ways to keep the technical capability you’re used to while also battling against the confines of a small studio. But with an understanding of what you want, and an idea of what you’re willing to compromise on, you stand a chance of being able to make a decent mini-studio you can feel right at home in.
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.