May 04, 2021
There are as many ways to put together a recording studio as there are musicians, and many find themselves in a variety of spaces as life moves them around. It’s even common for recordists to change the layout of their studios in order to spark enthusiasm.
Do that enough, though, and you’ll quickly find that some arrangements work, and some don’t. Among other things, some layouts cause too much strain to be used long. So, here are some tips for optimizing your studio ergonomics to reduce fatigue and keep you in top recording shape.
Although not specifically an ergonomic issue, the number one thing affecting your results in a studio space is acoustics. The good news is, properly treating a room is doable, even on a budget. Not only will good treatment improve your results, it will also minimize ear fatigue, as your brain won’t be sifting through as much noise to get to what it needs to hear. Not to mention, a cleaner acoustic environment means you don’t have to listen as loudly, which reduces the risk of hearing damage.
When it comes to layout, you’ll want to make some decisions before you treat the room – for example, where to put your main control desk. Avoid placing your desk in a corner. Instead, use the center of a wall. If your room is rectangular, using one of the short walls may help minimize reflections from the back.
If you have room, move the speakers away from the front wall – a foot or more is ideal – and angle the tweeters toward the listening position. Place them so that you sit at the tip of an equilateral triangle with the speakers. Your ears should be the same height as the tweeters.
Next, consider your studio’s main purpose. If mixing is number one, then your computer keyboard and mouse or control surface should be front and center. If your main shtick is playing keyboard, perhaps the keys should occupy that space. If both, consider using a drawer to hide the one not being used away.
Avoid placing keyboards or control surfaces in awkward positions that make you twist and reach to use them. Better to put a keyboard in a different spot and have a mini station that you move to than to reach and twist uncomfortably.
Place any outboard gear that you use a lot in easy to reach places. For example, an audio interface or pre-amp that you adjust constantly should be right in front of you somewhere, whereas a power conditioner like the Carvin Audio AC120S can live out of the way. A studio desk made specifically for recording studios is a great idea if you can afford it. Patch bays are also wise for efficiency’s sake, as it’s tedious and tiring to constantly rewire things.
Finally, a rolling chair is handy, especially if you have some space and want to create mini-stations for different purposes. For this reason, hard flooring is preferred in studios, but if you have carpet, you can always add a desk chair mat to make rolling easy.
Studio sessions can be long. It’s wise to have a good ergonomic chair to reduce posture problems. Your chair should be adjustable to fit your size. Arm rests should be at desk height, feet should be flat on the floor, lower back should be supported, and you should be seated upright.
Your forearms and wrists should be horizontal with your elbows, which should sit at about 90 degrees. If needed, add wrist rest to line up properly. Mouse should be easily accessible, or even better, replace it with a trackball.
Your computer monitor may need to be raised – it should be positioned so that the top third is parallel with your eyes. It should also be the right distance (and/or size) so that you can see everything you need without craning your neck forward or straining your eyes.
Last but not least, make sure you have room to maneuver and get up easily. It’s a good idea to leave the chair every half hour if possible, and it may be wise to purposefully place certain equipment far enough away that you must walk to it. Sit to stand desks are tricky in a studio environment, but it can be done, and especially if you have lower back issues, it could be worth it. You may also find that an entirely standing desk suits you.
As a final note, efficiency helps reduce fatigue as well. If it takes you 10 minutes to set up something that could take you 10 seconds, you’ll have less time and energy for creativity, so use tools and techniques that make things run smoothly.
DAW templates, pre-wired patch bays, easy to access mics that are ready to go, and an intimate knowledge of shortcut keys are all great ways to speed up the process, leading to more creativity and less exhaustion.
Consider all these things if you’re setting up a new studio or evaluate your current studio to see if you can improve your ergonomics.
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