Dollars for cents

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I’m a musician. I write and perform songs, alone and in bands, I’m a musician. You’ve likely never heard of me, I don’t have platinum and gold albums lining my studio walls, I’m not on tour all over the world, but I am still a musician. Not being a superstar, a day job supports my music, and money is always a factor in deciding what I can do, and more importantly, the creativity I will need in order to make dollar sized impacts out of cents.

I’ve been delving deeper into the realm of music production, and thinking a lot about my recording space of late. What it does for me, what I want it to do for me, and what really needs to change in order for those two areas to align. My computer is old and causing headaches, and will need to be addressed before I start laying down tracks, but this must wait for a time. The computer, however, is a quick fix. A trip to the apple store (I hope), and back, a little software installation, and I’d be up and running … in the same badly utilized space.

I have no acoustic treatment, and the hard walls reflect badly, with odd bump-outs that make for truly horrific results at times. My mixing station is hard to use, with everything jumbled, out of reach, and disorganized. Cables become a spaghetti nightmare in moments once I begin, and it’s just not fun creating in those conditions. I find myself recording through my live mixer, in the living room when the kids are out instead of facing the chaos.

Something has to change, and so, with my dollars out of cents concept firmly in hand, I look to examples of the console desks scattered online. If you haven’t looked, take my word for it, they aren’t cheap. I do have an ace in the hole though, as my aforementioned day job is a carpenter. I’ve made some pretty elaborate exhibits for the trade show industry, and these days, I’m doing a wide range of restoration/renovation/custom work for a variety of clients. If I can design it, I can build it, and far, FAR cheaper than the cost of ordering one.

The first step was to look at what features I liked from the online examples, and look over the home-built studio desks for ideas. Some were brilliant, others downright horrifying. Next, I took measurements from the gear I have that would live in the desk, and make note of the standard sizes for rack mount gear, and began drawing out optional configurations to scale. I had one layout that I liked, but had to set it aside, as my eyesight isn’t that great following an eye infection a few years ago. Looking at the design though, I managed to tweak it and design surface-mounted monitors to the left and right of the console, rather than having them standing above the rear racks. By angling the desk, I won’t be tempted to place drinks on it, the viewing angle will be good, everything will be in reach, my midi pads and keyboard will be right there as well.

So, I’ve got a rough design that looks very useable. Next, I’ll be doing a full design with layouts for all the pieces, and figuring out how much material I will need. I’m thinking 3-4 sheets of MDF panels should do it, along with drawer slides for the midi-keyboard, some laminate, paint, glue, fasteners, fabric and batting for the wrist rest. All together, maybe 2-300 bucks and a lot of labor, instead of 2-3 thousand bucks, and a stock piece of furniture that doesn’t necessarily do what I want.

I can’t start building right away …. the aforementioned money thing again, but I can get all the layout done, and maybe scrounge a couple of sheets of MDF in the coming weeks to get started. Once this undertaking is complete, I’ll be making DIY acoustic panels and diffusers. The latter, I hope to make out of the scraps from the console desk build.

Sometimes being broke is a blessing, it forces you to get creative when following your dreams, and there’s nothing like the road less traveled.

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