It can be difficult to find that ideal spot in your home to exercise your musical muscles. Claiming that optimal home practice space — you know, one that’s bigger than a closet and actually conducive to the freedom and flow critical for proper creativity — can be a bit harder than it sounds.
While it’s easy to set aside any old room for a practice space, a well thought out home music area actually requires quite a bit more prep than simply a floor, four walls, and a door that closes. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when going about creating that all important, foolproof home practice space for the homebound element of your musical journey. This won’t go into detail regarding more complex things like soundproofing, acoustics, and room design, but will rather aim at providing practical steps that apply to most any home practice space.
Electricity and Music Tech
Electricity is part and parcel with the modern music world. From amps to mics and everything in between, at least a few (preferably dozens of) outlets are a critical part of a good practice space. However, a three-pronged home for the end of that bass amp chord isn’t the only thing that should be kept in mind when setting up the area. It’s also important to make sure the electrical equipment stays cool and is also safe from surges.
Any electric device operates by having electricity flow through it. This, naturally, leads to higher temperatures, which should be combatted by proper cooling systems. While this may not have been an issue a few hundred years ago when nothing plugged in, in the modern era we need to make sure that all of the amps, computers, and other tech gadgets that adorn our practice spaces are properly vented and cooled.
It’s also vital to make sure that surge protectors are in place to help guard any valuable electronics in the space. From amps to recording equipment, all it takes is a quick thunderstorm to pass through and, before you know it, the electronics have been fried.
As a final note in regards to music tech, it’s also important to remember that home-recording computers are just as important to take care of as that gorgeous Gibson ES-335 proudly sitting in the corner. It’s essential to keep a computer updated and in good working order. This can be a tough one when all one wants to do is play, but it’s critical if a good space is going to hold up over the course of time.
Just because it doesn’t have strings doesn’t mean that a computer isn’t a functioning, valuable part of a practice space. From keeping it clean from dust to updating the OS at appropriate times and in the right way, here are some tips to help keep a music production computer in excellent form.
Temperature and Humidity
Often a practice room also doubles as a storage room for instruments. Whether they end up back in their case or not, it’s important to take the time to consider both the temperature and humidity of a practice space.
Both very high and very low temperatures are typically not good for instruments, with a nice neutral 70 degrees Fahrenheit serving as a good middle ground. In addition, it’s critical to make sure the temperature in a practice space remains relatively stable, as constant fluctuations can wreak havoc on an instrument, leaving them out of tune — a fact that any musician who plays out at venues on a regular basis is well aware of. In other words, setting up an area in an uninsulated garage with a little space heater to warm things up each time one goes out to jam is a bad idea.
Another crucial factor is the humidity levels. Both bone dry spaces and ones that are dripping with humidity are bad news. It’s wise to install a humidifier or dehumidifier (depending on the situation), along with a humidity monitor in order to make sure the level is somewhere between 40 and 60 percent. This article from The Vault gives some further helpful tips on temperature, humidity, and musical instrument storage, in general.
Keeping It Clean and Tidy
One of the easiest things to totally skip on in setting up a practice area is providing a way to keep the space clean. This isn’t simply a veiled critique to finally move that amp and clean up the cobwebs or vacuum the run around it (although that’s not a bad idea, too). We’re talking about the instruments themselves.
Consider the truth about tech germs: “Keyboards, on average, are five times dirtier and have 60 times more germs on them than toilet seats. They are 150 times over the acceptable limit for bacteria.”
Now, before you chuck your Fender Rhodes into the trash in disgust, we’re talking about computer keyboards in the above scenario. But the truth is, any musician worth their salt is probably touching their musical keys more often than their computer’s, right? The information (and fascinating accompanying infographic highlighting germs and bacteria throughout our living spaces) belie the simple fact that if we don’t clean things that we handle on a regular basis, they become holding stations for unbelievable amounts of filth.
Whether an artist tends to fly solo or practices with an entire band who switches around their instruments like candy, it’s always a good idea to regularly go through and give one’s instruments a good cleaning.
Don’t Forget To Have Fun With It!
Once you’ve got a clean, safe practice space set up, you won’t want to go back. Creating a well-tended space for one’s musical pursuits really is worth the upfront effort and ensures that the equipment and instruments that reside therein remain in tip-top condition.
If you’re interested in recording your own music, as well, check out this article on How To Set Up Your Own Home Recording Studio.