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Keep It Simple

Well, that’s another Christmas safely out of the way. Once again the way the TV programmers assume that all our IQs have dropped by at least 30 percent over the holiday period had me sneaking off into the studio to battle against the encroaching wave of untidiness caused by plugging and unplugging all that review gear. Was it Einstein who responded to the comment that ‘An untidy desk means an untidy mind’ with the question ‘Then what does an empty desk say about you?’?

Paul White in his studio with multiple microphones.How come all the odd cables that I never use seem to increase in number while all the standard jack cables and XLR cables go into hiding? And it’s not just the hardware that seems to multiply by itself: why is it that no matter how much stuff I jettison from my main hard drive, I still keep getting warnings saying that it is almost full? I would replace it with a bigger one, but that can be such a pain these days, especially now that certain computing companies don’t provide straightforward OS install discs — or even drives to put them in for that matter. The least they could do is offer them on a USB stick. Oh wait, they’re taking away the USB ports on some models too, in the cause of making something that is already too thin and flimsy even more thin and flimsy! And what to do about all those software plug-in authorisations that might get upset at a main drive change? Maybe I’ll look at that again next Christmas...

All this mess and complication becomes even more irksome when you consider how little gear and software is actually needed to make a perfectly decent record these days. I have a bit of music software loaded onto my office laptop and a small Audient interface connecting it to a pair of monitors so that I can check out things as I write, and in reality I could achieve almost as much there as I could in my dedicated studio. In fact, there’s a good argument in favour of keeping your system as simple as possible as it allows your brain to spend more time on the creative side of things.

As an example of how little the gear really matters, I’ll often record a new guitar part using the first mic I can lay my hands on to capture it while the idea is still in my head — and it always sounds perfectly usable with very little EQ, regardless of what mic I pick up.

This said, however, I have to admit to being a bit of a Luddite when it comes to making serious music on a phone or tablet, which is arguably the most streamlined setup of all. They’re fine for starting jobs or capturing ideas when away from home or sitting on the train, but as the basis for a home studio, I start to think there’s something seriously wrong with the world when your ‘studio’ is in danger of being dragged off the table by the weight of the cables plugged into it! Which reminds me, I was sorting out those cables...

Published February 2017