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Tidying Up

By Paul White

Most of my Leader columns deal with technicalities (apart from when I'm just trying to wind you up to get a response!), but a private studio is more than technology — more than just computers, recorders and mixers. All that gear has to be put somewhere, and even in the simplest of studios, cables breed like rabbits on Viagra. If the whole thing isn't to descend into 'cable anarchy', you have to impose some kind of order, but what's the best way to go about it?

Paul White circa 2002.Obviously it doesn't pay to do anything that's intended to be permanent, because the rate at which studios evolve means anything too rigid will become obsolete almost before it's finished.

I love looking through music gear catalogues and adverts just as much as the next guy, but sometimes the inspiration that helps you solve a studio problem comes from elsewhere. For example, I was looking for an inexpensive solution to keeping my cables tidy and found one possible answer in my local DIY superstore — in the gardening section! Instead of using cable ties (the reusable type can be expensive), I found I could use the much cheaper reusable plastic plant ties to do exactly the same job. OK, so they're green, but they're also adjustable in length, secure, and great for holding looms of cables together, or for binding them to the upright supports of racks. They can also be cut to length using wire snippers if you feel the protruding end is untidy.

The same store also turned up Velcro straps (around the size of narrow watch straps), costing around a couple of pounds for half a dozen. Admittedly these were pink, but they proved effective for keeping looms of cables under control. I also found them useful for securing mains distribution boards to rack frames, and for keeping coiled mic cables tidy.

Before leaving the store, I checked out the hardware section because I needed some castors for one of my rack boxes. You know you're going to have to go around the back with a torch every few days, so you might as well make it easy. Anyway, it turned out that amongst the castors were some new-fangled stick-on, low-friction plastic gliders, which do much the same job provided that your floor is carpeted. These little grey pads are around 5mm thick and stick to any flat surface, and used under a rack, they enable it to slide smoothly over carpet with the gentlest of shoves. Very elegant!

Yet another 'discovery' was non-slip matting from the Lakeland Plastics shop, but I've seem similar products in other kitchen shops and 'gadgety' mail order catalogues. This is a high-friction 'clammy' plastic web, around a couple of millimetres thick, designed to protect surfaces and to stop things from slipping around. It comes on a roll, can be cut with scissors, and is brilliant for all kinds of things, including putting under speakers, putting between stacked rack gear that isn't actually in a rack, and for stopping any form of desktop processor, device or controller from sliding around.

With useful things like this on the high street, shopping (non-music store shopping, that is) needn't actually be that bad. And it gives you an opportunity to pretend to your other half that there's more to life than recording. "Look, I'm in a kitchen shop and I'm not complaining", you say, while perusing a spice drawer system to see if it might work as a mic storage unit. Those long weekends will simply fly by!

Published June 2002