Over the last few years I’ve shared some useful ways to improve your studio, or simplify your stage set up, all for not much money. I thought I’d compile some of the more popular ideas into one post, along with a couple of new ones too.
1. Bread Bag Closures.
This is one of my favorite tips because it’s so simple, and it works equally well on stage or in the studio. Nice way to keep your cables labeled, and unlike some of the more permanent options like adhesive labels, you never need to worry about removing a sticky residue later on if you need to label something differently.
2. Build Your Own Speaker Stands.
I’ve been building my own speaker stands for years using this method, because not only is it cheap and easy to do, it’s also allows you to make the stands the perfect height for your particular listening environment. The basic idea is simple, there’s a flat wood base made out of 3/4″ (or thicker) hardwood. Local home improvement stores often sell oak pieces made for installing stairs in your home that are not only finished already, but also the perfect width for most small to mid-sized monitors. One piece is enough for both bases.
The main support is a piece of 4×4″ lumber, I prefer using nicer hardwoods for this (typically Oak as well) as they seem to be not only stronger, but often much straighter than outdoor lumber. The top of the stand is another piece of 3/4″ thick lumber. I recommend NOT using plywood for the base or the top piece, it tends to flex more under the weight of heavier monitors, which can lead to all sorts of stability problems. On the very top of the speaker stand, I like to glue one of those super cheap mouse pads upside down. This puts the rubber side up (fabric side down), which keeps the speakers from sliding on the top of the stands at all.
For the best results, consider using decent speaker spikes to not only decouple the stands from the floor, but also to make placement on carpet or slightly uneven surfaces easier. I like the ones similar to these:
Sometimes you can find them for slightly cheaper on Ebay too.
Ideally you want the tweeter of your monitors to be at ear level, so cut the center 4×4″ piece to the desired height to achieve this. Don’t forget to factor in the thickness of the base and top pieces, as well as the mousepad and speaker spikes! If you don’t have woodworking tools or a saw to cut these yourself, most lumber stores like Home Depot or Lowes will cut the wood for you for something like $0.25 a cut. Easy.
Assembly is simple, 4 long screws can hold the base and the top to the center pole. Use quality wood screws or lag bolts at least 4 inches long, and pre-drill the holes to prevent splitting the 4×4″ upright support. Finish them with whatever color spray paint you want (I find flat black looks the best), or if you got nicer woods feel free to stain them instead. The cost for two stands is about $30-40, maybe a little more if you get more expensive speaker spikes.
3. Artsy Acoustic Treatment.
Typically acoustic treatment for studios has been a rather dull thing to look at, maybe you get a few color choices and that’s it. While some acoustics treatment companies are now letting you send them artwork to print onto the fabric that they make your panels from, typically it’s very expensive for custom artwork like this.
I found a simpler solution thanks to a company called Spoonflower.com. They are a craft fabric supplier that lets you upload digital images which they will then print on the fabric of your choice (usually they have 5-6 different choices). For acoustic reasons, I recommend going with the lightest weight fabric they offer, which is typically almost as thin as a gauze material.
The best part is that it’s REALLY cheap! I had a photo I took on vacation one year printed on a 2 yard piece of fabric for only about $20. Easy enough to place it over my acoustic panels, and staple it to the back to hold it in place. Works great for traps you build yourself, or ones you buy pre-made. Much nicer and less boring to look at too!
4. Painters Tape For Stage Set-Ups.
One last tip for people who play live or set up gear on stages. Usually gaffers tape is what most people use to tape down cables or secure things on stage. It works great because it doesn’t leave a residue when you remove it (unlike say Duct Tape), but it’s also really expensive and not something you can easily find at a hardware store. However painters tape works just as well, and it too doesn’t leave a residue when you remove it. While it’s still not as cheap as say masking tape, it’s much cheaper than gaffer tape and you can find it at any home improvement store.
Here you can see it holding the power cords to my Elektrons to the table at a recent gig to keep them from accidentally getting pulled out. I always tape my cables for my stage gear to one of the legs of any table I’m set up on. Just adds a nice safety measure to keep people from tripping over cables on stage in the dark and pulling them out of your gear (or worse, pulling your gear off the table!).