halloweenYou know I couldn’t let Halloween go by without some sort of Halloween-themed post, right? Right.

I’ve had plenty of “scary moments” over the years in my studio. After all, you put your blood, sweat, and tears into the thing, an it definitely hurts when things don’t go exactly as planned.

If you’re just starting out, here are a few things you want to avoid as much as possible. If you’ve been recording for years, you should read this too and make sure you’re not getting lazy. Any of these can happen, and most of them are avoidable.

Losing Your Work

This is one of the scariest scenarios. You’ve been working for months, maybe even years, on a project. You’ve logged countless hours putting together this masterpiece of audio glory.

Then one day it happens.

You walk into your studio, fire up your computer and your hard drive and…nothing. Two hours later you have come to the horrifying realization that your hard drive has crashed, and your data is lost forever.

Now, there’s a good chance the data can be recovered, but it’s not unheard of for the drive to be damaged too badly to recover anything…or the data could be corrupted.

I’ve had this happen to more friends than I can remember. It’s not as “rare” as you might think. The truth is that your hard drive IS going to fail…one day. Are you running your entire studio off of one hard drive? If so, you need to stop what you’re doing right now, find a separate drive, and back everything up. Seriously.

Nothing demoralizes you more than losing something you’ve worked so hard on. The chances of you being willing to start over from scratch are slim.

Always, always, ALWAYS back up your projects. Some folks would say back them up to two different places. At least back it up once.

I’ll be honest, I go through spells where I’m lazy and don’t feel like backing up. But I remember how horrible it would feel to have to do that work all over again, and I start backing up.

There are lots of solutions for backup — automatic backup (Time Machine) and automatic online backup (services like Carbonite). I usually just drag and drop the files to a separate hard drive. Whatever you do, have a system in place and BACK YOUR STUFF UP.

Losing Your Gear

If your interface dies, your studio is dead in the water. Same with your computer. Are you doing everything you can to protect these important parts of your studio?

Taking care of your gear could be as simple as not letting it sit in the back seat of your car on a hot summer day, and making sure you put your condenser microphones back in the case when you’re done with them.

However, there are a couple extra things you can (and probably should) do.

Power Conditioner

If you don’t have a power conditioner in your studio, you should start budgeting for one. You can get a decent one for under $200. I’ve told you before why you need a power conditioner. Power surges are a fact of life. Electronic equipment doesn’t respond well to these, and that little $3 plastic power strip you just found in the closet won’t do much to protect your gear.

You need something that will withstand a powerful surge. I think of it as life insurance for my equipment. And it’s completely worth the investment. There are other benefits to power conditioners too, which you can read about here.

AppleCare and Warranties

If you’re a Mac user like me, then seriously consider buying AppleCare with your next purchase. It extends the warranty coverage out to 3 years, which is a really long time in the life of a computer. I don’t like warranties, and I don’t buy them…except for AppleCare. It could save you thousands if your computer decides to die on you 18 months after you bought it.

Also consider buying more gear from Sweetwater. They’re awesome (and here are a bunch of reasons why I think so), but they also have a free 2-Year Warranty of virtually everything they sell. That’s a big deal. All you have to do is buy your gear there, and it’s included. Very cool.

Losing Your Time

And finally, if losing your work and your gear isn’t a nightmare enough, it can be just as painful to lose your time. What do I mean?

I’m talking about those projects that you are so excited about at first, but then they take you months and months to every complete…or perhaps you never complete them. There are two reasons why this happens:

Poor Planning

If you don’t finish a project, it’s probably because you didn’t plan it well. Perhaps you got so excited about having that first recording session that you decided not to actually listen to the song and do some pre-production on it beforehand. This is by far one of the biggest time-wasters in the studio. If you spend 10 weeks on a song, only to realize that you wish you had rewritten some of the chords, added a bridge, and recorded it 5 bpm slower, you’re stuck. It’s nearly impossible to go in and make those changes after you’ve recorded a bunch of parts.

Take the time to plan out the song. It doesn’t have to be a big, complicated process. Just take a half hour to make sure YOU know how you want it to sound in the end. That way you can work towards that goal.

Poor Goal-Setting

Speaking of goals, you need them in your studio. Another word for goal? A deadline.

Deadlines force you to finish projects. Without them, you’ll just click around the screen, night after night, until the next thing you know it’s 5 months later and you haven’t finished a dang thing.

Set a deadline and go for it!

What about you?

Got any nightmares you want to share with us? Got a question? Leave a comment below.

14 Responses to “3 Home Studio Nightmares to Avoid”

  1. Leyla

    I work in my PC and I make backup in an external drive, when I finish the project I save in a DVD like a data. Then I clean PC and ext. drive.

  2. Andrew Gaul

    Great minds think alike 🙂

    I hate all warranties – just try redeeming a warranty sometime, it’s amazing how fast they’ll sell you one, and how slowly they’ll help you on the other end.

    That said – Apple is the exception. There are probably others (Sweetwater?) but they are rare.

    I personally had a MacBook Pro that developed *massive* electrical problems, just from me pushing it to the max *all* the time. That was 2.5 years in, and after my 5th frustrating trip to the Apple Store, they told me to pick out a new one (at the same product level, of course).

    • Joe Gilder

      Dude. GREAT example. Thanks for sharing. Luckily I haven’t had that happen. Our Macbook just died, but it’s like 5 years old, so even the warranty wouldn’t have helped us. 🙁

  3. Eric Jean

    Joe, is that your son in the pic? Super cute! Do you recommend cloning your drive as well as doing incremental backups (e.g., Time Machine)?

    • Ben

      Dunno about Joe, but I wholeheartedly endorse cloning your drive with Carbon Copy Cloner to a third drive (click my name; it’s a link to the developer, Bombich Software). It’s bootable, which is always awesome. Though it’s likely to be older than Time Machine’s backups.

      • Joe Gilder

        I’ve never gotten into straight-up cloning, but I’m sure it’s a brilliant solution…you don’t have to depend on yourself to remember to back up every time.

    • Joe Gilder

      Nope, not my kid. Just a picture I found on Flickr. 🙂

      I don’t do Time Machine, mainly because I don’t have a bunch of extra drives, and I never took the time to set it up. Also, Time Machine (I’m told) tends to interfere with Pro Tools, so you have to turn it off while you’re using PT.

  4. Tom Parker

    “If it’s not backed up 3 times it’s not backed up”
    Mantra: “Perfect Paranoia=Perfect Clarity”

    I don’t want to relive my hand wringing, floor pacing, no sleep that night experience here, but needless to say, refer to the above.

    Have reserved every Sunday afternoons to do a full HD backup as well. That disk sits on the shelf, well protected in a hermetically sealed
    box. Daily projects are backed up on one internal, and one external disk.

    Don’t live and learn the hard way …..
    Tom Parker, Voice+Studio, Bangkok

  5. dierock enroll

    i think my biggest nightmare was losing my time. i started working on my last project without finishing pre-production. it was like building a house with incomplete blueprints! somehow, a three-minute-and-a-half-song turned into a ten-month-long nightmare. luckily, all the hair on my head grew back, so i’m rather fine now. 😀

    had i decided every single detail beforehand, completing my project would have been a breeze. that’s what i’m doing now before i hit the studio: making sure every note of every measure is there. it’s like building a “scale model” of each song. tempo, guitar sounds, bassline, vocal arrangements and performance must be thoroughly defined.

  6. Hector Del Curto

    I had a couple of nightmares, the most common one, harddrive crash. The no so common ones, I was rewiring my studio and I organized all the cables, all was looking good. Then the nightmare, I had a bunch of harddrive power cables, and I figured, if it fits is the right one, WRONG I burned the harddisk with 3 sessions of orchestral pieces.
    The last one that almost happened: my studio is in an apartment building, for some reason there was a leak from the floor above mine and the water was coming on top of my desk where I had all my equipment.
    Solution to problem number one: backup
    Solution to problem number 2: always label my cables.
    Solution to problem number 3: Besides having an umbrella ready, I bought insurance for the equipment.
    Happy Halloween!

    • Fritz - Green Bay,WI

      10 Stars(**********) for Sweetwater, Yes!
      I gave up the big box Guitar Store a long time ago people, when they started nickel and dime’in me for shipping from one store to another. Then you ask them for information about the product and the sales person shrugs his shoulder’s, “I don’t know and the manager reads whats on the box to you, then says oh, you need the extended warranty for $$$$$$.
      Like Joe stated, 2 year warranty FREE, no hassle return policy. Shipping, Free. A sales team thats trained on the products they sell, and actually use them to. And a support team that will trouble shoot and walk you through the products you buy. What more can I say than, “Buy it from Sweetwater.”

    • Joe Gilder

      AH!! I started labeling my power cables a while back for the same reason. I just grabbed a roll of tape and wrote on each power cable/wall wart what piece of gear it goes to. It’s amazing how they all seem to use the same connection. If you’re not careful you end up frying something. Thanks for the tip Hector!


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