Workflow and time management are crucial in any endeavor. Home studios are no different. I am constantly amazed at how much time I waste in my studio. I could easily spend two hours simply “setting things up” or “trying things out.” By the time I could feasibly begin recording or making music, I’m either tired or have run out of time.

Most of us pursue music in our spare time. “Weekend warriors” they call us. But if you’re like me, you’ve had many a good-intentioned weekend come and go without a single snippet of audio to show for it.

Just this weekend I was planning to make some serious progress on my album. My wife was going shopping, so I knew I had time to get a few tracks recorded. Unsurprisingly, she shows up an hour and a half later, and I’ve barely gotten a thing recorded. I was just getting into it.

What do I waste my time on? Here are a few things:

  • Rearranging my setup – “Maybe the laptop could go here and the MIDI controller could go here. That way I’ll be able to see the screen while I’m playing the different parts…”
  • Cleaning up – I like things to be tidy when I’m creating music, and that’s fine. However, I know I have a problem if I spend over an hour “tidying up” the cables behind my rack.
  • Re-writing the song as I record it. – This is a frustrating one. I record several parts and then decide to change the song/arrangement itself. Grrr.
  • Mixing what I’ve recorded rather than finishing recording. Mixing should happen once everything has been recorded. I’ll mess around with an EQ between takes, and suddenly it’s an hour later and I’m still tweaking!
  • Trying out different parts. This is probably one of the biggest. I’ll take an hour to find a cool keyboard part for the song, only to dismiss that part a week later because it doesn’t fit. (Time should certainly be allotted to finding new sounds, etc., but not if you haven’t even recorded the basic tracks yet.)

These are just a few. 

What I’ve come to realize is that I need to treat my home studio like a professional studio. Time is money. When you’re paying a ton of money per hour to use a big studio, you better believe you are focused on wasting absolutely no time. You come prepared to the session, and you get to work.

The problem with home studios is that we have the luxury of time. If we spend all night on one guitar part we don’t lose any money. But we have lost precious time that can’t be recovered.

Let me encourage you to view the time you spend in your studio as if you were paying $500 an hour for it. I’m not saying you need to be stressed and rushed, but you should be focused. Make a plan. Have goals for the studio time. Give yourself a schedule.

It’s very important for me that I don’t spend all weekend in the studio and neglect spending time with my wife. To help with that, I’ll set up a schedule, a certain amount of time that I can devote entirely to my studio. Once the time is up, I’m done. 

As I mentioned earlier, I was dumbfounded when my wife came home from shopping today, and I still had accomplished nothing. So I gave myself an additional hour to get a lot done. And I did! I was focused and had a specific plan for what I wanted to accomplish.

What I’m going to do over the next several articles is share tips on how you can make better use of your time in your studio. I know we all wish we could spend eight hours a day in our studios. But the reality is that we have lives to attend to, so when we do get time to create music, we should make the most of that time. 

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  • Donnie C.

    Great tips Joe. I’m certainly guilty of #1, I’ve rewired my entire rig 3 times in the last month.

    • Thanks Donnie…I hate to think about how many times I’ve done the same thing.

  • Great post Joe…It’s funny, I have almost the same time wasters when I’m in my home studio. I can’t count how many times I’ve spent hours in the studio with nothing to show for it.

    How do you balance your writing and studio time? I find myself always wanting to write and record, which never seems to work. Do you write in another room to avoid writing while recording?

    • I usually write in my studio (just because that’s where my guitars are). However, I rarely even have my computer turned on while I’m writing. Songwriting, for me, has little to do with production or technology. If you bring in technology too early, you end up throwing a song together just so you can have something to record. I’ve done that way too many times. I’ll end up having a song that I think is finished, then I’ll record it, only to realize that the song needed more work…thus negating the recording I just did. Whew. Vicious cycle.

      It’s definitely good to get your songs recorded so you don’t forget them, but I would suggest really separating “songwriting time” from “recording and production time.”