Two days ago, my fiance and I cleaned our entire apartment.  We don’t own an electric vacuum, and rely on a manual sweeper to do the job.  However, we borrowed a vacuum and today found out just how much dust and pet dander we were living in over the past two days (and, assuming our manual vacuum isn’t as powerful as the one we have borrowed, the past 6 months).

That led me to discuss the age old question: what is the ideal workspace for a composer?

It is true that many of us prefer messy spaces.  They afford us the creative freedom to formulate structure out of chaos.  Some of us, however, are insanely organized, with any clutter or dust banished to the wastebasket.

In truth, as long as you are not living in squalor, nor becoming obsessive with your cleanliness, you really should make your workspace fit your specific way of composing.

For example, I have a desk with my studio monitors and external monitor on it, that I use for mixing.  I have a lamp, the base of which I put my external hard drive, and my audio interface.

I have in that same room my audio equipment and guitars in one corner, my amp, mic stands, and some spare mics in the middle of the room, and our spare mattress, recliner, and office supplies along the far wall.

I have found that I work best when I have organized myself enough to be free to make a mess and still keep things clean, and systematic.  It sounds a bit paradoxical, but this balance is exactly what you should be thinking about when assessing your workspace:

  1. How much mess stimulates my creativity?
  2. How much mess is too much?
  3. How much organization helps me focus?
  4. When am I being unnecessarily clean?

Answer these four questions and you will be considering your workspace from a balanced perspective.  The next steps are to drill down deeper:

  1. Where does it fit acoustically to place my audio setup?
  2. Where can I practice and improvise freely on my instrument/voice?
  3. Where can I take sample recordings to track my ideas?
  4. Where can I print and polish my final product?

Overall, try to answer these questions in all that you do regarding your workspace:

  1. What will provide me with privacy?
  2. What will allow me to experiment?
  3. What will hinder distraction?
  4. What is feasible within my space?

Start with these 3 sets of questions, and go from there, customizing and trying out your workspace until you have a good environment.  As you work in it, you will discover new modifications you need to make.  No setup is perfect, and every space will have to evolve over time to meet your continually changing needs.

Happy composing!  Keep organized and free.

Dan