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Music Life: 11 - Creating The Perfect Songwriting Studio
By Brian Donovan - 08/18/2009 - 04:57 AM EDT

Hi. As the months progress, I talk about ways to live your life more instead of creating music. Why?  Simply because although you're talented, there is so much more to appreciate in life besides the music that flows through your veins.

I've had so many experiences that have enriched my life outside of my musical career or even just my self-indulgeant creativity. I have found a love for things, people and places that music could never supply, and have found peace within myself through these experiences. And one of these interests that I hold dear to my heart is minimalism. Oh, don't be fooled, it's definitely an artform, just not audible. But what is minimalism exactly?

Minimalism (in this sense) is the art of having as few physical items as possible, yet still be fully functional in society.  I spend an immense amount of time thinking about how to pare down even more. I have definitely gone against the grain on this front, but have found peace in the emptiness. Why do I bring this up? Easy: how many times do you find yourself with a new musical idea and hours later you find yourself sucked into a new piece of gear, looking for a specific sound for the snare drum? Only to have your inspirational moment dissolve in that time...? OR, you start recording a guitar part, only to have the gear act "funny" or even break down, and now you are not the performer OR the songwriter anymore, but an engineer; sussing out a technical problem?

I have worked hard at defining and honing THE solution: less gear = less distraction. To show this to you, I'll show you my exact AND COMPLETE list of gear, right down to my adapters, and explain my choices for the gear that I've chosen. It is my finely tuned list of what you will need for the PERFECT, songwriter-friendly studio:

GUITAR: (acoustic)
foldable fender stand
1/4" Monster cable
humidifier sponge/tube (for inside the case)
9v battery

PIANO: (88-key, weighted keyboard)
Quiklok Z-stand
UNO usb/midi cable
power cable
sustain pedal

DRUMS: (electronic kit)
UNO usb/midi cable
power cable

Quiklok mic stand
2 XLR Monster cables
power cable

MacBook Pro
power cable
audio interface
usb cable
ilok / plugins
Sony 7509 headphones

2 M-Audio speakers
2 1/4" Monster cables
2 power cables

(Side Note: If, and when, my dream of creating my music "off the grid" comes to fruition (the technology is too bulky, too expensive and not a universal solution yet) I will surely include that as an installment of this article.  Either way, here's a taste of what that goal is:

Power Requirement  [1 powerstrip, containing:]
e. drums
2 powered speakers
1 light for the room
And the 9V battery would be rechargeable via USB.  Now, back to the minimalism...)

To help illustrate my point, I'll point out that I don't have a box of old gear in my garage, there isn't a closet of cables somewhere in the house, there isn't even an extra microphone laying around on a shelf! This is the complete list of gear that I use to write and demo all my music.  Everything.

So go back and ponder the list. If you can find items not listed there that you believe are totally necessary, I would love to hear your thoughts.

In a future installment, I'll go over the software choices I have made (and am still making) for the best in virtual instruments for your perfect songwriting studio.  However, next time, I'll talk about how syncing all of my lyrics over to my iphone with my new purchase of Omni Focus has changed my life forever.

Until then, appreciate the horizon...

Brian Donovan is a songwriter/composer in Los Angeles, CA, graduate of Berklee College of Music and has been working in the music industry for over 12 years.  Check out Brian’s newest CD: “Mugu Point” at his website:

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