With the hyper awareness we are experiencing on hygiene these days, it amazes me how many studios (both home AND professional) don’t take the basic steps needed to ensure the health and safety of musicians. There are so many shared surfaces and devices used in the modern studio, and some of them are absolute *magnets* for germs, saliva, and gunk.
The first and best solution is to encourage… nay… MANDATE that the folks using shared instruments and devices wash their hands before playing. Provide a good environment for this. It shouldn’t annoy your clients - in fact, they’ll likely be happy to know you have this procedure already in place and they will feel confident using your gear knowing that it’s safe and clean!
So besides making sure the ‘source’ is as clean as possible, here are some basic routines you should be doing in between EVERY client, Coronavirus crisis or not.
When I get to a studio vocal booth and experience a smelly mic, I get on high alert. How many vocalists have rubbed their mouths right up on this thing? I’ve been to studios where you can absolutely guess what the last vocalist had for lunch before they tracked. Mics should be at the very least wiped down after *every single vocalist*.
There are plenty of commercial cleaning kits for this. Microphome comes to mind, but there are several other options. You’ll want to make sure you’re using a solution that contains at least 60% alcohol if possible. Be sure to clean the mic grill (detach it if possible, turn the mic upside down if not) and don’t get any cleaner on the sensitive electronics underneath. With this in mind, you’ll also want to let the grill and windscreen dry fully before putting it back on the microphone. Don’t forget the handle, too. While they probably didn’t touch it with their mouth, anyplace the musician touched the mic with their hands should be addressed.
Every mic is a little different, and you’ll want to keep the basic idea in mind that you’re cleaning the grill/windscreen and NOT the mic parts underneath. Most manufacturers actually have recommended cleaning routines for their mics and now is a PERFECT time to bone up on yours.
If you’ve got a digital or acoustic piano in your studio, then you’ve got another area you’re going to want to take care of. There are a lot of ‘home remedies’ online that involve diluting vinegar which might be nice for cleaning, but will absolutely *not* kill a virus if you’re worried about the health of your clients. If you have an antique piano with ivory keys, you’re going to want to consult a professional.
For the rest of us, a simple solution of mild dish soap and water will do a fine job of cleaning piano keys. Be careful not to over-moisten the cloth and allow water to drip into the piano or electronics of your keyboard. Many newer electric keyboards have built-in touch screens and you’ll want to wipe those down too. If you use pre-moistened wipes like lens wipes for this, just be sure to avoid the alcohol-free versions. If it’s germ-transmission you’re worried about, then the alcohol is a plus.
There are many commercially available string cleaners for you guitarists out there, but plenty of guitar techs clean the strings with standard isopropyl alcohol. You pour a bit onto a cotton swab or a cloth and simply rub the length of your guitar strings. You should do this after every playing session, if only to avoid grime buildup that tends to rust/eat away at the strings - they’ll last longer!
Make sure you don’t get any on the body of the guitar. Again, there are many commercially available cleaners specifically for lacquered guitar bodies. It’s important to use them because many of the ‘heavier’ options can erode the finish of your instrument.
Get Your Hands Off My Keyboard (and mouse)
We’ve known for years that computers can be festering hotbeds of germs. Get a strong alcohol based cleaning solution and wipe down the parts you touch (keyboard and mouse) after each session. Your studio will smell fresh and clean, your keyboard won’t be all faded and gunky, and you’ll be healthier in the long run.
In general, you know your studio, right? You know the surfaces people touch. Address everything from amp knobs to preamp power buttons as needed. The items above need a bit of special care, but Lysol wipes go a long way with the other random things like music stands and vocal booth doorknobs. Put a little time in and make your studio as healthy as it is good sounding!