Music Ergonomics: How Pain Can Stunt Your Creativity

No pain, no gain? There's truth to this popular saying. But, often pain is something to avoid! G. W. Childs looks at how your studio ergonomics and creativity are positively related.  

You ever have one of these nights? You get home to begin an incredible music session on your computer. You're throwing down some crazy automation, you're coming up with some insane sounds, and by the time your session is done... some three hours later, you've got almost a complete song. 

But, you wake up the next day, and you feel like a pretzel. Your muscles are stiff, you feel like you've been run over by a train... It's bad. And, to make matters worse, when you sit down to try to re-ignite the fire of last night's amazing music session, you just don't have the energy. Or, something in your body is pulling you away. 

If anything like this has ever happened to you, you may be suffering from bad music ergonomics. 

What Are Ergonomics, and Why should I care?

If you've ever worked in major corporate environments, you've most likely heard the term ergonomics floating around all over the place. Places like California have adopted a heavier awareness within the corporate structure to educate and avoid additional workers compensation claims. Basically, ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their work environment, which ultimately is determined by how comfortable they are when they are working. 

And, it's not just a load of gibberish. Having spent a year in physical therapy for shoulder damage from extended time at a desk and with controllers, it can jack you up. 

This article seeks to illuminate something even more severe that poor ergonomics can, in fact, rob you of... your creativity!

How Poor Ergonomics Affects Your Creativity

While your conscious mind is around for a good 40-50% of the time, your subconscious mind is always going. In fact, your subconscious is even working while you're working on music... And, sometimes, it's trying to tell you things, while you have the headphones on, and aren't listening. 

Generally, if your body is uncomfortable, your body will send you messages through slight discomfort and pain. But, as we well know, we often don't listen to the messages. Especially, when we are on a big creative streak.

Fearing that the body may be in danger, after a while, the subconscious will begin to take measures to make sure that you begin to take care of yourself, at least a little. It may not be during the night time session, but the next day, as the body is recovering, your subconscious, because it is a part of your brain, can hold back valuable mental assets towards music creation. These assets tend to be chemicals. 

How to Optimize Your Creative Sessions

If your furniture isn't, currently, that comfortable, one way to greatly optimize your creative sessions would be to simply take breaks. Take at least a ten minute break for each hour you work. You may think that you might lose your creative streak, but this isn't true. In fact, when you take smoke breaks, or just get up and take a walk around the block, you may find out that you come back with ten more ideas. It's almost like your body is suddenly thanking you, so it has the subconscious send you a gift. 

Also, you may consider looking into creating a standing workstation for yourself. This allows you to keep blood circulation going through most of your body, and when your feet get tired, you're forced to take breaks. 

Test Yourself

Ultimately, if you'd really like to test this phenomenon for yourself, try this test:

Sit in a regular position that you normally write in that might be considered slouching, poor posture. Or, just a position that caused you pain in the past. Then, work on music for thirty minutes and see how much you accomplish.

Next, try sitting in a position that is really comfortable and work on music for thirty minutes, but make it a different song. During that thirty minute session, take a 5 minute break. 

Go back and listen to each song, the comfortable song, and the usual position song. Notice the quality of work, and creativity that went into each song during those thirty minute sessions. 

The biggest closing comment that I can make is when you learn to listen to what your body is telling you, you begin to reap the benefits of not just some of your faculties, but all of them. Imagine how bad ass your music could sound when you get to use all your faculties!

Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like Lu... Read More


Great article, thanks!
Much needed information, thanks for writing this article up! I will be sharing this with my FCP users group. I see so many studios every month as a consultant, and I'm amazed by the bad furniture many use. Bravo GW! I'd add that on a Mac, try out the Magic Trackpad, too.

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