Music Studio Tips: Creating a Space to Inspire Creativity and Productivity

Our studio environment can heavily influence our creativity and productivity. Producer and guitar maestro, Rich Tozzoli, reveals how his own studio space enhances his music making process.  

One of the great things about having a home studio is that you can set it up to work just for your specific needs. Usually, creating a setup that works best for you is a matter of trial and error, and judging what gear is truly needed the most. 

Rich Tozzoli's studio space.

Rich Tozzoli's studio space.

In this article, I’ll examine my sparse studio setup and explain what each piece of gear does, why it's there, and how it’s all arranged. Hopefully, it will inspire you create your own workspace that delivers both creativity and productivity. 

Straight Ahead

Center of Rich Tozzoli's studio.

As you would expect, directly in front of me is the computer screen. I keep my setup streamlined with a single large screen, because two screens would not only prevent me from having more important gear on my desktop, but get in the way of my studio monitors. After finding out I have a bit of neck compression (probably from years of screen viewing!), I’ve learned to place the computer monitor directly in front of me, so my neck does not strain either up or down to see it. 

My studio monitors (NHT Pro M-00s and a M-00 sub) form an equilateral triangle with my eyes and ears, at tweeter level, when I look directly at the screen. This is the optimal setup to properly judge the sound from your monitors, so that each speaker (left and right) arrives at my ears at the same time. Without getting too complex, just take a tape measure and form a triangle from the left speakers tweeter to the right, then back to your ears (sitting up comfortably and straight at your mix position). 

Left

Left side of Rich Tozzoli's studio.

On my left I keep a small rack for my guitars, since a large portion of my TV work is guitar based. This lets me easily turn my chair and grab whatever instrument is needed. Note that I put my guitars away in a humidified guitar closet every night after each session, rarely leaving them out. I’ve found when I leave them out, the air (hot or cold) that blows in my studio does bad things to their necks, forcing me to set them up more often than I care to. I keep my headphones on the rack as well, in addition to a single 1/4” cable that runs to my DI inputs and tuner. 

Left Center

Left center side of Rich Tozzoli's studio.

Just to the left of my studio monitor sits a Digidesign Command 8 control surface (It still works great with Pro Tools 11). I use this only for fader control when mixing, and transport controls when recording. It’s at a perfect distance so that when sitting at my desk and looking at the computer monitor, I do not have to reach forward at all, altering my mix position. There I also have the controller for my Grace 906 studio monitoring system. Here I can control studio speaker levels, headphone levels, playback from my Pro Tools HD system and the Mac itself (for iTunes, etc.). I also have a small 9” monitor, which hooks up via single USB to the back of my main monitor. This is where I can drag a second screen (Mix or Edit) if I want to view, or mostly, where I keep video when scoring to picture. It automatically sizes the video when dragged there. 

Right Center

Right center side of Rich Tozzoli's studio.

To the right of my computer monitor I have a small rack, which holds a Furman M-8L Power Conditioner I also have two channels of Millenia HV-37 preamp, for either microphones or extra DI inputs (analog synths, Eventide H9 pedal etc.). Below that sits a Creation Audio Labs MW1, which is a multi input and output DI/reamp studio tool box. My 1/4” cable that sits by my guitar rack feeds this input, which also directly feeds the Korg DTR-2000 tuner below the MW1. Below that sits my Avid HDX interface, which connects to the Mac Pro on the floor to the right. 

Right

Right side of Rich Tozzoli's studio.

To my right I have a few small racks with a variety of outboard gear that changes with my needs. These are not reachable from my chair, so I have to get up to change levels. I have a Manley Massive Passive EQ, which I can insert into my Pro Tools HD system (usually on the Master Bus). I also have preamps from Focusrite, Universal Audio, Groove Tubes, Grace and ADL (Anthony DeMaria Labs). However, when I do keyboard work, I place it just to my right on a small table, so I can turn my chair and use it. This can be anything from my analog synths to a small or large USB powered keyboard controller. I only break these keyboards out when doing keyboard work, so that it doesn't get in my way. This wouldn't work for keyboard based composers, but for me, its how my setup remains streamlined. 

Below

Below the desk I have a Monster AVS 2000 Pro power conditioner, which feeds my studio 120 volts AC at all times from the wall, This keeps my power clean and even, which always helps. I also have my subwoofer down there, as well as the main Grace 906 monitor control unit. 

Above

Above my head sits a small hanging cloud of four Russ Berger/Auralex Space Arrays, which help redirect and diffuse any ceiling based deflections. They are simply bolted together and hung on chains so that my head sits right in the center of all four below. 

Behind

Behind me is part of my living room, but on the wall resides a collection of Russ Berger/Auralex Space Array tiles. Aside of helping diffuse and scatter speaker reflections off the back wall, they look like a piece of artwork!

Panels

In the corners of my room, I have Auralex M224 ProPanels, which act at bass traps. On the walls in front and on my right side, I have Auralex ProPanel acoustic panels, which keep the overall sound tight and balanced. 

I hope this studio view will give you some ideas of how to set up your room. The most important gear should be within easy reach with no straining, and your monitors should be at an equilateral triangle from your ears. Once you’ve got that going, the rest is up to your own creativity. 

Interested in designing and building your own studio? AskVideo's here to help...

Grammy-nominated Producer/mixer/engineer/composer Rich Tozzoli has worked with such artists as Al DiMeola, Ace Frehley and more. Also specializing in 5.1 Surround Sound production, he has mixed DVD’s and/or HD Television broadcasts for the likes of David Bowie, Hall & Oates and Blue Oyster Cult. Also a lifelong guitarist, his music can... Read More

Discussion

Charlie
Great topic. I can't tell you how often I move stuff around trying to find a set up that works without worrying about elbowing a piece of gear or how to even situate the computer keyboard and the midi keyboard in a way that works well for me. My one question is...you go with armrests on the chair? I can't do that because it removes the option of sitting down to play guitar. (I do prefer to stand up while tracking though)

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