How to create a musical workspace when all you have is your bedroom

No privacy? No problem. If you’re itching to make music but have housemates, family or neighbours to consider, there are ways to get around the current situation.

For those of us who time our experimental vocal-warmups, vulnerable writing hours, and scream-metal recording projects to our family or roommates’ work day, quarantine presents us with a logistical nightmare: how do we stay creative, practised, and potentially employed when privacy is now as rare as finding flour in the grocery store?

All of a sudden, we have a constant audience that we didn’t ask for, and they have no problem interrupting our set to ask if it’s our night to take out the trash or theirs. Even if we live on our own, or have the luxury of a dedicated home studio space, we may find it challenging to tap into our usual creative impulse when routines have gone haywire, and the concept of time has become like an old restaurant we used to frequent but haven’t been to in years (“What was the name of that place again?”).

Below, we have compiled a number of tips for establishing a creative haven and staying on track, no matter what living situation you find yourself in.

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Someone playing guitar in front of their laptop.
Image: visualspace / Getty

Dedicate a place

Think of this as your musical altar. This is where you will come to lay your polyrhythms and 12-bar blues at the feet of the lockdown muse. While some may be able to dedicate a garage or guest’s quarters, most of us will need to be content with our bedroom. Pick a space that evokes solitude-a corner wall or even a closet could do quite nicely.  Arrange it so that instruments, recording equipment, notebooks, and whatever else you need are accessible. If space allows, put a chair there so you will be more inclined to sit and work. Make it cosy. Make it pretty.  Make it yours. Above all, make it consistent. This will be your creative office for the duration of lockdown.

Someone playing guitar in their living room.
Image: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Timing is everything

Regardless of your living situation, the loose schedule (or lack thereof) of isolation can have a tendency to play tricks on discipline and motivation. Organising your time is a crucial tool in maintaining productivity. The best way to do this varies from person to person, but could include having a set time each day and a minimum duration you plan on devoting to music. If your days are still fairly heavy with responsibility, or the latest show you’re bingeing, you might want to take it week to week. Having a weekly ritual of planning the days ahead will help you focus on what you want to work on and will allow you the flexibility of making your creative time work for you.

We are also recommend getting your hands (literally) on a paper planner. Most of us have drastically increased our screen time, and the act of physically writing out your schedule will shake your brain out of the humdrum of days that feel more like virtual reality than waking life.

Soundproof like your life depends on it

Even if you can’t totally muffle the sounds of your stress-shredding, or that one chord you can never seem to hit quite right, there’s a lot to be said for the illusion of privacy. On top of that, you might be surprised by just how much you really can insulate your space. Under other circumstances, a trip to the hardware store would be a good place to start for collecting soundproofing materials. But, out of respect to as much social distancing as possible, we will offer suggestions for materials you likely have on hand that can aid in your sound-proofing efforts.

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Image: aywan88 / Getty Images

Round up any rugs or carpets you have (Why do you need that runner in the hall? What are you doing with that decorative shag carpet? Who are you entertaining? No one.). Put them below your workspace, and if you’re feeling particularly crafty, hang them on your walls to create a better sound barrier. Roll up a towel and line it up against the bottom of your door to fill any space above the floor. If you have heavy blankets or quilts lying around, you can throw those on your walls as well. You’ll be happy you gave thought to aesthetics when arranging your workspace because your room will look like an actual post-apocalyptic zombie bunker, but… desperate times, friends. Desperate times.

If you can, go for the area that is farthest away from the rest of the house. If you can set up in a corner that faces the outside of the house rather than the living room, you’ll be better set to sing and play your heart out. Not to mention, corners make for better acoustics, which is a major bonus.

Tell it like it is

Your musical goals and aspirations are just as important and worthy of attention as any other job or interest belonging to members of your household. One of the best ways to ensure privacy and focus, is to communicate with the people you live with about how they can respect your time and space in how it relates to your craft. If you’re feeling shy about the sounds you’re making, verbalise that.

Perhaps there’s a way to instil some special distance in the home itself while you are music-making. Or, maybe you live with a really lovely roommate who would happily bust out their earbuds and listen to the all their guilty-pleasure songs they know a seasoned musician like you would secretly make fun of them for during the time you’ve allotted for musical work.  Better yet, sometimes just expressing that you will in fact be freely, openly, and audibly creating helps to ease some of the bashfulness we all feel from time to time.

Lari Basilio at Capitol Studios
Image: LB Music

Keep on keeping on

It is an undeniably challenging time to stay focused and inspired. Some of us will create our best work out of this moment, some of us will not pick up our instruments even once. Either is completely acceptable and there is nothing wrong with you. Seriously. Even if you fall into the latter category, devoting a space to your musical work, and just ten minutes of sitting with your instruments (or notebooks, recording equipment, etc.), can help you maintain relationship to your craft and connection to your creativity. So prepare your walls, bust out your blankets, and don’t be afraid to keep singing, or whatever the beautiful thing is that you do.

For more guides, click here.

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