Spring Cleaning (2004)


By Steve Oppenheimer

(May 2004)

Spring cleaning is an ancient and honored tradition in many cultures, and for good reason: after the long winter ends, we crave light, fresh air, and a clean environment. Besides, spring is as good an excuse as any for catching up with your cleaning. If you spend much of your life holed up in a studio, now is a great time to take a break from your production work and get your place ready for the next round of projects.

Of course, spring cleaning in the studio should not be limited to dusting surfaces, vacuuming behind racks and furniture, replacing light bulbs, and airing the place out. Here are a few additional suggestions:

● Get broken gear repaired first. You can reinstall the repaired gear while you are finishing the rest of the cleaning.

● Check any questionable cables for continuity to make sure all conductors and connectors are working properly.

● Unplug every analog audio cable and connector and clean the jack and the plug. That includes hardware synth, signal processor, and patch-bay jacks, as well as mixer patch points. Don’t just dust them off; use a cleaning agent designed for the purpose. The best of these not only cleans but improves conductivity. You can find various contact cleaners and related products, but I’d start by looking at the products from Caig Laboratories (www.caig.com). While you’re at it, make sure cables are properly labeled, preferably at both ends.

● Exercise and clean potentiometers and rotary encoders on your mixer and outboard gear. Be sure to use nonresidue potentiometer cleaner.

● Clean the heads of tape recorders (analog and digital).

● Exercise and clean between the keys on MIDI and computer QWERTY keyboards.

● Check all AC cables and power strips for cracking and other damage to the wires and especially to the plugs. If you use consumer power strips with surge protection and a lighted switch, make sure the power switch lights properly; in some power strips when the switch light fails, that indicates the varistor (the part that protects from surges) has failed as well. If you use an uninterruptible power supply that offers a battery self-test feature, use it. You don’t want a weak UPS battery to fail when you need it.

● Clean all display screens. To avoid damaging the displays, use a soft cloth, such as a chamois or a cloth designed for cleaning LCDs and CRTs. Radio Shack has such cloths and offers a spray cleaner specifically for computers and TV screens.

● Review and reorganize your software, sample libraries, and backup media.

● Back up your drives, run antivirus and optimizing software, update your applications and drivers, and purge old drivers, extensions, files, and other garbage.

● Look over your acoustic conditioning to ensure everything is securely in place.

● Finally, review your storage and labeling of cables, adapters, removable media, and parts.

A freshly refurbished studio won’t necessarily improve your music, but a thorough spring cleaning will improve your studio’s comfort, convenience, and reliability.