Music studios are notoriously unhealthy environments. Low lighting, stale air, computer screens and overexposure to loud volumes eventually take their toll on mental and physical well being. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the tried and tested methods designed to avoid bad health, anxiety, depression and the eventual demise of our beloved music makers, music producers and engineers.
1. Stay Fit. Don’t Sit.
Not for too long, anyhow. Being sedentary is a sure-fire way to drastically decrease lifespan and show signs of premature ageing. Take regular breaks from the seated position. And why not listen to those latest demos on a mobile device while out for a run? Or take a cue from legendary Sound Designer, Walter Murch and work standing up. It hasn’t hurt him in his 50 year studio career!
2. It’s Never Too Late to Rehydrate.
The standard daytime liquid refreshment in the recording studio is tea and coffee. Depending on the client, this may be replaced by something a little more alcoholic as the session wears on. But all of these drinks are diuretic and actually speed up dehydration by excreting water from the body. That’s why you need to drink plain old H2O. Up to 8 glasses a day is recommended. There are loads of benefits including better looking skin and healthier kidneys. Other advantages include the price. Apart from the bottled variety, it flows pretty much for free!
3. Light Up Your Life
It’s a sad fact that many recording studios don’t feature too many windows. Glass being the arch-enemy of sound frequencies, n’all. So it’s important to get a daily dose of sun rays, or at the very least, daylight. Before, during or (less likely) after your time in the studio. Even 15 minutes exposure to daylight daily can increase bone density and benefit mental health. Supplement this with a boost of Vitamin D and by eating plenty of greens like spinach, artichokes and broccoli (see no. 5) and soon you’ll notice a real difference in mood. And what’s more, it comes with fresh air, too.
4. Living The Screen.
Look around you. Probably right now you’re surrounded by screens. Computers, cell phones and laptops. All throwing out billions of pixels worth of electric light straight down your poor tired retinas. Screens can damage eyesight and cause insomnia. They can also drain energy levels making you feel tired, yet unable to sleep. Adjust the brightness to the lowest level possible and try apps like F.lux that adapts the display to the time of day and loads of other funky stuff. Too.
During a lunch break, why not ditch the phone altogether and buy a newspaper? It’s a great way to spend some time away from screens and to keep in touch with reality (depending on the paper, of course!).
5. Eat to The Beat
OK, here’s another impossible goal when you have demanding clients and stupid deadlines to meet. But a healthy diet is so important if you want to live long enough to reap the benefits of all this studio work you’re doing. And, yes, even most takeaways have a healthy option these days. But just be aware that it’s still highly processed food and will be crammed with salt, sugar and fat. Better to fall in love with preparing your own food. Studying nutritional eating habits like the Mediterranean Diet or Wholefoods. Switching to mono saturated oleic acid fats found in olive oil and avocados. Stepping up the vegetables, whole grains, pulses and oily fish. There are even healthy option food delivery services like Just Eat and Deliveroo. Keep your diet healthy and your body will thank you in so many ways.
6. All Things In Moderation.
OK, let’s not get too preachy and matriarchal. But if you’ve spent a lifetime in recording studios, one thing becomes clear. Excessive vices will eventually derail your career. It’s great for a period. Take as many drugs as you like. Drink as much alcohol. But eventually the industry will turn its back on you, because your work, physical health and mental well being will suffer. It becomes unsociable. Untenable. And before you realise what’s happening, it’s over. All things in moderation is a good mantra. Stay conscious of your consumption. Before it’s too late and addiction comes along and gets the better of you. If you think you may have a problem already. Please follow these links.
7. Find Time to Work It Out.
With such a sedentary lifestyle, workouts are essential and there will often be a gym within driving distance of most studio locations. A daily 45 minute class of aerobic exercise such as Spinning, Body Fitness, Circuit Training or Kettlebells can wash away the anxiety of the day and lead to positive, inspirational states of mind. Helping solve problems, clearing writers block and changing perspective. Don’t be Macho about it. Sometimes classes aimed at a female crowd can be just as tough and demanding as male workouts. Pilates, Yoga. Even Zumba. It’s healthy, exhilarating and great social fun. Try anything!
8. Stay In. Work Out.
Yes, there’s no excuses. You can easily turn your studio space into a makeshift gym. All you need is a fitness mat, squats, star jumps, sit ups and (the dreaded) burpees. And hey, a staircase is the cheapest gym in the world. When you get a taste for studio workouts, you just won’t want to quit.
Get others to join in. (They won’t, but, y’know. Try anyhow.)
9. Bed Time is Head Time.
To keep thoughts in order and a good mental regime, it’s important to get a full night’s rest. This is so difficult to achieve in an industry fated with over running sessions and after hours jobs like comping, editing, post production and mastering. But there comes a time when you must prioritise your own well being and part of that is ensuring that your working hours are kept regular and uniform from day to day. With a healthy 8 hour kip, you’ll be ready for the next day’s nose to the grindstone and be more confident to face another bunch of demanding musicians.
10. And Relax.
So there are a few ideas of how to keep your mental and physical health on track while in the recording studio. There are lots more, of course! You could try avoiding caffeine altogether by drinking anti oxidants like Green Tea. You could take care of your spine, by improving your posture while sitting at the mixing desk. You could eat more fibre to improve cholesterol levels and digestion. And yes. It’s difficult, it’s hard going it’s bordering on impossible sometimes to do any of these things. But here’s hoping you’ll find one or two new ideas to stimulate and inspire you and improve your chances of having a long and happy career in that sometimes crazy, sometimes wonderful place. The recording studio.
Simon Power is a sound designer & composer for BBC’s Doctor Who audio dramas. He is signed to Banco De Gaia’s Disco Gecko record label and as Dream Valley Music he produces music cues for all types of visual media. He is recently a credited composer on the Emmy nominated Amazon Prime series, Conversations in LA.