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Make A System Diagram Of Your Studio

11:00 am Home Recording

Most home recording studios start out simple and small, perhaps consisting only of a studio-in-a-box standalone recorder or a bare-bones computer-based setup. But then we start adding things, don’t we? An outboard mixer for the drums, brought in on Aux Return 2. An effects unit we like better than any of our plugins so we use it as an insert on Channels 3 and 4. A new mic pre that we use instead of the built-in one on Microphone Input 1. Maybe even a patch panel!

At first, it’s easy to keep all this straight in your head as you leap to quickly make all the right connections and adjustments before you lose the inspiration for that new epic song. But as time goes by and you make more changes, you will find yourself losing track of the connections you don’t use very often. What inserts did I plug that effects unit into again? Argh! What is this cable in the #11 output jack on the patch panel?

Connections Galore

Of course, you can answer these questions by laboriously following one of many identical, twisted-together cables to find out now where did I connect the output of this delay box again?, just like you did last time this question came up. Or, maybe you had the foresight to create and maintain a system diagram of all the interconnections in your studio! In this case you need only glance at the diagram to identify the destination of that cable in jack #11, or anything else you might want to know.

Perhaps because of my background in amateur radio and electronics engineering, I have always maintained system diagrams of the various studios I have set up and recorded in over the years. In fact, here is an actual, unretouched image of my current home studio diagram:

I refer to this diagram often, including as recently as last week when I did some special mixdowns to include with an article I was writing. And my setup isn’t all that complicated!

Your diagram need not look exactly like this. (In fact, a patch panel might be better documented with a listing of the connections rather than a diagram.) You may want to draw and label your connections in a different manner. No problem! The point is to have some kind of unambiguous record of how everything is hooked up so you don’t have to play engineer when you’re itching to play guitar.

I recommend making a note of the date whenever you update your diagram (there’s that engineering background again). In my case, I have changed the diagram so many times I had to continue the update log on the back of the page! Keep the diagram current. You will be surprised how often you refer to it.

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One Response
  1. Jannie Sue :

    Date: June 4, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

    Wow! That is so in-depth and very good advice to many.

    Personally, I am back down to just a Shure studio mic (yeah really,) my laptop, an entry-level program and some low-end monitors for a basic demos to show the “real guys” in the studio what I have in mind.

    My diagram would look pretty skimpy.

    thanks for sharing.

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