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In-depth Feature:  Tools of the Studio Trade
...simple tools are often more important to getting the job done than having the latest whiz-bang synth with lots of blinking lights.
Albert Potts writes: .

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Read any music magazine or online message board and most of the discussion will be about the latest sexy synth, digital audio card, effects processor, or the like. Some of the most useful tools for anyone with a home or project studio are often barely mentioned. That's understandable, as how much discussion can really occur over a screwdriver, grounding strap, or console tape? Nevertheless, these simple tools are often more important to getting the job done than having the latest whiz-bang synth with lots of blinking lights.

Nothing can rob you of your creative inspiration more quickly than an equipment breakdown. It also looks bad to clients if you have to pause a session to crawl behind racks to track down a problem. A poorly maintained studio can also wreak havoc with deadlines, and add a lot of additional stress to a profession that is already filled with it.

This article discusses the tools I've found most important in the everyday maintenance of my studio. I would suggest that every serious synthesist and home studio owner have a small tool chest with these tools easily available at all times.

1. Screwdrivers. Always essential is a set of 2-3 different sized Phillips screwdrivers, a regular size flathead screwdriver, a very small flathead screwdriver, and a set of Allen wrenches.

2. Grounding strap. It is risky to go swapping chips or generally mess about inside a synth without properly grounding yourself to it. Even a tiny zap of static electricity in the wrong place can fry the insides of your mega-synth or computer. Better to be safe than sorry.

3. Circuit tester. For checking grounding of power outlets. Radio Shack sells one for under $5, catalog number 22-101.

4. Cable Tester. This essential tool can save you oodles of time and frustration in hunting down bad cables, and is also handy for a quick check of any cables you make yourself before pressing them into service. I use the Swizz Army 6-in-1 tester made by EbTech, which is rather pricey at around $100+ street. However, it can test 1/4", XLR, RCA, TT, 1/8", and Midi cables, and also can produce a test tone at +4, -10, and -50, among other features. There are a number of cable testers available. If you've got a lot of cables or frequently gig, a cable tester will save you many times over.

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