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7 minutes reading time (1450 words)

Wires, Cables, and Devices - Oh, My!

Wires, Cables, and Devices - Oh, My!

When it comes time to remake your studio, it is a good idea to plan for your current and future technology gear, which may include any of the following: hi-fi system, recording paraphernalia, computer(s) and peripherals, pianos or keyboards with MIDI features, printer and scanner, networking devices, and maybe even a flat-panel TV.

We all want the functionality of these items, but who wants the clutter and the spaghetti of wires that usually accompanies this stuff? Here are some practical tips:

Consider the ergonomics of your studio

Start by imagining the ideal placement of each item. If you make audio recordings of your students' playing, is there a perfect spot for placement of the microphone and recording device? If you access MIDI files on your computer, where would you like your computer to reside? Where should speakers be placed in the room?

Once you think through the ideal placement of your gear, you can begin to address the issue of cable management. With careful planning, you can find a place for everything and still keep your studio neat and tidy. Notice how few wires are visible in the studios of Brenda Krachenberg and Joan Blench (see Examples 1, 2, and 3)

Example 1: Joan Blench keeps a microphone set up at her piano for recording during the lesson. She typically keeps her netbook nearby for creating student assignments which are then shared via Dropbox. An adult student is pictured here. Joan’s studio is in Peace River, Alberta.
Example 2: This is another view of Joan Blench’s studio. Although she has a computer, netbook, CD recorder, and microphone all set up and ready to go, her studio looks neatly organized and efficient.
Example 3: Brenda Krachenberg, a piano teacher in Plymouth, MI, has a compact studio that features two upright pianos (one of which is not pictured here), a digital piano, two portable keyboards, and a computer station. Notice that the only visible wires are those attached to the headphones
Example 4: Network wiring is easy to work with when it is hidden behind the wall and connected to a faceplate.

Here are some ideas to consider:

(1) If you are building a new space or renovating an existing space, think through the possibilities of hiding the wires in the walls. You have many more options when the walls are open during construction.

For example, you can run networking cables to faceplates where computers can be plugged in (see Example 4). You can also run audio cables to speakers in a similar fashion (see Example 5).

(2) In my studio, I asked the carpenter to move the baseboard molding out from the wall by 1.75 inches in order to have a space into which I could drop cables at anytime in the future (see Example 6). From a distance, the baseboard looks like a normal baseboard. Notice the use of a desk grommet to cover the opening for the wires.

(3) When several wires converge in one location, use a flexible cable wrap, often referred to as "flexible braided wrap," that uses a Velcro edge to enclose the wrap around the wires, thus reducing the "octopus" to a "snake" (see Example 6).

(4) Where wires are exposed, find ways to put a large object in front of them (see Examples 7 and 8).

Example 5: Audio connections can be very simple when the wires are buried in the walls and connected to a faceplate.
Example 6: George Litterst, whose studio is in Rehoboth, MA, asked his carpenter to bring the baseboard molding 1.75 inches out from the wall inorder to hide wires inside. Notice the use of the desk grommet and braided cable wrap that binds the wires as they come out from the baseboard.
Examples 7 and 8: Bobbie Rastall, whose studio is in Frederick, MD, found an interesting way to hide wires and keep them out of the way of her student’s feet. Notice the apparent lack of wires in the top photo, and then see the solution in the bottom photo.

Reassess your needs

Example 9: A computer, iPad, smartphone (not pictured), or pocket recorder (such as the Yamaha Pocketrak C24 pictured here) all have audio recording capability using either a built-in microphone or an external microphone.

Over time you may have accumulated quite a stash of technology devices. Are you still keeping the obsolete and semi-obsolete stuff around? In many cases, you can reduce the number and size of technology components in your studio by replacing old gear with modern equivalents.

For example, consider the issue of making audio recordings. For teachers who have simple recording needs, it is no longer necessary to have a large tape deck or bulky CD recorder. You can record audio with any number of devices that you may already have, such as a laptop, smartphone, or iPad. If you want a dedicated recording device, you can find high-quality recorders that are smaller than a deck of cards (see Example 9). Depending upon how high your recording standards are, you may want to use quality microphones rather than the built-in mics.

Exploit wireless options

Example 10: The Audioengine AW1 consists of a transmitter and receiver that look identical. The transmitter plugs into the USB port of the computer. The receiver plugs into a USB/AC adapter and connects to a speaker or amplifier with a simple audio cable.

There are many ways in which you can replace wires with wireless connections. The most common way to do that is to use Wi-Fi to connect your computer/netbook/smart phone/iPad to your home network, including your printer and scanner.

There are also ways in which to establish wireless audio and video connections. For example, you can send the audio from your computer to your powered speakers or amplifier wirelessly using an audio transmitter, such as the Audio engine AW1 ( (see Example 10). Alternatively, if you have a flat panel TV in your studio, consider investing in an Apple TV( Apple TV is a little box that you connect to both the television and your network, and it enables you to send audio and/or video wirelessly from a Mac or PC, iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to the television and its speakers.

Imagine making a video recording of your student using your iPhone and then immediately and wirelessly playing it back on the flat panel TV that hangs on your studio wall!

Reduce paper clutter

We are only twelve years into the twenty-first century, and few, if any, of us have found a way to banish paper completely. However, clever use of technology can help us to reduce paper clutter.

The most obvious use of technology to reduce paper clutter is to start using electronically published scores and PDF versions of public domain music. There are many, many apps for the iPad that enable you to view and work with music on the tablet screen. And, with the AirTurn BT-105 (, you can even turn the pages wirelessly using a foot pedal.

Other approaches to reducing paper clutter are more subtle but just as effective. For example, Joan Blench, a teacher in Alberta, Canada, uses Dropbox ( for sharing assignments with students. All she has to do is use her little netbook (see Example 1) to write assignments during the lesson and then save the text file into a special Dropbox folder. When the student gets home, the student will find the assignment waiting in the same shared folder on the student's computer. The basic level of Dropbox service is free!

Don't forget that you can decorate around technology!

Example 11: Sandi Bowen’s studio features a Disklavier grand piano (not pictured here) and many other pieces of gear, including the two com-puter/MIDI keyboard work stations in this photograph. Notice how her use of the color red (found in the chairs, filing cabinets, headphones, and decorative stand) nicely ties everything together.

When planning for technology in your studio, you don't have to forget the aesthetics of your environment. Technology can be beautiful. You also have many options for decorating around your technology pieces! Take a look at what Sandi Bowen has done in her studio (see Example 11)!

Special thanks to piano teachers Joan Blench, Brenda Krachenberg, Bobbie Rastall, and Sandra Bowen for supplying suggestions and photos for this article.

George Litterst is a nationally known music educator, clinician, author, performer, and music software developer. A classically trained pianist, he is co-author of the intelligent accompaniment software program, Home Concert Xtreme, the electronic music blackboard program, Classroom Maestro, and the long distance teaching and performing program, Internet MIDI.

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