Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Mix Blog Studio: Murphy’s Law, Home Studio Edition

Mike Levine has had more than a few niggling, frustrating things happen in his home studio lately, which led him to find out more about theories on why things go wrong.

We’re all well acquainted with Murphy’s Law: “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and in the worst way possible.” There are times when it feels so prescient. Yet, if you think about it, we only bring Murphy into the equation when something goes wrong, not when it doesn’t.

For example, when your car doesn’t get a flat tire on the way to a gig, or your hard drive doesn’t crash, Murphy’s Law is the furthest thing from your mind. But that’s a rational explanation, and Murphy’s Law is anything but. So I guess I’m not particularly rational because Murphy’s Law seems to visit my studio more often than I’d like.

Before I get into specifics, a brief history lesson. I did some research (okay, five minutes of Googling) on the origins of Murphy’s Law and discovered that the term only dates back to the late 1940s. It was coined by, of all people, a real rocket scientist named Edward Murphy. The full story is actually not that interesting, but you can read about it here if you want.

I also discovered, for whatever it’s worth, that in the UK, there’s a similar adage called Sod’s Law. What’s more, I found a corollary to Murphy’s Law called Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives, which, according to Wikipedia, is defined as “Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.”

From experience, I’ve discovered many home-studio-related corollaries to Murphy’s Law. I don’t know if these mainly just afflict me or are familiar to everyone, but I’m guessing it’s the latter.

Murphy’s Law of Headphone Cables

“When you wear headphones, the cable will get tangled, and in the worst way possible.”

Virtually every time I put on a pair of headphones, I’m amazed at the creative ways in which its cable tangles itself around the base of my chair, other cables, my foot, and virtually anything it can find to twist around on. Even if I tried, I couldn’t think up more diabolical ways to tangle cables than seems to happen naturally.

I’ve had plenty of situations where I stand up with headphones on, not realizing they’re wrapped around something, and accidentally yank them out from the jack. Or I’ll reach over to grab something, and a guitar stand, or music stand will fall over because my headphone cable had somehow tangled itself around it.

Murphy’s Law of Free Time and Technical Difficulties

“When you finally have some time to work on a project of your own in your studio, something will inevitably go wrong technically that takes away most or all of that time.”

I can’t tell you how often something like this has happened to me: I’ll finally have a significant block of hours set aside to work on a project of my own, and, presto, my computer won’t boot up, or my DAW starts acting wonky, or my sampler suddenly can’t find its library.

Murphy’s Law of Creative Distraction

“If you get a creative inspiration, something will distract you long enough so that you forget what it was.”

On many occasions when a melody or song idea pops into my mind, by the time I get my DAW set up to record it, I’ve forgotten it completely. I’ve taken to recording ideas as voice memos on my iPhone so that I can get them down quickly. But even then, there have been more than a few occasions where I pick up my phone, my screen is locked, I press my unlock code too fast in my haste to get to my recorder app, and the phone won’t open. As I struggle to unlock it, my precious musical epiphany is rapidly exiting my brain on its way to the ether.

Other distraction culprits include notifications from my computer, annoying group texts and, most of all, junk calls. All of those are major idea killers and always seem to come in just when you don’t want them to.

Murphy’s Law of Coincidental Outside Noise 

“If you have musicians or vocalists coming to your studio for a session, it will inevitably coincide with a neighbor mowing his or her lawn, a lawn crew at the house next door with leaf blowers, or the town taking down a tree across from your house with chainsaws.”

One of the drawbacks of home studios is that most aren’t soundproofed, so you’re at the mercy of outside noises that can ruin your ability to record with microphones. If you’re in the suburbs, it’s the power tools. If you’re in the city, it’s frequent fire and police sirens, car alarms and ice cream trucks blaring their jingles.

Murphy’s Law of Disappearing Cables

“If you buy a cable specifically to have it handy in your studio for a particular task, like plugging in a guitar, within days it will be gone.” 

I honestly don’t know where those cables go. Maybe they’re in the same place with the socks that disappear from the dryer.

In summary, while it may sound irrational, Mr. Murphy seems to like visiting my home studio. I hope for your sake that he steers clear of yours.