Makerspace for Musicians

I’ve been kicking around this idea for a while and I decided I want to give it a try. You’ve heard of those “Makerspaces” where you can go and use shop tools and laser cutters and 3D printers to build stuff? I am thinking of something like that for musicians where you can get a membership and then come and use the space’s computers, keyboards, sample libraries, and recording equipment. The equipment would be available for members in the same kind of way that exercise equipment is available to members of a gym.

My goals for this space are as follows:

  1. Lower the hurdles to getting into music recording and composition by offering access to hardware/software that are difficult for one person to assemble on their own.

  2. Offer education and training on the equipment, software, composition techniques, and music theory. Teaching can be done through formal classes held at the space or informal tutoring/mentoring from member to member.

  3. Facilitate networking among composers and musicians to foster the sharing of ideas and of business opportunities.

I have looked for such a space near me but have not found anything like it for music. Do any of you have something like this near you? If there was one near you, would you go? What kinds of things would you like to see at a place like this that would be the most beneficial for you?

Lastly, any suggestions on how I could get something like this off the ground? I’m looking around at commercial spaces near me for something that might work. I’m going to check out the regular makerspace near me and ask some questions there. Was thinking of attending a city council meeting to propose my idea and see if there is any kind of interest. Thought about reaching out to schools in the area too.

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Cool idea Mike. To me it sounds a bit like a music school is what you’re trying to build. Back in the day when I attended the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, this is essentially what it was like—it had a computer lab for learning and recording on Pro Tools, regular classrooms for learning theory and whatnot as well as practice rooms for instrument lessons etc. and you could use them whenever the were free if you were an alumnus.

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In a way, yes. Just without the educational institution part. When I was in college, the music department had a lot of that stuff as well, recording studio with Digital Performer, digital piano classroom with computers and midi sequencers, practice rooms, etc. Though I’m drawing a lot on that as my inspiration for this idea, my experience there was both positive and negative.

On the positive side, I used the heck out of that recording studio while I was there, despite not being a music major. Intro to MIDI was one of the first classes I signed up for and I made good enough friends with the prof that he gave me a key to the studio so I could get in at off hours. I recorded music for two student films and an album while I was in school.

On the negative, the reason I wasn’t a music major was mainly because there wasn’t a clear path into what I wanted to do in music. I would have had to take pedagogy classes on an instrument and I really did not want to put in the practice time required for that. I really just wanted to learn theory and composition. I’m fine with not being an excellent player on any of the instruments I play. To me, having a broader knowledge of how they work together is more important. So I’d like to lower the the hurdle for the person who wants to do this sort of thing but doesn’t want or can’t get a music degree.

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I completely understand. The reason I majored in political philosophy instead of music composition is because to be admitted to that program, you had to audition a medium-difficult classical piece on piano—I’m a guitar player! It’s like, ‘What, only piano players can be composers?’ So outside the conservatory, I studied composition/orchestration largely on my own.

I like learning to play instruments though. And anyway, Hector Berlioz was apparently crap at playing instruments, but was a damn good composer and orchestrator!

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I love learning instruments too. I play five to varying degrees and I’ve tried to play a lot more. If it’s musical and it’s anywhere near me I’m going to give it a try.

But pick any world-famous orchestra composer you like. There’s no way they can play every single instrument to a professional level. If John Williams can write great french horn parts without ever learning it, why make a student who is passionate about music work an instrument into their muscle memory when they really just need to know how it works and how it sounds?

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Would it be a lockout type setup where members would have 24/7 access? How would you be able to rotate people in? The membership would have to be limited unless you had many rooms and terminals

Are there licensing issues with the VST’s and plugins? i.e. basically renting the usage thereof for profit

Just some quick ideas I had after reading your post

I love the idea - this post was not meant to be negative, just thinking about how this could be accomplished

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Thanks for bringing all that up! I don’t know yet. I had thought about contacting some of the vst companies and seeing if a kind of group package could be negotiated for multiple computers. The places I’m looking at so far are not huge, so access to some of the resources may have to be on a reservation basis. All great things to think about and add to my list!

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Right. The only muscle memory needed for orchestration is the brain—know how the instruments are played and how they sound.

Are you doing this as a .org or a .com? I ask because as a for profit type of space, you’d have to think of the level of patronage in your community. This was essentially the problem with the WCM—they were non-profit and not run like a true conservatory later on. If it was more “schoolish” without the pre reqs and whatnot, maybe you could attract more attention from a regional standpoint would be my thinking. Still a cool idea!

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