Less mess in the music room

My husband and I love music. We devote more space in our home to storing instruments and their supplies than to any other type of object (including books, clothes, and food). Add to that recording and listening equipment, and music-related stuff easily occupies half the space in our house. (Even on my computer, music files take up the majority of space.)

When music is such an integral part of your life, you constantly look for ways to store and minimize what you own. The following are some of our solutions:

Frozen Ape Tempo. We got rid of our metronomes recently after discovering this iPhone application. It’s actually better than all the metronomes we had in the house. My favorite feature of the program is that I can plug my earphones into the audio jack and have the beats pulse straight into my ear. The program is 99 cents. Yet again, my iPhone replaces a unitasker.

Storage boxes for strings. A few years ago, we noticed that a CD storage box is the perfect size for holding spare strings. We buy strings online at a discount, so it’s nice to have a permanent place for them to reside until we need them. And, since 10 of our instruments have strings, we regularly need them.

Self-binding sheet music. After years of having sheet music strewn around the house causing a mess, we reached our breaking point. We sorted the sheets of music into piles and then used a CombBind C55 at the office to bind it all into nicely bound books. We created an index for the front of each book and store the bound music on our bookshelves. No more loose papers, simple storage, and it took us less than half an hour to create. If you don’t have a binder in your office, they do the same service at Kinkos for a minimal fee.

Repurposed decorative items. On a table in our music area we have some candles and a decorative jar. We purposefully bought a decorative jar that has storage space inside of it so that it can have multipurposes. Now, this pretty little piece of art holds my harmonicas, castanets, and a case for guitar picks.

What tricks do you use in your music room to contain the numerous supplies that come with instruments? We’re always on the lookout for solutions, so please share your ideas in the comments.

32 Comments for “Less mess in the music room”

  1. posted by Adrienne on

    I put my music books in decorative magazine holders that are labeled by category and I put sheet music in a filing cabinet.

  2. posted by Julie on

    I’m using Windows Mobile on my smartphone so I use the free Beats metronome program for a metronome:
    http://handheld.softpedia.com/.....3297.shtml

    I wonder if there’s an app for a tuner, though.

    I have all my music on basket racks from Longaberger. That way it’s still out in the open, but it still looks attractive.

    The room that would traditionally be considered the “living room” in our house is now our music room. When we got our second piano I told my husband that the sofa and loveseat would have to go. No one ever used them anyway! We have one rocking chair in the room in case someone wants to sit and listen.

  3. posted by Vicki K. on

    My husband is a drummer/percussionist and we have a dedicated studio that was originally part of the garage. He has fabric covered baffles (picture fabric stretched over huge stretcher frames) hanging on the walls which provide a bit of shelf space on top and a way to hang all manner of percussion instruments on the wall.

    What is the projected release date of your book?

  4. posted by Red on

    Great ideas! Our dining room is about to double as the music room in our home and I’ve been starting to think of how to arrange a piano, several clarinets, washboard, books of music, and several other random instruments in a room that will double as the primary eating location. The idea of CD holders/decorative boxes is a nice idea for reeds, grease, thimbles, and spare strings.

  5. posted by Lola on

    That sheet music binding idea is pure genius! Thanks, Erin.

    I hang all of my guitars in a decorative pattern on a brightly colored wall with these:
    http://tinyurl.com/nzpf2j

    The cases are stored in the garage; I only use them when the guitars need to travel.

  6. posted by Giggles on

    You can also use binders and sheet protectors to store loose sheets of music. They can easily be bought in bulk at places like Sam’s Club or Costco. Then you can remove just the pieces you want with ease as well.

  7. posted by Haley J. on

    Magazine boxes / cases are good for sheet music also. For larger books, I cut the spines off and have them spiral bound as well. Makes them easier to lay flat.

    I’ve always been a fan of the gig bag / case cover for instrument cases, because so many accessories can go in them. (I have a clarinet, so reeds, swabs, wax, etc all have a home there). I love the one by Jean Cavellero – waterproof, lined with faux sheepskin, has a strap, and a zipping pocket.

  8. posted by April on

    @Erin – How do you have time for all of this – running a blog, writing a book, all of these musical activities & all the other stuff you seem to do? I envy your energy level! ;)

  9. posted by Graham Charles on

    How about Guitar Toolkit… replaces your metronome *and* your tuner!

  10. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @April — Honestly, that is what is in the book. How to make time for what matters most to you.

  11. posted by Rue on

    Well, we don’t have a separate room for musical stuff. My husband uses an extra-large plastic file box to store his sheet music books in. He also uses an old tacklebox to store reed-making materials (knives, thread, staples, etc).

    I’d really like to see some solutions for sheet music books (not just looseleaf scores). :)

  12. posted by John on

    Thank God for this post! My home is a disaster. I can’t have guests over anymore. Indeed I can barely move around the place at all for all the damn metronomes!

  13. posted by April on

    @Erin – OK, guess I have to add your book to my Amazon wish list. :)

    @John – LOL!

  14. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @John — You forgot the guitar picks! Trillions of guitar picks! ;)

  15. posted by bren on

    Erin, I can’t believe you use a binding machine to actually bind together the pages!

    The binders I use for my sheet music look exactly like yours, except all the pages are in clear plastic pockets which allows me to take pages out if I need to (I have 2 pages in one pocket; only printed on one side, as often on the piano the page break is in a place where you just can’t afford sacrificing one hand to a page turn. This makes it easy to just put 3 or 4 pages next to each other on the piano). Plus you can easily take out the spine of the binder to add or remove plastic pockets as you wish.

  16. posted by Pat on

    Wow! I’ve never seen so much music stuff outside of a music store. I have a few MP3’s on my computer and no other music of any kind. I don’t own a stereo, MP3 player or any kind of instrument. Even in my car I only listen to talk radio. I guess I’m not a big music fan.

  17. posted by Susan on

    I’ve moved my piano thousands of miles but now it just sits in my living room, its bench loaded with sheet music. I never play anymore – its been over ten years. I’m sure it is out of tune.

  18. posted by Christie on

    We purchased very economical hangers online for our viola and guitar. That way they’re on the wall, out of reach of little hands, and off the floor.

  19. posted by justbrowsing on

    I’d caution you about binding photo copies of music, especially when you think about copyright infringement. Kinko’, staples or the other would probably care less what you bind together.

  20. posted by mj on

    Any thoughts about catalog software for music books?

  21. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @justbrowsing — A piece of music written in something like 1644 is not under copyright. Also, it’s not against the law to put holes in the music you have purchased and put it into a binding. But, if you are illegally violating copyrights, then you should beware of what you’re doing.

  22. posted by Pharmacist Millie on

    We have a large music room. I don’t really think I want to part with anything though. Except one violin, that’s going to end up on eBay when I get time.

  23. posted by Karyn on

    Re: copyright, as I understand it, if you’ve bought the sheet music, there’s no problem with making a photocopy for your own personal use. It’s when people make copies for distribution that violation of copyright comes into play. (Even then, every music teacher I’ve ever had made photocopies of works for students to study from–probably not legally, though maybe the “for educational purposes” exemption applies here.) It’s the same as copying a purchased CD onto your computer or MP3 player for personal use, vs. copying the CD for file-sharing.

    And, as Erin pointed out, works in the public domain are not affected by copyright.

    What I really want to know is how dwellers in apartments can take up musical instruments without getting in trouble with the neighbors and/or landlord! ;-)

  24. posted by LJ on

    Music has been a major hassle for me in keeping our music room tidy. Flute sheet music seems to come in all sorts of odd sizes that won’t play nice with copying, binding or file folders/drawers, but are too flimsy to store in magazine racks. Earlier this year I reviewed a product, File It Boxes (at File It Box Review), and tried them on the sheet music. It holds even the largest of my music neatly. Fixed up with some decorative paper, it really made a difference in the way the music room looks.

    Our grandfather clock has a secret compartment in back of its face (it doesn’t have real clock workings) and I use that to store the miscellanea: polishing cloths, stands, tuners, metronomes, repair equipment.

    My collection of non-silver flutes and penny whistles live in a basket on top of the piano, and the drums are stored in a corner. It ends up looking decorative instead of chaotic.

  25. posted by honestb on

    My big improvements to music storage were:

    A similar string storage system (mine’s actually an oddly shaped box built into my desk)

    A big bookshelf, with several binders and folders where music and lyrics go (I’ve got categories that make sense to me but may not to others). I have an “idea folder” where I throw loose, half-finished songs and when I’m lacking inspiration I look through it. Before those half-finished ideas either never got written down or were strewn about the house, eventually to be thrown out instead of finished.

    Cable ties. I don’t have enough of these, but cable ties are amazing and make life far easier.

    I got one of those stands that holds 3 guitars (or in my case basses). It’s right next to the desk I write at, so it is easy to get out the right tool for the job.

    Quality headphones and a good DI: These mean that any time I have time, I can work on music, without bothering roomates or neighbours.

  26. posted by honestb on

    What I really want to know is how dwellers in apartments can take up musical instruments without getting in trouble with the neighbors and/or landlord!

    Depending on the instrument, “quiet” or “silent” practice instruments and electric instruments do exist. They can get pricey and may not be the experience of the real thing, though. The best person to ask this question to is a professional teacher of whatever instrument you want to take up.

  27. posted by dougR on

    What would REALLY be neat is if everyone who’s written in tips would send pictures of their spaces, so we could all SEE the results. I speak as a multi-instrumentalist with more gadgets, cords, reed boxes and reed-making equipment than you can shake a stick at, plus numerous saxes and clarinets and their cases, a few guitars, and literally BALES of music–mostly individual orchestral parts (for flute, clarinet, sax etc.) acquired over the years in sheet form, PLUS method and etude books acquired over years of playing. It is all a chaotic, disorganized series of tectonic piles, and while I can KINDA visualize what everyone’s talking about, I’d love to be able to see what you’ve achieved.

  28. posted by Rue on

    @Karyn: Good question. My husband and his old roommate had neighbors that LOVED their playing though (hubby plays oboe and his roomie played cello), so they could play at any time of the day or night and no one ever complained. Really depends on your neighbors, and probably to some extent what instrument you play.

  29. posted by Karyn on

    @honestb and Rue – Thanks for the responses; I wasn’t expecting anyone to comment on my remark about apartments! I really think it’s more of an issue re: apartment living vs. single-family home dwelling, or maybe more about owning vs. “merely” renting. That, and also being lucky to have tolerant neighbors. ;-) Of course I’m talking about practicing during reasonable hours, not at 3 a.m.

    At various points in my life I’ve played clarinet and a bit of guitar, and taken voice lessons. Now that I think about it, it was only the voice lessons that really created a stir, and it was in one apartment in which I had neighbors who were very fussy. (Though I admit a novice soprano with a strong voice probably wasn’t always the most appealing thing to hear. Heh.) I think the people who complained about my singing were the same ones who left me anonymous notes at the beginning of the Iraq war to take the anti-war sign out of my window, because it was on “their” home and they supported the war. I always considered MY apartment to be MY home, but…

    Anyway, now and again I get it in my head to buy a clarinet again, or take up guitar and voice again, but Fear of Neighbors has made me hesitate. Since my current building is pretty tolerant, I probably fear needlessly, as long as I’m not going for operatic projection. ;-) And I have in mind more singer-songwriter stuff these days, so, we’ll see.

  30. posted by Cat on

    Great post – I love the tip about keeping string packs in a CD box – I will try that!

    My music room is actually quite well organised. I have a couple of bookcases for holding sheet music, music books, software instruction manuals, and magazines. The books of sheet music are stored in magazine holders. Loose music is hole punched & filed in ring binders, and manuscript paper books and pads live in a paper folder. The sheet music I’m currently playing, or use most often, is in a magazine holder on top of the piano.

    I also have a small chest of drawers for holding small instruments, as well as things like my metronome, music software CDs, guitar tuner, strings, cleaning stuff, box of picks & similar small items. I have a corner desk for my computer & recording equipment, although cables can be a problem, as there’s only one power outlet in the room, so I have to use lots of extension cables. I do try to run them around the walls rather than across the floor where possible though.

    As far as mess goes – my guitars are just leaning against the wall, and look a bit messy, but I’m about to buy a rack to store them in, which will save space as well as making them more secure. I also have an old keyboard & guitar that I’m not likely to use anymore, so I must let them go (I’m in no way a hoarder normally – just the opposite – but I do tend to hold on to musical instruments for some reason!). Unused guitar cases used to take up a lot of space, but I’ve now moved them into the roofspace cupboard just off my room.

    I’m quite happy with the room overall, although more space would be nice (would love a drum kit & grand piano!)

  31. posted by Marie on

    Our band room is half of our basement, and it could definitely use some streamlining. I’m guessing my suggestion to remove the full-sized fridge stuffed with beer wouldn’t be met with much enthusiasm.

  32. posted by Bonni on

    There appeared to be a few tuners available for iPhones. There’s even a strobe tuner (iStroboSoft — I haven’t downloaded it yet but am about to do so — I hope it rocks).

    Like another poster mentioned, I’d also like to see some photos of peoples’ various music rooms and practice studios!

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