Moving Music Tips for Musicians

Moving house is a tiresome affair at the best of times, but takes a whole new level of energy when you are basically something of a geek. When you have a room converted into a studio and most rooms in your house or apartment contain at least some element of gadgetry spilling out with a mess of chargers, documentation, manuals or interfaces then you probably don’t want to move often. Or at all. Much like learning the tooth fairy is not real (sorry) or realising that Sony has nothing but contempt for its customers (blackhat) it is an inevitability. It will happen. When it does, consider some of these tips that I have found useful in my own recent moving.

1. Keeper of boxes

Keep boxes for your studio visual monitors – such as LCD screens – and your studio audio monitors – such as reference speakers. For sake of shipping for repairs or warranty claims, and given their delicacy, it pays to keep the boxes for your studio monitor speakers in any case. This stuff is the most difficult to do without should something happen to it, so more than most other items you should consider packing down and storing these boxes where possible.

2. Plastic storage treasure

Plastic storage containers are much better then cardboard boxes for cables and electronic gear that might be affected by moisture and dust, or require some greater protection from clumsy handling. With the clip-on lids it only takes a small band of packing tape over the handles to secure, and they can be stacked for storage afterward. If they are unpacked after the move, they fit neatly enough inside each other for storage, and are always useful for shepherding gear around where sherpas are rare.

3. Pull the power

If you are like me you will have packed the bedroom, bathrooms, kitchen and lounge room well before you will even have moved one item from the studio or studio space. There are always so many projects to work on, so many great sites to read, and so much internet to download. You are addicted to being awesome. Go cold turkey. Pull the power to your computers, unplug the studio monitors, turn the modem/router off and disengage. Commit to the move and the hunger to get precious interwebz and megahurtz again will motivate you to hurry up and finish the process!

4. Mobile geek life

Any moving tips and hints document I have read lately has recommended making an overnight bag of the clothes, work items and documents you will need. The same should be said for your geek lifestyle. If you have user names and passwords you haven’t memorised, then copy those down somewhere portable and secure. Just as importantly, get yourself geeked up in a way that will keep you productive. Once you accept the downtime of moving house, you can work out what you can do instead of staring blankly at the walls. Even if that just means playing Sudoku on a Nintedo DS. A lot.

5. Have no mercy

This is a great chance to look at the box you haven’t opened in the last 4 years, yet you have lugged between houses multiple times. Have you ever used those old XLR cables? Are you EVER going to use that Behringer patch bay? Are you really going to circuit bend that Casio? Does that soldering iron even have a power supply? Take stock of this stuff and be merciless. Whilst the golden rule of music production hardware is cited as “sell nothing”, there is much to be said for clearing out clutter and freeing up your workspace and storage space.

6. Back right up

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but this is a time back your data up. Back your data up even from the back-ups and back those up. Maybe not that far, but I’m simply stressing the need to back-up. By saying “back-up” a lot. More then likely somewhere around your geek desk is a pile of CD-R’s and DVD-R’s. You probably have an external drive with data backed-up on it that has some “temporary” back-ups of stuff you mean to “file and sort later”. The time is now. The golden rule here is to consider this your ultimate deadline to have healthier filing and back-ups. Consider purchasing (if you haven’t already) a disc filing case. Consider committing to a simple but effective back up system once you have moved, which takes the pressure of the backup you need to do now. The chances of something being dropped, stolen or otherwise affected in the move are very real, and anything you can do to prepare for this will make your life easier.

Moving samples, moving Macbook, moving madness.

7. Accept the different

This is a strange point, but one worth mentioning. Despite my adventures, I struggle to let go of my ergonomic and tweaked studio space each time I have to move. This makes less sense looking back over each move, and realizing I have had a significantly better studio experience each time, going from the “in the bedroom” setup in a share house, through to custom furniture in a converted and dedicated room. In between however, I have made makeshift studios by pushing trinkets off of cluttered tables in short lease corporate apartments, almost entirely re-arranged hotel rooms, and even selfishly dominated entire bench tables in rowdy European backpacker hostels. Beer stained optical mouse and all. Some of my band’s best tunes (and most of the worst) have germinated in some of these challenging and inspiring places.

8. Boxes beat seats

The average studio setup has a lot of gear that I call “back seat” gear. Those things with knobs and faders and LED’s that don’t lend themselves to being thrown in a box with other stuff and would better be put on the back seat of the car. This can include computer monitors, but you have hopefully kept the boxes for those. For synthesisers, mixers, effects units, grooveboxes, drum machines, VJ gear, midi controllers and similar, it quickly becomes evident that a lot of foam and more boxes than one would have anticipated are necessary. People who aren’t geeks or creative types won’t get this. They will look at the studio like a kitchen or bathroom and presume you can just throw it all in a box and be done with. These are the people you make carry the heavy boxes. The obvious point here worth repeating is to have more boxes than you think you need, and as much foam, bubble wrap or blankets as possible. A lesson learnt the hard way.

9. Warn your helpers

There is a chance that you will be utilizing the assistance of someone – or some people – who have offered, for some strange reason, to help you to move. There is a chance that they will not be from the same mindset as you. For example: Where you see a sought after vintage analogue synthesiser, they probably see a battered old keyboard. Where you see a Torrent box, they might see an amusing old Pentium III housed in a sun discolored case. Where you see an Important Thing in a Logical Temporary Space, they might see some clutter that’s getting in the way. Be kind to them and be patient. They are after all helping you.

10. Try some alternatives

If you can’t make music, play WoW, edit video, write code or design during the move, and the idea of being constrained to wherever your laptop ends up doesn’t appeal greatly, then consider the time as a holiday to test some alternatives. If you have a PSP or a DS and the appropriate OS modifications then try some homebrew applications like PSP Rhythm or Protein DS Scratch. If you have been curious about Linux or alternatives to Windows, why not try an install? If you have web access you could waste hours on ffffound or playing with online 303 emulators under the pretence of inspirational immersion. Once you feel guilty for that time wasting, you could go to the library and get out books on programming or music theory or photography, and consider a life where everything is on loan and you never have to box or move a single possession again. Consider moving in to the library itself. Plot where you might build a little fort for entertainment and, well, defense.

And then it’s time to unpack.

  • Well this is a fortunate coincidence. I'm moving at the end of the month. CDM comes through with the goods! Thanks

  • bliss

    I couldn't have written a better article for geeks moving house. I am especially merciless when it comes time to move. In general, I'm merciless about two times a year when it comes to clutter. Three things I cannot stand: Dirty bathrooms, dirty kitchens, and clutter. Also, I am very much a keeper of boxes.

    The only difference is point 10. If I can't surf, play games, or read — I take naps.

  • Audiomaker

    Label all cables before packing them – it makes reassembly that much easier.

    Well worth the effort to make the labels. Just use masking tap[e and a marker pen if nothing else. This is fairly quick and easy.

    You might also tie related cables together to avoid the dreaded tangle.

  • Kasper

    "If you can’t make music, play WoW, edit video, write code or design during the move, and the idea of being constrained to wherever your laptop ends up doesn’t appeal greatly, then consider the time as a holiday to test some alternatives."

    for instance make a shortlist of tips for moving geeks 🙂

  • gbsr

    whats the point of pulling the plug and going cold turkey if you still decide to spend time with your psp or "waste" time writing code?

  • Oune

    I'm moving this summer and i have a awful lot of things to move.. to a third floor without elevator

  • TechLo

    Turns out moving is a good time to ditch CRT monitors and pick up that nice, slim, oh-so-light LCD monitor you've been craving! Everyone needs a little reward for enduring the rigors of moving. Two worst things in Life? Moving and looking for a job.

  • MonksDream

    I second audiomaker's point and I take it a step further: Label EVERYTHING! Audio cables, power supplies (I know you have more than one Boss wall wart), network connections, those damn ports on your gear that are "labelled" with raised lettering in the same colored plastic as the case. Do this when everything is setup and working and only THEN pull it apart. It will make your life much, much easier.

  • john dalton

    One tip you forgot to mention is the concept of downsizing old gear when moving. I know this is sacrilege to many musicians and was a personally painful process for me but in hindsight after several big moves i wish i had slimmed down my studio gear with each move rather than dragging around a lot of old stuff in the end that i could have replaced with software or just ended up taking up space until the next move.

  • Paul Brousseau

    As it would turn out, I'm moving over the next month as well. I wish I had kept the boxes for my monitors, as I did over the previous three moves, but oh well. I think this move is going to involve a lot of purging, as I expect to move into a smaller space.

  • BirdFLU

    I am the supreme "Keeper of the Boxes" and my wife hates me for it.

  • João M

    ahah…I will be moving for my apartment in next week…Nice stuff 🙂

    Best regards from Portugal

  • jason_md2020

    Great timing! I gotta find a new place by August. That bit about "Are you really going to circuit bend that Casio?" applies to me. I got a $5 garage sale Casio that's been sitting in unscrewed disarray for over a year now.

    As for slimming down gear as someone mentioned, I've been doing that pretty much with each move. I've gone from 5 61-key synths, a computer, & a rack with a sampler, another synth, patch bay & effects years ago, to what I have now. Two PC's running Ubuntu, (one for recording & composing, the other for running Xwax & holding my music library), two old school Korg Electribes, a Trigger Finger & a basic two turntable DJ set up.

    And I'm still looking for ways to slim down. Maybe just stay home for a week to finally copy all my records & CD's to the hard drive & sell 'em at the local half-price used book store. Problem with that is I'd probably just use the money to buy more gear…

  • Audiomaker is right about the label-the-cable action, but I prefer gaff tape and a permanent marker, and mark where both ends go. Pretty much whenever I play out I have to hook up Traktor Scratch to the house's system and it goes a lot faster just looking at the labels and plugging them in where they go. Masking tape can fall off when it gets wet (say, by a spilled beer), either becoming unstuck or sticking to the floor at the end of the night (yeah, it even happens at "classier" places).

  • Jen

    I loved this line…

    > People who aren’t geeks or creative types won’t get this … These are the people you make carry the heavy boxes. <

  • Hehe, I moved 2 weeks ago, most of this already applied through common sense 😉

  • Video Music

    Ha, I'm moving back to Denmark from Japan this very moment. With horror I realised I packed my headphones, so now I am looking at a 12 hour flight with no possibility for making music 🙁

    Better read a book or something.

  • MonksDream


    You're right about masking tape. I use what stage hands call "spike tape" and everyone else calls "artist's tape". It sticks well to itself for making tags and comes off clean, even off a wet floor.

  • MonksDream

    Sorry Liz, just checked the rolls here and discovered that some of them are narrow gaff as well as artist's tape, the gaff being stronger.

  • "You are addicted to being awesome. Go cold turkey."

    I lol'd.

  • davedri

    @ gbsr: There is always down time of some sort. I would suggest a lot of us are so intent on our workflow that we find it hard to break away and explore some of the things that we might even read on CDM and think "thats pretty cool". The downtime that moving house often presents could be an opportunity to explore these things. Opportunity = excuse 🙂

  • BirdFLU

    When you're done moving, try just unpacking and hooking up one or two pieces of gear and not using anything else for a couple weeks. If you're a gear whore, this exercise could change your perspective on what gear you really "need."

  • weird, I too am moving at the moment. nice article.

  • sxa

    Not exactly 'geek' but

    1. get a tapegun. so much easier for sealing boxes.

    2. label -every- box.

  • JB

    When I moved last year I used my clothes as packing material for my synths.

  • Audiomaker

    Another trick is to video record your stuff. For memory jogging (what went where) and insurance possibly. A friend had all his Playstation stuff liberated by the movers who denied all knowledge.

    Record serial numbers that way as well while you are at it.

    Yes, label both cable ends, and wall wart power supplies (if not clearly showing manufacturer / model)

    Seal and label all boxes and record that.

    Don't pack your travel headphones.

  • that's very useful: in fact I'm moving to Copenhagen in July, for 6 months.

    thank you all!

  • gbsr


    right on. a friend of mine moved into a little basement room, only unpacked two peices of gear (except his computer and his 8 track), and spent about 8 months in that basement doing nothing but building new instruments and composing music. as a result he ended up with a completely new record that sounded nothing like his old stuff, and also new instruments (which wasnt really the point, the point was to limit yourself to less gear heh), and new influences and a new way to look at production in general.

    limiting yourself is great if you ask me.

    although i like everybody else have a gearporn nerve that pulses extra fast when the latest monome incarnation or the lemur community comes out with a new interesting way of using it.


    but yeah, slowly unpacking gear might actually improve your way to compose, and might even spark some new creativity into those old vains of yours.

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  • And once you do move and set up your awesome new studio, don't forget to show it off at Or check out the home studios of some of the users for ideas.

  • Here's one for the American DJs or musicians with giant music collections: within the US, you can ship all of your music media — CDs, tapes, DVDs, and those heavy vinyl LPs — by Media Mail rate through the US post. For a city-to-city move, this is probably cheaper than you can purchase the fuel for, let alone the moving vehicle space.

    – TradeMark G.

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  • goooooood 10 tips, they all making sense, cheers