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Archive for November 2, 2013

Have a Seat

Working in the studio can be a pain in the butt. I mean that literally: After sitting in a chair all day long, it hurts! And that’s even though I paid over $500 for an ultra deluxe European chair from some designer whose name I can’t remember except that it had a couple umlauts in it.

If your job involves sitting for long periods of time, using a computer, then you probably also, at one time or another, have experienced pain in your back, neck, wrists, shoulders, head, or eyes.

Here’s a big word for you: ergonomics. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergonomics, “ergonomics is concerned with the fit between the user, equipment and their environments.” Equipment might include a chair, a desk, a computer monitor and keyboard, a mouse, a MIDI keyboard, and so on, but I’m going to focus on the chair, because it’s the piece of equipment that you’ll probably use more than any of the others.

If you’re like me, chances are, your chair is where you’re going to spend most of your day. Yes, like it or not, this is your main axe. So don’t skimp. For about ten years I followed the “it’s just a chair” philosophy, so I spent as little as possible, but I lost count of how many times I went back to the store and spent “as little as possible” to replace my chair. After ten years I realized that it was time to reevaluate this strategy and spend an order of magnitude more on my main axe. I’ve never regretted it. For that order of magnitude increase in spending I got an order of magnitude increase in the life expectancy of the chair, and also a much less painful sitting experience.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some things to look for while chair shopping:

  • Adjustability: Make sure there are lots of adjustable parameters.
  • Arm rests: If you plan to sit in this chair to play a keyboard instrument, then you probably won’t want arm rests, so make sure they detach/re-attach easily. (Or buy a chair that doesn’t even have them.)
  • Weight: Generally, chairs that are heavier are built better and last longer. That’s not always true of course, but I’d be skeptical of a chair that I can toss across the room with one arm.
  • Fabric: That shiny black leather looks sexy in the showroom, but you might have regrets after sitting in it for ten straight hours. Consider instead a “mesh chair.” Mesh allows air to pass through the material, which keeps the parts of your body in contact with the chair at a lower temperature.
  • Comfort: This is highly subjective of course; what one person finds comfortable another person might find very uncomfortable. In order to find a chair that’s comfortable for you, I recommend bringing a laptop computer with you when you go chair shopping. When you’ve found a chair that you might want to buy, try sitting in it for at least 15 minutes, while using your laptop computer to write, surf the internet, or even do some audio/video editing.
  • Sound: Don’t forget that if you’re going to be doing any audio recording while sitting in this chair, you don’t want it to make mechanical noises as you shift in the seat.

One name that you’re going to hear as soon as you start researching chairs is Herman Miller. They’re sort of the brand leader in high-end chairs. And, to be honest, their chairs are really good. But they can be expensive. But some people swear by them. There are also lower priced brands that imitate (or “are inspired by”) Herman Miller.

I can’t recommend any brand names (mostly because I can’t honestly remember the brand name of the chair I’m currently using), but the main lesson I want to teach here is: do not underestimate the effect on the quality of your life that you’ll experience by sitting in a good chair.

Happy sitting!