Whilst a small room isn’t always ideal, it’s certainly no barrier to holding an effective band rehearsal. Having rehearsed in many small rooms myself, I’ve managed to pick up quite a few tips and tricks along the way. Here are 8 actionable tips for setting up a band in a small room:
1. Set Up As If You Were On Stage
Setting up your gear as if you were on stage has several advantages:
- It saves space: Whilst rehearsing in circle formation allows for easy communication, it takes up a significant amount of space. Placing all of your gear against one wall is much more efficient.
- It helps eliminate PA feedback: One of the biggest issues that a small rehearsal room presents is excessive feedback from the PA system. This is often due to the microphones directly facing the speakers in close proximity. Setting up in stage formation means the band will be directly behind the speakers, which can help eliminate feedback.
- It tightens you up: Whilst not directly related to room size, rehearsing in stage formation can seriously tighten up your band. Whilst rehearsing in circle formation can make it easier for members to communicate, it can cause you to become overly-reliant on your vision. Not having that extra level of communication will force you to pay closer attention to the arrangement.
2. Stack Your Amps
This is another fantastic way of saving space. If you’ve got more than one guitarist in the band, stack your amplifiers on top of one another. In order to achieve balance in the room, try to make sure the guitar amps are on the opposite side of the drums to the bass amp.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when stacking amps on top of one another:
- Don’t block the vents: Some amps have vents on top of them that discharge heat. In this situation, you’ll want to avoid stacking your amps as it’ll block the vents.
- Watch the bass response: Stacking your amps will generally result in increased bass response, which will only be emphasized in a small room. As a result, I’d recommend boosting the treble slightly and cutting the bass on each amplifier.
- Make sure they’re stable: The last thing you want is the stack of amplifiers to come crashing to the ground. If your top amplifier doesn’t have rubber feet, I’d recommend getting a set of rubber grip pads such as these ones on Amazon.
3. Be Frugal
This sounds like an obvious point, but I can’t stress it enough. If you’re dealing with a tiny rehearsal space, it’s probably not the wisest idea to bring your 200 watt full-stack along. In addition, try not to bring gear that isn’t absolutely necessary (such as extra crash cymbals or effects pedals). Once again, this can have the added benefit of tightening the band up as you won’t have extra gear to fall back on.
4. Treat The Room
One of the primary issues with rehearsing in a small room is that bass frequencies can build up and resonate. This can not only muddy the sound, but also cause serious hearing damage. As bass frequencies usually collect in the corners of a room, I’d recommend investing in a set of bass traps such as these ones. They will not only help to reduce the build up of bass frequencies, but also cut out any unwanted reverb. In addition, it’s well-worth using ear protection whilst you’re rehearsing.
5. Attenuate The Drums
As drums are loud and bass-heavy, they can often overpower everything else in a small room. In addition, cymbals can easily bleed into the vocal mics and either cause feedback or stop the vocals from cutting through. As a result, I’d highly recommend attenuating the drums. There are two primary options for drum attenuation:
- Drum mutes: Drum mutes are a great way of bringing the overall drum volume down. When choosing a set of drum mutes, you’ll want to go for something that still allows some of the natural drum sound to come through. Otherwise, you might as well be playing a set of practice pads. In addition, you’ll need something that also allows you to attenuate your cymbals. Vic Firth offer a great drum and cymbal mute pack on Amazon that attenuates the entire kit whilst still allowing for a natural sound and feel.
- Drum shield: A drum shield is an acrylic screen that’s placed around a drum set for sound reduction. They’re a step up from drum mutes in the sense that they attenuate the sound without compromising on sound quality. Drum shields are also useful if you’re planning to gig in venues that require drum attenuation (such as churches or mall venues). Pennzoni Display offer a highly affordable drum shield on Amazon.
6. Eliminate PA Feedback
As previously mentioned, feedback from the PA is one of the biggest problems you’ll face when rehearsing in a small room. Here’s a few pointers on eliminating PA feedback:
- Cut the high end: Feedback will most-likely occur in the 2k-5k Hz range. As a result, I’d recommend turning down the treble on your PA.
- Make sure the mics aren’t pointed at the speakers: This is an obvious one. Setting up in stage formation will solve this problem by ensuring the monitors are pointing away from the mics.
- Keep the levels down: The louder a PA system is, the more chance it’ll start feeding back. I’d recommend starting the rehearsal by finding a comfortable volume for the PA system, then setting the rest of the levels around it.
7. Maintain Air Circulation & Ventilation
A small rehearsal room can easily get overly-hot or stuffy. Here are a couple of pointers on maintaining air circulation & ventilation in a small room:
- Open doors and windows: An obvious one. Opening all doors and windows is an easy way of keeping the room ventilated.
- Invest in a floor fan: This is the easiest and cheapest way to quickly enhance air circulation. I’d recommend buying a cheap floor fan such as this one on Amazon.
8. Be Wary Of Noise Complaints
If you’re rehearsing in a small room with all the doors and windows open, you’re much more-likely to get noise complaints from neighbors. In addition, keep in mind that bass tones can easily travel through walls (which is why I get woken up by the garbage truck every Friday at 6am!)
If you’ve got neighbors you might disturb, make sure you get the all-clear from them beforehand. When you do this, I’d recommend asking if there are any times they’d prefer not to be disturbed so you can work something out. If you take their needs into consideration, you’ll be surprised at how accommodating most people will be.
- Can a band practice in a storage unit?: Yes! bands are often more-than-welcome to rehearse in a storage unit. However, it’s worth making sure the storage unit has enough electricity and isn’t bound by noise ordinances.