If you’ve just joined or formed a band, congratulations! However, you’ll now need a place to practice. Similarly, you might be looking for a more effective alternative to your current practice space. Keep reading for:
- General practice space advice
- Six places a band can practice
- Recommended gear
When looking for a practice space, you’ll want it to be:
- In a centralized location: You’ll want to find somewhere that’s central for all band members to get to. If one or two members have to travel a significant distance to get to practice, they’ll be much more likely to cancel. This can severely hinder your productivity.
- Sound-friendly: Band practice is often an ear-splitting affair. Make sure your rehearsal space won’t cause you to disturb others.
- Sizeable: Whilst a practice space doesn’t need to be oversized, it should be comfortable enough to fit the full band in. It’s near-impossible to achieve a good sound mix in an overly-small room as the drums tend to overpower everything.
- Of a comfortable climate: Wild fluctuations in temperature & humidity can severely damage musical instruments. If you’re going to be leaving your gear in the practice space, it’s important to make sure the climate is adequate.
SIX PLACES A BAND CAN PRACTICE
This is a classic and highly-affordable option. It’s most suited to those who:
- Are on a tight budget
- Won’t disturb neighbors by playing at home
- Have a suitable space
- Free of charge: Practicing in a member’s house means you won’t have to rent a facility.
- Safe: You can comfortably leave your gear in another member’s house without worrying about it going missing.
- Comfortable: Practicing in someone’s house can make everyone feel at ease. In addition, you’ll be able to hang out at the house after practice.
- Flexible: If you’re using a separate facility, you might have restrictions on when you can practice (and how long for). A member’s house can be a much more flexible option.
- It might not be sound-friendly: If the house is in a residential area, you might have noise complaints to worry about. In addition, you won’t want to disturb other residents living in the house.
- Distractions: Whilst a member’s house can certainly be more comfortable, it’s also much easier to get distracted. If you’re playing in a basement that’s kitted out with TV’s and video game consoles, it can be difficult to focus on practice.
- Potential temperature & humidity issues: If you’re rehearsing in a garage or barn, there might be wild fluctuations in temperature & humidity.
- Check with neighbors & other residents first: Before you start using the space, make sure you get the all-clear from your neighbors as well as the other residents in the house. When doing this, ask them if there are any days or times that they’d prefer not be disturbed. If you take a polite and professional approach, you’ll find that most people will be understanding. In addition, try to rehearse in the daytime to minimize disturbance.
- Try and pick somewhere with a stable temperature: If you want to leave your gear in the rehearsal space, make sure the temperature and humidity levels are stable. Basements are great for this, whereas barns and garages are not.
- Minimize distractions: Try to minimize distractions if possible. The best course of action is to simply set a rehearsal schedule and stick to it. In addition, start rehearsing as soon as you arrive at the house.
Professional Practice Studio
This is a fantastic option that allows for a great quality rehearsal. It’s most-suited to those who:
- Live in a populated area (such as a city center)
- Have a budget
- Want a high quality practice
- Fit for purpose: Professional practice studios are often fully-fit for purpose. This means they’ll be both well-sized and acoustically treated. In addition, many practice studios are kitted out with a backline of drum shells, amplifiers and a PA system.
- Few distractions: When you’re rehearsing in a dedicated space, it’s much easier to get in the zone and be productive.
- Sound-friendly: You won’t have to worry about noise complaints.
- Flexible: Many practice studios are open 24 hours.
- It can get expensive: A good practice studio will often run you between $10 and $20 per hour. If you rehearse frequently, this can add up.
- It’s often limited to larger towns & cities: If you’re living in a small town, it’s possible you might not have a local practice studio.
- You usually can’t store gear: You most-likely won’t be able to store your gear in a dedicated practice studio unless you’re renting it month-to-month. Whilst some studios offer lockers, these often cost extra.
- Block-book your rehearsals: Block-booking practices across an entire month can often be more affordable than booking individual slots. In addition, it’ll prevent someone else from booking your regular slot.
- Check for discounts: Lots of practice studios offer discounts for late-night rehearsals. Some studios also offer discounts for students.
Some local businesses will allow you to practice out-of-hours. These are most-notably bars, clubs and any business with a warehouse. It’s most-suited to those who:
- Live in a small town
- Have a pre-established relationship with a local business owner
- Are on a tight budget
- Low-cost: Many business owners will let you rehearse in the premises either for free or for an extremely low fee.
- Few distractions: When rehearsing in a local business, there are often few things to get distracted by.
- Sound-friendly: Many local businesses are based in a non-residential area. This means you won’t have to worry about noise complaints (with the exception of noise ordinances).
- Available: Even if you’re living in a small town, there will likely be a host of small businesses you could approach.
- You’ll often need a pre-established relationship with the business owner: For a business owner to let you use their premises out-of-hours, they’ll have to trust you. Therefore, you’ll usually need some kind of pre-established relationship with them.
- You usually can’t leave gear set up: Whilst some business owners will allow you to store gear on the premises, you probably won’t be able to leave it set up.
- It might not be fit for purpose: Whilst it might be sound-friendly, it might not be fit for purpose. In other words, it might be too small or reflective.
- Approach someone you have a pre-established relationship with: If you’ve got a parent or a family friend who owns a relevant local business, it’s best to approach them.
- If you don’t have a relevant pre-established relationship, approach a business owner who supports local music: If you know a local business owner who’s an avid supporter of local music, it’s likely they’ll be much more open to lending you their premises.
- Respect that it’s a place of business: A local business owner is putting a huge amount of trust in you by letting you use their premises. Be sure to respect the space and the hours you’ve been given.
A school or college is a fantastic option for many bands. Many schools and colleges also have dedicated rehearsal studios. You don’t necessarily have to be a student, but you do need someone to act as an ‘in’. It’s most-suited to those who:
- Are students
- Have a pre-established relationship with someone at the school or college
- Are on a tight budget
- Free of charge: Schools and colleges are almost-always free of charge.
- Flexible: Whilst you might not be able to rehearse during working hours, out-of-hours access is often very flexible.
- Ample facilities: Many schools and colleges include dedicated practice studios. If they don’t, there’s bound to be an effective space such as a drama theater or gymnasium.
- Few distractions: A school or college often has few distractions.
- You’ll need an ‘in’: An ‘in’ is essentially a person who can let you into the school or college. This can be a student band member, a student friend or someone who works on-campus. These people can sometimes be hard to come by.
- You can’t store gear: This is less of an issue if the school or college has dedicated practice studios. However, if you’re in a theater or a gymnasium, the set up/tear down can be extensive.
- Find an ‘in’ you have a pre-established relationship with: This could be a band member, a friend or an old teacher.
- Rehearse during off-peak hours: If you’re rehearsing in a dedicated practice studio, it’s best to do it at a time when students won’t need to use the facility
Most towns will have at least one community building that can be booked out for use. In addition, youth centers will often have a dedicated practice studio. It’s most-suited to those who:
- Live in a small town
- Are on a tight budget
- Low-cost: Most places will allow you to book rooms either for free or for a very small fee. Some places charge an annual membership fee for unlimited room use.
- Accessible: Community/youth centers seem to be busiest between 10am-2pm. Evening bookings are often very flexible.
- Few distractions: There are often few distractions in a community or youth center.
- Not always sound-friendly: Some centers are bound by noise ordnances. In addition, some centers don’t allow band practices to prevent disturbing those who have booked other rooms.
- You can’t store gear: This is less of an issue if the center has a dedicated practice studio. However, if you’re just booking a standard room, there may be extensive set up/tear down involved.
- Check if the center has a dedicated practice studio: If it does, I’d almost-always choose this option over a professional practice studio.
- Review the policy carefully: Check to see if there are any noise curfews or restrictions in place.
Storage units can be a great alternative to paying for a practice studio month-to-month. It’s most-suited to those who:
- Have a budget
- Want a dedicated space to store their gear
- Low-cost: Storage units can often be rented on a month-to-month basis for next to nothing.
- Safe: You can comfortably keep your gear set up in the storage unit without worrying about it going missing.
- Flexible: As you’re renting the space full-time, you’ll be able to practice whenever you want.
- Many storage units don’t have electricity: Many storage units either don’t have electricity or have extremely limited electricity.
- Susceptible to changes in temperature & humidity: Some storage units don’t have climate control. This means that whilst your gear will be safe, it may get damaged by the climate.
- Noise ordinances: Depending on the location, some storage units are lawfully bound by noise ordinances.
- Invest in a storage unit with climate control: Climate control won’t cost much extra, but it’ll prevent your gear from getting damaged.
- Review the policy carefully: As previously mentioned, some storage units are bound by noise ordinances. It’s well-worth checking over the policy before you invest your money.
Depending on the practice space you choose, it’s highly-likely that you’ll have to invest in a few extra pieces of gear. Here are a few things you might consider investing in, with some recommendations from Amazon:
- PA system: If you’re rehearsing anywhere other than a professional practice studio, you’ll need a PA to run the vocals through. Ignite Pro offer a fantastic starter PA system that’s been heavily discounted.
- Ear protection: Ear protection is essential for band rehearsal. Whilst cheap foam earplugs will adequately protect your hearing, they’ll muffle the sound to the point where it’s impossible to clearly hear the mix. My favorite ear protectors are the SureFire EP4’s, which fully-protect your hearing without compromising on sound quality.
- In-ear monitors: If you’ve got a little more budget, in-ear monitors are a true game changer. They allow you to achieve a crystal-clear live mix whilst simultaneously protecting your hearing. Sennheiser’s IE 40 PRO Monitors are the best-value monitors I’ve used and are well-worth the money. If you’ve got a little more budget, it’s worth investing in a dedicated set for the whole band, such as the Audio2000’S AWM6306U.
- Guitar pedals: If you’re playing guitar or bass in a band, guitar pedals can add a whole new dimension to your sound. To see if guitar pedals are right for you, check out our article ‘Do You Need Guitar Pedals?‘
- Drum mutes: If you’re rehearsing in a space that isn’t sound-friendly, drum mutes are a fantastic and highly-affordable way of keeping the levels under control. Vic Firth offer a fantastic, heavily-discounted set of drum mutes.
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