Rehearsal Space Solutions
By David Himes |
Rehearsal Space Solutions
‘The Gig Kahuna’
by David Himes
Ah yes, no place to rehearse has always been one of—if not the—most common obstacles a local band faces. Lack of rehearsal space has stopped many a band dead in their tracks. While this can make all but the most lion-hearted throw their hands up in despair, you actually have several options.
The most common option is renting a rehearsal space. However, this is by far my least favorite choice. It usually means paying anywhere from $300-600 or more per month at some dive in the bad part of town, although you might be fortunate enough to find a place in a better location.
If renting a rehearsal space is your only option, it’s not a good idea to leave any instruments and gear of any value there. Take it down and take it with you after each rehearsal, and set it up when you arrive. This can be a big pain in the butt, but it’s better than your gear getting stolen, as band rehearsal spaces are a favorite target for thieves. It’s also a good idea to take your gear if you’re sharing a space with another band to reduce the expense…but sharing a space with another band can present other sets of problems.
If you can afford it, it’s also a good idea to get insurance on your gear. And keep receipts, take lots of photos, keep records of serial numbers, etc. Better yet is to avoid any expensive or new instruments or other gear in the first place, if you can get something cheaper or used that works just as well. That way, if something happens to it, it won’t be as hard of a blow, and will be less expensive and easier to replace. But you’ll still want to keep good records and documentation of all your equipment.
Personally, I strongly believe there are much better options than renting a rehearsal space. I’ll save my favorite for last. If you can, it’s best to rehearse at someone’s house. If two or more band members are serious enough, and if two or more of you live in separate apartments, why not rent a house together? Or maybe someone in or close to the band has a girlfriend, parent or other relative, or someone else with a house. Even if that person charges to rent a room, you’re probably getting off much cheaper than with a rehearsal space—and probably much safer.
But we all know that rehearsing in a house can result in angry neighbors—especially if you’re playing metal/core, gangsta rap, or any other musical style that neighbors typically find offensive. Possible workarounds might be to see if there is some arrangement you can make with neighbors to rehearse at a time when they’re away. More often than not, when a neighbor comes beating on your door, and especially if they are hostile to the idea of a band in the neighborhood, I’ve come to find there is usually some hidden problem. See if you can find that hidden problem and possibly offer to help.
Whichever room of the house is for rehearsal, soundproof it the best you can. Build a small riser to get the drums and bass rig off the floor, as those low-end frequencies travel through the ground. If you live in parts of the country where houses with basements are common, basements are ideal for band practice.
When loading gear in and out of a house, try to do so in such a way that the neighbors can’t see it. Park your vehicle as close to the house as you can, maybe under a carport or in a garage if possible. And a word of caution: It’s never a good idea to burn any illegal substances before or during practice. All it takes is for a cop to stick his head in the door and smell it, and that’s enough for searches and seizures. You do know about asset forfeiture laws, don’t you? Otherwise, if the cops come knocking on your door, 90 percent of them will usually be cool, and just nicely ask you to turn it down a notch or two, as long as you’re respectful. After all, most cops are music fans too.
Some of the aforementioned ideas might sound redundant to many of you, but you’d be surprised at the bands that will practice with windows wide open, in a garage or room with no soundproofing, etc.
And now for my favorite, most effective, and feasible way to rehearse in a house (drummers, you might hate me.): An electronic drum kit. Yes, you read that right. While many drummers might hate the idea of an electronic kit, there are actually a lot of reasons a band—including the drummer—can benefit from it.
Understandably, most drummers aren’t too crazy about the idea of using an electronic kit for practice. But the benefits of having one far outweigh the reasons not to have one. And the minor limitations of an electronic kit versus an acoustic kit are a very small trade-off. Personally, I think no drummer should be without an electronic kit, in addition to an acoustic kit. Unless those of you drummers are fortunate enough to have a place to practice on your own, an electronic kit eliminates that problem for you and the band.
Keep in mind I did not say you have to play live on stage with an electronic kit. But you might be surprised by how many drummers trigger their shells when playing live. And if a drummer has difficulty switching back and forth between the two kits, you can still rehearse once or twice before a gig with an acoustic kit by renting some place by the hour, which is still much less costly than renting a place by the month.
The most important and obvious reason to have an electronic drum kit is that it makes it possible to rehearse at a much lower volume. This eliminates a multitude of problems—in particular, the need for a rehearsal space, because you can now practice in your house—and depending on what circumstances, maybe even an apartment. (I’ve seen bands do it.) And when you no longer need a rehearsal space, you eliminate one of a band’s biggest expenses, freeing up a significant amount of money for other things like merchandise, recording projects, banners, bumper stickers, web sites—you get the idea.
An electronic kit makes it easy to train your ears for playing on stage. What you hear when you’re playing in a rehearsal space and on stage are two very different things. Rehearsing at a much lower volume with an electronic drum kit brings you much closer to what you will hear on stage.
Speaking of which, you’ll also eliminate any volume battles (if you have that problem) at practice and even worse, on stage. You know, when Joe Marshall-on-11 turns up his amp, then the drummer plays harder, then the singer turns up the practice PA, then the bass player turns up, then Joe Marshall-on-11 turns up even more, and it goes on and on.
Another cool advantage of an electronic kit is the sounds are pre-processed. But if the drummer insists on using the sounds from an acoustic kit, it’s easy enough to sample those sounds and add them to the drum module (or what I like even better, software drum machines or sequencers).
Speaking of which again, an electronic kit makes it much easier and cheaper to do recording projects. If there are any mistakes, it’s easy to edit them out. And these days, the bugs have been worked out of software drum machines, sequencers, and other forms of digital recording. No one will know the difference, or even care.
The best kits are the ones designed to be played like an acoustic kit. It might sound like a heavy investment to make, but an electronic kit will easily pay for itself many times over in rehearsal space rental alone. While a drummer might not be able to afford such an investment, there are ways to make it economically feasible. For starters, there are lots of deals out there on used kits to be had on eBay, Craigslist, etc. Still feeling priced out? It’s well worth it for the rest of the band members to pitch in, or even one other member, manager, or someone else involved to buy the kit. If the band splits up, you can always resell it.
If your band can work it out, an electronic drum kit can put you ahead in the game and get you on the fast track. No matter how unpopular some decisions are, the decisions that lead to the best rehearsal are the best rehearsal space solutions.
David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.