This month we're focussed on getting you playing with others, so it stands to reason you're going to need somewhere to actually play with others!
If you've never been to a band practice or a jam session before, there are a bunch of small (but important) factors that can help make a rehearsal successful...or a complete nightmare.
In short, you've got 3 options for practice spaces:
- Play at home
- Play in a garage (for maximum street cred)
- Hire a rehearsal studio
To help you decide which is best for you, here's 5 factors to consider when finding a practice space.
#1 You NEED Easy Access (aka Big Doorways)
Most musicians I know tend to do rehearsals for 2-5 hours at a time.
1 hour of that is taken up by carrying and setting up gear.
Having big doorways, no steps and plenty of manoeuvring space to and from your practice space will remove most of the headaches of the dreaded load in and load out, and will reduce the chance of something being dropped or damaged.
Alternatively, you could always setup a permanent practice space, with gear that doesn't get moved in and out of the space between rehearsals. This is generally more expensive an option, but many professional studios will setup amps and drumkits for you if you hire these items for your sessions.
Of course, you could argue carrying your gear up flights of stairs is great practice for playing venues like Revolver in Melbourne.
#2 Sound-proofing = Happy Neighbours
Perhaps the biggest drawback to practicing at home or in your garage is the lack of sound-proofing.
If you're playing with acoustic guitars, you've got no problems, but as soon as you introduce a drumkit....you'll meet all the neighbours you never knew you had.
Easy solutions are:
- Use an electric drumkit
- Use smaller amps for electric guitars (bonus - they're cheaper and easier to carry too!)
- Setup some baffles and DIY insulation to minimise the volume
If all else fails, just pick your practice times and try to sound good. Who knows - your neighbours might actually appreciate the free show or come join in!
#3 (close) Car Parking is Essential
You're likely to be making multiple trips to and from your car with gear, so the closer you can park cars to your rehearsal space, the better.
If parking is limited, standard musician ethics demand the prime parking position goes to the drummer due to the volume of equipment they need to bring.
Fun fact: St Kilda's council are notorious for booking musicians who are loading in their gear into live venues like the Espy and Prince Bandroom. Parking inspectors are the mortal enemy of the gigging musician.
#4 Air-conditioning is good for Musicians and Instruments
Back when Hybrid Nightmares used to practice for 8 hours every Friday in Batty's garage, we would need to take breaks every 1-2 hours to cool down again because - you guessed it - most garages don't have air conditioning!
Even if you're not in a tin shed, playing music in a confined space with other musicians gets warm. If you don't have air-conditioning, be prepared for an uncomfortable session (not to mention challenges with keeping instruments in tune!
#5 Singers need a PA
Last but not least, it's common practice for vocalists to bring - at most - a microphone.
But the microphone has to be plugged into something.
That something is the PA, or Public Address system. These come in all shapes and sizes, but they must include:
- At least one speaker
- an amplifier (sometimes these are built into the speaker)
- a mixer (for plugging in more than one microphone)
All professional rehearsal spaces will include this as part of the rehearsal space hire (if they don't, stay away!).
A PA system doesn't need to be super expensive - you can get a decent rehearsal set for less than $500 that could be used at small events and gigs (ie anytime you need someone to speak into a microphone and be heard, like weddings, functions, corporate gigs, sporting events etc).
So what's the best option?
If you have a big space at home or in your garage, and your neighbours don't mind you making some noise, then it's usually the cheapest option.
For one off rehearsals, you can save a lot of effort by using a professional studio. The best ones in the area that I have used are Frequency in Ringwood (nice rooms, well sound-proofed, with gear available for hire - I believe they've installed a gear lift now too which is a bonus!) and DrumPower in Bayswater (a cheaper option, the rooms and gear are definitely pretty battered and bruised, but they still do the job).
You'll typically look at anything from $50-$150 for an full night or day of rehearsing in a pro studio.
The even better option (and dream for many musicians) is to create a dedicated practice studio of your own! This is definitely more for experienced players, but there are plenty of DIY guides available online.
I'm lucky that Mum & Dad built my brother and I a rehearsal room under their house, which we still go to to use today, with an electric drumkit and a single speaker PA.
For full stage rehearsals, we would usually go for a professional studio so we can use a full drumkit and have a bit more room to move.
Of course, when we eventually move to a new Ringwood guitar teaching studio, I'd love to setup a few smaller rehearsal spaces for our students to use on an ongoing basis!