I, like many other people, live in an apartment.
Unlike most other people in my apartment complex, I’m a musician.
This is unique challenge, because I am loud.
And not only am I loud, my band is loud.
Through more error than trial, I have learned that it is not a good idea for my band to rehearse in my apartment, even though this is the space most readily available to me. And I know I’m not alone. A major challenge for many bands is a lack of rehearsal space.
But the lack of rehearsal room doesn’t have to mean the end of an apartment dwelling band! With a little ingenuity, you will be making sweet tunes in no time!
Solution One: Professional Practice Space
Chances are, if you live in a big city, there are a few practice spaces that are available for rent. Typically rehearsal rooms are available to rent hourly, and some rehearsal spaces offer a monthly rental. These rooms often already have PA systems that you can use, and many offer 24 hour access.
If you are practicing a lot (which you should be) a professional rehearsal space might be a good investment for your band. The major downside is that these rooms can be expensive, and sometimes they are not the most well-kept facilities. However, if you can afford it, and there are professional rehearsal spaces in your city, I recommend renting one.
Solution Two: Demo Away!
If you’ve already got some home recording equipment, creating rehearsal demos might be the way to go for your band. Record simple versions of your songs, then give them to your band members to rehearse with.
These demos should be as close as possible to the live performance arrangement. You can even mute certain instruments so that the tracks are easier to rehearse to. For example, the vocalist might rehearse better with just an instrumental track, or the drummer might not want the distraction of pre-recorded drums in his mix.
Rehearsal demos have a few downsides. If this is your primary way of rehearsing, you have to have a lot of faith in your fellow band members to rehearse on their own time. It takes a lot of individual dedication.
You also have to find time for some full-band rehearsal as well. Though individual rehearsal with demos can drastically cut down on the time you need to spend in full rehearsal, getting the band totally locked in together is something that’s only going to happen when all the members of your band are actually together, fleshing out the music. This means that at some point, you will have to let your neighbors know you’re gonna be loud for a few hours, or you’ll need to rent a rehearsal space. Either way, using rehearsal demos can cut down on headaches, and on costs. Plus, you’ll already have good demos of all your songs!
Solution Three: Ask Your Place of Worship
Do you know what pretty much every place of worship has? A building that is mostly empty for a large part of the week, and a PA system. If you are a member of a church(or a mosque, or a temple, or a synagogue), and your music doesn’t offend any major doctrines or church staff, you might be able to practice in your church building for free, or for a small fee. This is especially true in smaller towns that might not have rehearsal spaces for rent. Even if it’s just an unused room with no PA system, a room to practice in is much better than no room to practice in.
Solution Four: Ask Your Drummer
I know it seems a little silly. And I will do my absolute best to avoid drummer stereotypes in this short paragraph. But…
In all the bands that I’ve been a part of, and out of all the bands I’ve worked with, the drummer is not usually the person who organizes and schedules band practice. However, if your drummer keeps his kit set up in his place of residence, he probably already has A) a room big enough for a drum kit, and B) a place where loud noises are at least semi-tolerated.
If those two criteria are met, you might want to ask your drummer if you could practice at his place. It might be a little cramped, you might not be able to practice during prime-time hours, but a free rehearsal space is a free rehearsal space, no matter how you look at it.
Just make sure you ask your drummer to pick up his dirty socks before the whole band comes over.
Solution Five: Be A Good Neighbor
This solution might not apply if your apartment complex has a very strict noise policy. But it never hurts to simply reach out to your neighbors and let them know the situation you’re in. Try asking them if there is a specific evening when they won’t be home when you could schedule a rehearsal, or inquire about their work schedule, and try to fit in a daytime rehearsal with your band.
Ultimately, you need to respect your neighbors, so if there isn’t a time that works well for you to rehearse, you might need to bite the bullet and pay for a rehearsal space. After all, you don’t want to get kicked out of your home for too many noise complaints.
Solution Six: Acoustic Practice
An easy fix to a noisy practice? Practice more quietly. Ask your drummer to play with brushes or hot rods (or on a cajon/djembe) and rehearse with your other instruments unplugged, or turned down waaaaay low.
Electric guitarists, I know you need to turn your amp up to get a good tone. I know quieter practices might hurt your tone sensibilities. I get it. But rehearsal is for the good of the whole band, not just your ears. So keep that volume low!
Acoustic rehearsals can also help you hear your music in new ways, and might expose a problem area or two that you need to fix. I recommend having an acoustic rehearsal at least once a month to self-evaluate.
Acoustic rehearsals can also add to your versatility as a band. If you are ready to go—plugged or unplugged—you might have the opportunity to gig more often simply because you are adaptable.
For many bands, there is no perfect rehearsal solution. Space is limited, or expensive, and neighbors complain too much. But we hope that some of these solutions will help your band be able to rehearse more effectively, more often.
What rehearsal space problems have you solved? Are there any solutions we missed? Let us know in the comments below!