At The Music Box, we know a thing or two about rehearsal spaces and wanted to share what we think makes a good one for your band. These guidelines can be applied to any type of rehearsal space; from your basement or garage all the way to a professional rental rehearsal facility, it’s important to find a place that checks the most boxes for your band. At the end of this article, you’ll find a scorecard PDF you can take with you while you’re shopping around for a professional rehearsal facility to help you decide on the best fit.
It’s important that you find a place that is convenient for your entire band. This sometimes sinks to the bottom of the list because it can be difficult to find a decent rehearsal space that is ALSO convenient for your 5-piece band. Try your best to find somewhere that is the most convenient for the most amount of people. You may have to travel 45 minutes, but if it’s less than 20 minutes for everyone else then you need to be prepared to take one for the team. My advice is to think of your drummer when it comes to convenience. They have the most to setup and tear down each time if they aren’t able to leave it at the rehearsal space. Of course, the most convenient rehearsal space is your own house. Are you prepared for that though?
As is the case for many musicians, your equipment or instruments might in fact be your most prized and valued possessions. Whether it’s a fresh-out-of-the-box Marshall JCM 25/50 2555X Silver Jubilee Reissue or a hand-wired Orange Custom Shop 50, there’s no doubt that you probably hold it a little too close to your heart. It is extremely important to make sure your rehearsal space is a secured one. Aside from the typical security features like security cameras or locks on the door, make sure that your space has the right people around. This is much easier to control at your private residence than, say, a giant rehearsal facility. Consider that the more people hovering around your door equates to a higher risk. Try as we might, rehearsal facilities can’t control every person at every hour (though we haven’t had a single theft since our opening in 2016 **knock on wood**!!). If there’s something sentimental that you couldn’t’ bear to lose, it’s best to take it with you every visit.
Wait, what? Insurance? Ok…hear me out. If your equipment means anything to you, you should seriously consider having insurance. I’ve heard countless stories of a band getting their gear stolen while on tour or at a gig. It can happen at your rehearsal space as well, so why not protect what matters most to your career? While having insurance isn’t necessarily essential for a good rehearsal space, it can certainly provide some peace of mind on the security front (see above). And the cool part that you might not realize is that it’s possible you’re already covered under your existing homeowner’s or renter’s policy. Call your agent for details on that coverage because it likely doesn’t cover theft, but even if you aren’t fully covered there are still some great options that won’t break the bank. We here at The Music Box are big fans of MusicPro Insurance. Everything on your itemized list is covered wherever it is located, anywhere in the world for losses such as fire, vandalism, theft, accidental breakage, water or flood damage and even earthquake damage. You can get $10,000 worth of coverage for less than $200 annually. That’s PER YEAR. We’re talking about a case of beer each month in order to protect your assets. The easiest way to see if getting insurance is a good idea is to mentally go through the process of what you would do if ALL of your gear got stolen. If you have an easy solution that wouldn’t make a significant impact on your left, then you probably don’t need it. However, if it would turn your world upside down then consider going sober for one month and get a policy that covers your equipment all year.
No Normal Neighbors
Normal neighbors are for normal homes. Normal neighbors complain about small things like stepping on their grass and will most certainly complain about loud music, good or bad, coming from your home. Seek out a place where you have no neighbors or at least weird neighbors where they either enjoy your presence or making noise is simply not a problem. Consider the time of day or night you plan to practice and try to stick to a general schedule like always at night or always on the weekend. You might find that you know someone with a business or shed that actually works for a decent rehearsal space if one of your bandmates’ home doesn’t work out. Then of course professional rehearsal facilities, like The Music Box, invite musicians in with open arms. We feature the neighbors where noise is expected, but you won’t ever have the cops called on you for being loud.
To get the most out of your practice, you’ll want to acoustically treat the space you’re playing in. I’m not talking about soundproofing. That is much more involved and expensive that you need for a band practice, and it actually doesn’t help your primary objective of enhancing the sound of your room. Soundproofing a room will simply attempt to prevent sound from traveling from room to room whereas acoustic treatment provides an ideal acoustic environment to prevent sound waves from bouncing all over the room, generating reverb that will kill your ears faster than a Dinosaur Jr. concert. You don’t have to break the bank to notice a difference. Try hanging some moving blankets on the walls and rugs on the ground. In a perfect world, the floor is carpeted. If The goal is to absorb the sound waves, so avoid hard surfaces like cinderblock or sheetrock walls. Placing just a few objects or people is often enough actually going to make a difference. The best sounding room in your home is probably your bedroom closet. That’s because the clothing acts as an absorbent for the traveling sound waves. Try to replicate that setting in your rehearsal space for the best results.
Yes, you have to rehearse but there’s no need to do it somewhere that hasn’t given you permission. I’m specifically talking about storage units. Using a storage unit for band practice sounds like a viable solution, and it certainly can be but you need to make sure that it’s allowed at the facility you’re looking to rent from. Storage facilities are often bound by local noise ordinance restrictions or other “per location” rules. Oftentimes a storage unit facility will not or can not allow bands to practice because of the common assumption that with music comes alcohol or drug use and partying. Sometimes they simply can not provide electricity in each unit. In other cases, your presence and activity may violate zoning codes or venue insurance requirements and put everyone at risk. Even if you find another type of space, make sure they know your intentions. It’s better in the long run to find a place that wants you there rather than being kicked out of a dozen different facilities and risk the security of your equipment.
Your band practice should be fun and exciting. In order to make that happen, the space should really be comfortable. You don’t want a room that smells bad, has poor lighting or no heating or air conditioning. Invest your time in finding a place that is comfortable so that you will want to be there. If it’s 100º outside, you will be skipping practice if your room doesn’t have air conditioning. Be prepared for your band to prematurely disband if your practice space isn’t comfortable. Even storage units that are climate controlled are generally set for 40º-50º in the winter and 80º-85º in the summer. Climate controlled simply means that the space won’t be subject to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, not that it will be a comfortable work space.
Aside from drums, horns and bagpipes, your band practice space is going to need power. And depending on your setup, you might need a lot of power! Most commercial buildings have at least 20A circuits whereas residential buildings only have 15A circuits. At The Music Box, we’ve taken careful measures to ensure that power is distributed appropriately. All of our rooms that are bigger than an Individual have their own dedicated 20A circuit while our Jumbo rooms have more than one dedicated 20A circuit. This ensures that if another band trips a breaker, it won’t affect your room’s power. Another concern regarding power distribution is potential ground loop hums. If possible, you want to avoid having the lights in the room on the same circuit as your amps. Having them all on the same circuit may create a nasty hum through your amp. There are several fixes for this, but it’s best to avoid it if possible. To give you an idea of how much power you might need, use the wattage output on your gear and the table below to calculate how many amps your equipment will need when running US-standard 120 volt electricity. Or you can do your own detailed calculations for all your gear here.
|100 watts||0.833 amps||120 volts|
|500 watts||4.167 amps||120 volts|
|900 watts||7.5 amps||120 volts|
|1200 watts||10 amps||120 volts|
|1800 watts||15 amps||120 volts|
|2400 watts||20 amps||120 volts|
If you anticipate loading or unloading a lot, think about the access you need to not only your gear, but your cases as well. If you don’t have a ton of stuff then maybe going up and down stairs isn’t a big deal. But if the door is too narrow or there isn’t an elevator, you might want to keep searching for another space.
I’m a believer that good music comes directly from good vibes. And no, I’m not talking about vibraphones, although those can be pretty sweet. Without the emotions and wellness that good vibes bring, your music can fall flat or feel like it’s going nowhere. Check the attitudes at the door and bring your best mood to practice. If the location you’ve chosen seems to suck the life out of you, do what you can to liven it up some. Out of all the things in this list of what makes a good rehearsal space, this one is the most important. If there’s a toilet in the middle of the rehearsal space, good vibes from everyone can allow you to laugh it off and make it a good story for a Rolling Stone Magazine article one day.
**BONUS Section For Paid Spaces**
Here are a few other things to look for when you’re shopping around for a professional rehearsal space. Remember that you are paying rent to them and not the other way around. They should show you respect and that you aren’t just another piece of meat. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find which space is for you and your band.
Easy To Pay Or Book
If you’re going to pay for a rehearsal space, find out what payment methods the rehearsal facility accepts. Some places are cash only while others are online only. You’ll want to make sure it’s a good fit for how your band wants to pay. At The Music Box, we only process payments online and that’s mainly because having a dropbox for cash is a security risk as we see it. Offering online payments is also how most of our musicians are used to paying for things nowadays as well. For the occasional musician that wants to use cash as a payment method, we often suggest they get a Visa gift card from any major retailer and use that card to pay online. It works all the same. Now if you’re looking for a band practice space to use for just a few hours, like the Hourly Studio we offer, find a place that has convenient booking options. In a perfect world, they have the ability to book online anytime you’d like. You don’t want to be stuck waiting on them to call you back to arrange a time that works best and then try to coordinate that with your band. We offer real-time availability for all of our locations, so booking and paying online is faster than a sixteenth note.
Responsive & Transparent Management
Having staff and management that address your questions or concerns is a very important component of renting a professional rehearsal space. You’ll notice the quality of the management right out of the gate. If they don’t answer the phone or return your call in a timely manner, that’s a red flag. If you were already renting there, how would they respond in the event you had a problem or urgent question? Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, especially if you’ve never rented a rehearsal space before. The staff shouldn’t have any problem answering if they’re worth their salt. Be cautious of facilities that have an on-site manager that is also using a room there. These are often a musician that’s been there a while that is using the room for free as a trade-out for their work, but they don’t really represent the facility or have much authority to address your concerns you might have. Most well-run facilities have regular office hours where you can get ahold of someone or stop by for a quick chat. Don’t expect someone to answer the phone 24-hours a day just because it’s a 24-hour access facility, but if they do then that’s a good indicator of a good facility.
Clean & Damage-free
Nothing says “I don’t give a shit about you or your gear” like a dirty facility with holes in all the walls. Generally, that means that it’s poorly managed which translates into all other sorts of problems like various security concerns, suspicious people walking the halls and overflowing smelly trash. If the bathrooms are dirtier than a gas station on a Louisiana highway, that’s a good sign that you should keep shopping around. While you’re looking for a place with little to no damage, keep that in mind when you actually move in. Be respectful of the property. If you’re wanting to customize your room beyond hanging some stuff on the walls, be sure to get permission from the facility IN WRITING first.
Secure. Secure. Secure.
I’ve said this one a few times in several different ways, but I can not stress security enough. When renting a room in a professional rehearsal facility, they should have security cameras covering ALL common areas, both interior and exterior. If they have keyed locks on the doors, ask how often the locks are changed. We use keyless door hardware mainly as a security measure. No musician that has rented that room in the past ever had the opportunity to make a copy of the key to get back into that room. Can your facility say that with full confidence? Keyless locks also have the ability to keep a running log of access codes that were used at any given time, depending on the manufacturer and model.
Depending on your locale, you’re probably used to parking situations in your area. New York City is going to be a lot different than Dallas. But sometimes if the rehearsal space you’re renting is in a downtown district without much, if any, private parking you should take that into consideration. Don’t expect a reserved spot for each musician, but it should at least have a private parking area. Having a gated parking or with minimal pedestrian traffic is also a nice feature. It’s best not to walk a couple blocks carrying expensive equipment around. If street parking or public garages are the only parking options for a facility, ask if they have a loading dock that’s available for musicians to use.
You’ll find that you’ll need simple amenities once you get settled into your professional rehearsal facility. Practices may get long and you’ll want some space to stretch your legs, go outside (and not feel at risk) to smoke, grab a snack or simply hop on WiFi. These types of amenities could separate one facility from another if they seem equal to you on all the other fronts. Personally, I think our retail kiosk is one of our best amenities. It has a lot of common items that musicians need like sticks, picks and strings so that when a stick breaks absolutely shredding it at 2am, they can just waltz over to the kiosk and keep on shredding.
Fair Lease Agreement
Do not sign a lease agreement or pay a security deposit before reading it in full. Ask for the lease agreement in advance so you can properly review it. If the management refuses for any reason, that’s a serious red flag. Elements of a rehearsal facility lease agreement should include the following, at a minimum.
- Rental duration (month-to-month, 12-months, etc.)
- How to notify staff of move out
- How much notice is needed to move out
- Rent due date
- Late fee cost
- Rules, like smoking indoors, and associated fees
Beyond these items, carefully read the lease to make sure you know what to expect from the facility and also what the facility expects from you. Lease agreements are legal contracts that are fully enforceable in the state you are renting in, so your signature means that you not only read it, but you fully understand it. If there are any parts of the lease agreement that you don’t understand or are uncomfortable with, either ask management or cross out any sections you don’t agree with. The facility is not obligated to accept it, but you definitely have the right to cross it out. I will say that the single biggest reason that a musician doesn’t get their security deposit back from The Music Box is because they will leave without notice, which is specifically addressed in the lease agreement.
What matters most is that your band has somewhere to practice. Use these guidelines to find a space that’s best for the majority of your bandmates. Don’t be afraid to commit to something, especially if it’s free! But even if you get a space for one month, it’s ok if you don’t like it because you can simply pack up and go somewhere else (but read your lease on how long you’re committed to being there!).
Additionally, use this handy scorecard for keeping track of your rehearsal space tours. There might be a clear winner for you, but if not then this will help you compare notes against each other and even give you an actual score to help find the best spot for you and your band.
Do you have something to contribute to professional musicians? Submit a post of your own here. The Music Box is the premier band rehearsal facility in Dallas, TX. We offer 24/7 rehearsal studios at multiple locations for use on a Monthly or Hourly rental period. With convenient online booking and the best customer service, The Music Box will give your artists the best place to Get Loud and Get Better!