Rehearsal Spaces

By David A. Barber
Author of Gigging, Everything You Need to Know About Playing Gigs (Except How to Play Your Axe)

Where are you going to practice? Every band needs a place to rehearse.  It’s got to be big enough to accommodate everyone in the band and their instruments.  It’s got to be located where everyone can get there and available at whatever time of day the band needs it. It’s got to be the kind of place where you can play at full volume without bothering the neighbors. And it’s got to be affordable.

rehearsal spaces


Most bands start out in one band member’s basement or garage. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if it works, you might as well keep using it as long as you can. Indeed, these days it’s not uncommon for a band member to have an entire recording studio set up at his/her house.  This keeps costs down and usually works out pretty good.  We know a band that lives in a warehouse. Not only can they rehearse and record there, but they also have plenty of space to throw awesome jam parties.

Unfortunately, not every band can pull that off.  If it’s not the parents complaining about the music, it’s the neighbors complaining about all the pot smoke billowing out of the windows, or the degenerate low-lifes (i.e. musicians) frequenting their cul-de-sac.

When it’s time to go out and rent rehearsal space, how do you decide on a good spot?

There are two basic kinds of rehearsal spaces: Those you rent by the month, and those you rent by the hour.  In both categories, there are nice ones and crappy ones.

rehearsal space

The spaces you can rent by the hour are usually nicer and come with gear already there, so all you need to bring is your ax.  That’s cool because you don’t have to lug your amps and drum kits.  But, on the down-side.  You won’t be practicing with your own amps and if your drummer requires more than the standard 5 piece kit, he will have to bring that in and set it up each time.  Furthermore, if you want to just kick back, drink a few beers, etc. and write some songs, there’s always that clock ticking in the back of your head.  Many of them have a set period during which they are open and closed.  So, you may not be able to use the place into the wee hours of the night. These places are not exactly conducive to a relaxed creative process. However, if you already know the songs and just need to run through things together as a band, these places can work out great.  You also can come out spending a lot less than if you rent the place by the month since you only pay for the space while you’re there using it.

Monthly rental spaces can be harder to come by. Most are tucked away into old warehouses, defunct factories and places like that.  They can be in dicey neighborhoods with alley-only access.  Some have been trashed out by previous bands, rat-infested, smelly and downright dangerous.  Some places have little or no security and others have walls so thin that it’s almost impossible to practice when the death metal band next door is doing their thing.  When you find a good space, it will have parking, security doors, sound insulation, and a reasonable price.  In many cases, you can share these spaces with another band or two, thereby cutting the cost down to half or a third.  Be careful, though, the more people who have access, the higher the likelihood that one of them will be a crack head who will eventually steal everyone’s gear. Being able to leave your gear in the space, all setup and ready to go can be a great advantage, and if you aren’t sharing the space, you can use it at your leisure, coming and going at all hours of the day.

rehearsal space

If you go with the monthly space, make sure they have great security and also make sure that you don’t have any homeless/couch surfing band members who might wind up living there.
Also, be really careful to pay the rent on time every month.  If you don’t, the landlord may have every right to lock you out and keep your instruments until you pay him off.  If you don’t pay even then, he may be justified in selling your gear off to pay your bills.  Getting locked out unexpectedly can be a real problem when you show up to load your gear out to take it to a show and discover that your gear is locked up and you can’t get to it.  You don’t want to have to cancel a gig over an unpaid bill. If one band member is assigned to take care of paying the rent, make damn sure that guy, or gal, will follow through and be dependable.  Make sure it’s someone with a good day job or otherwise has no financial problems.

Here’s a real-life story:

A local band was renting a space by the month, and they had been happy there for several years.  They shared the space with one other band.  One day they showed up and the space was empty. All their gear was gone! After a little detective work, over the course of several months (the cops weren’t much help), they finally figured out that the thief was a drug-addicted associate of the other band.  He just happened to know there was a painted-over window that he could break in, wriggle through to get in and then unlock the door from the inside. They actually managed to get the guy arrested and convicted. However, they never recovered the majority of their gear.  Some of it turned up at a pawn shop, but the rest was long gone.  The criminal, after serving a short stint in jail, was required to pay back the band for all the gear that wasn’t recovered.  However, he’s broke and chronically unemployable, so the band members each make do with a few bucks a month from a victim’s compensation fund.  At those rates, it’ll take 10-12 years to pay for all that gear. The worst of it, though, was that the band lost their master recordings.  They had been working for a couple of years on a new album and had the bulk of it recorded, mixed down and ready to go.  Needless to say, that took the wind out of their sails and they lost a couple of band members setting them even farther back.  That album was never finished.