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May 20, 2009 3:40 PM   Subscribe

How do bands in cities practice? I've got the band, I need the space.

So, I'm moving to Washington, DC (and so is my drummer, bassist, guitarist, etc) and would love to keep things going and play some shows if things work out. But, although some of the rowhouses I'm looking at have basements, that probably won't cut it as far as noise goes. Do people rent practice spaces? Practice elsewhere? Live elsewhere?

Please help me keep the rock alive!? Thanks
posted by tmcw to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can't speak for DC but there are dedicated rehearsal spaces in San Francisco. I've also known some people to practice in storage units (large enough space for the band) in order to save some dough. You need a rental unit that's okay with it though.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:45 PM on May 20, 2009

I don't know about DC, but in Minneapolis people rent practice space.
posted by vytae at 3:45 PM on May 20, 2009

Minneapolis represent! And yes, we rent a practice space. I can think of at lest six buildings that have been converted for this purpose.

Pay attention to their security system unless you want to haul all your gear too and from practice every night. Too often these rentals seem to be run by slumlords so don't be afraid to pay a bit more to feel secure and comfortable.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:55 PM on May 20, 2009

It's a case-by-case basis. There are rehearsal spaces for rent, basements where people don't mind (maybe try somewhere with a high population of college kids, who don't get bothered easily). The best approach is to find another band who already has a good space, and mooch of them in exchange for beer.
posted by Jon_Evil at 4:21 PM on May 20, 2009

Any biggish city will have rehearsal spaces for rent, but the more intrepid musician can rent a warehouse (whole or in part) or a self-storage unit. Note that a proper rehearsal space will probably have better amenities though.
posted by lekvar at 4:46 PM on May 20, 2009

Rent a space with sound-proofing, it's not terribly expensive. I dunno if I'd plan on leaving gear there, in my experience these things tend to double as a place to party, so you'd have to trust who all your band members might bring along when you aren't around.
posted by cj_ at 5:27 PM on May 20, 2009

Best answer: I lived in DC for three years and had a bunch of musician friends. They dealt with it in a couple different ways. If you've got a band member who goes to one of the universities, they should be able to finagle off-hours use of some practice space. Alternately, if you do some heavy house hunting you should be able to find a townhouse on a corner where you'll have fewer neighbors to deal with. Further, if you're willing to move up to Petworth or near the Galludet campus, you might even be able to find in a free-standing house (and for pretty cheap, too, as far as DC rent goes). These places exist, but you have to be very proactive about finding them.
posted by The White Hat at 5:41 PM on May 20, 2009

My band is in DC. We practice in my basement garage. Its about limiting time/hours. We run a full pa, drumkit and three good amps.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:09 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the UK it's not uncommon to rent community spaces (community centres, halls, churches, etc.) It's not a direct suggestion given you're in the US, but if those sorts of amenities are available, it might be a cheap option.
posted by wackybrit at 6:28 PM on May 20, 2009

Yep, my brother's band uses a self-storage unit - they hung discarded carpet scraps on the walls to help with the acoustics a little.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:33 PM on May 20, 2009

Gah, I had this exact problem in DC. We got around it by practicing on a boat in SW (where the neighbors were drunk sailors and didn't care), but after the boater left the band, we had nowhere to practice and eventually broke up.

A few of us from the band are still in touch, and still would like somewhere to play as well- I'll be watching this with interest.
posted by zap rowsdower at 6:34 PM on May 20, 2009

Chicago here, and my band rents a space. They run the gamut. Ours is above an antique store of all places, so we can't play during business hours (which is when we're at work anyway), but other than that it's pretty convenient. We have a room to ourselves, and we've never had any issues with security.

Finding a band to share with is definitely a good way to get a feel for your options.
posted by evisceratordeath at 6:44 PM on May 20, 2009

We found a space that used to be an office with 8 rooms around a big central room. Our drummer rents out the 8 rooms as practice spaces and uses the central room as a show/party space. He ends up making money and we pay more for an incredible room elsewhere. Kind of a pain, but it's a pretty cool way to make a few hundred bucks a month if someone has the time.
posted by nosila at 6:47 PM on May 20, 2009

Two options my boyfriend's band in Richmond, VA, have used are:

--a gallery/art space room (but only after hours, and they couldn't keep their stuff there)
--a room in a Jewish Community Center; they do keep their stuff there
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:18 PM on May 20, 2009

Hourly practice space can be fairly affordable if you know where to look. Three hours split four ways usually won't break the bank. Ask around at shows where bands practice since pro bands usually rent out monthly spaces at the same locations. Those are only really worth the money if the music itself is bringing in some dough to cover the cost though.

I've practiced in a warehouse used to store gourmet salsa's since one of our guys knew a guy. In a sufficiently industrial area the noise usually won't bother anyone, especially late at night when no one's around. If you can swing that though, make sure you've got some evidence that the owner is letting you be there by permission in case the cops actually do show up. Don't want to get mistaken for burglars do ya?

I never did the storage unit thing, but I've heard of places that are cool with it. This is a definite "ask around" thing because if there are places in the DC area that can swing this, folks in local bands will be the ones to know about them.

If you wind up practicing in a non-practice space area, egg cartons on the wall can be very effective at absorbing sound. This is, of course, not a substitute for respecting your neighbors, but I've found that many (not all) people are willing to work with you if you approach them respectfully with a goal of some mutually acceptable understanding. There, however, you gotta remember that if you can't, it's your band that's gonna grab the short end of the stick if you can't reach an agreement.

Also, don't know what kind of music you play, but punk bands are notoriously good at finding good places to practice on the cheap. Check out some punk shows.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2009

I live in Philly and my band practices in the basement of my rowhouse. We don't practice really long or really late and try to keep things at a reasonable level, for our own sake as much as for the neighbors; the drummer uses hotrods instead of sticks, etc.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:41 PM on May 20, 2009

In Philly, my SO's bands and those of everyone we know rents space to use as rehearsal space in a warehousey part of town.

My next door neighbors try to rehearse in the basement of their rowhouse; I detest this. (It's a quiet street and they're jerky in other ways.)
posted by desuetude at 8:08 PM on May 20, 2009

In DC your real problem is lack of industrial areas. But you can get space.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:20 PM on May 20, 2009

In Australia, my band used to have a sublet of a large spare room in a friend's recording studio. This was good as we could leave our equipment there between practices. The friend provided the PA. Since moving cities we rent a room on a week to week basis.
posted by sconbie at 9:03 PM on May 20, 2009

Rent practice space. Talk to other bands to find out where the best ones are.

Better yet, rent a house together in a burby area with a basement, do a little sound-proofing, and go to town.
posted by bardic at 9:19 PM on May 20, 2009

Rent a space. Seriously. Most urban areas have space that is reasonable. You can also find a company that specializes in renting rehearsal space that will even provide P.A., amps, drums, etc.. and save you a few headaches.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:06 AM on May 21, 2009

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