How to setup a music rehearsal roomFor any band or group that needs a place to practice, an affordable rehearsal spot is the perfect solution.
Music rehearsal rooms are an essential part of the grassroots music industry. There are many types of music rehearsal rooms. While some people like to practice in their homes because they find it more convenient, others prefer the sound quality of a soundproofed studio in a commercial space.
When setting up your own dedicated soundproofed studios, there are many things to consider. From deciding where to set it up to how much to charge to the equipment you'll need. This how-to guide covers the key questions to ask yourself.
Where should I set up my music rehearsal room?
There are many variables that go into choosing the perfect space for your needs as a studio. It's a good idea to hang around and get a sense of the space and neighbours before you decide on a spot. If you rent a building with neighbours above or below your unit, it may make rehearsing and recording difficult due to noise complaints. Be sure to suss this out before putting down a deposit.
Studios in the city
Having a rehearsal or recording studio in a city is a great way of attracting passing trade, and touring musicians. It is also a great way to get a sense of the city's music scene and become an integral part of it. City centre recording studios are often found in industrial areas, away from busy residential streets.
Space is at a premium in cities, especially if you want a large studio, or parking on site. However, many studios are successful without parking - for instance, in London or Manchester, most bands and groups will just unload their gear and leave the car nearby the studio.
Out-of-town studios can provide isolation from outside noise and give you the best chance to get a high-quality sound, especially if you are planning on recording. Soundproofing goes a long way to preventing unwanted noise from entering the studio, but being physically away from other people is often a much easier way.
What kinds of customers do I expect to see at my rehearsal space?
Really, it's up to you in a lot of ways who you want as customers. Large dance groups aren't going to book rooms that can only fit 5 in. Similarly, the super cool 16-year-olds doing post-punk aren't going to want to book with you if you're really expensive.
It is important therefore to consider the types of musicians that live nearby the space you're looking at, and are currently playing either at home or at other local spaces. Be cheeky and ask them what they're looking for, they might be able to help you out in what the other studios are getting wrong. Many studios offer discounts to youngsters that are looking for a place to practice, and it can be a great way of giving back to people just starting out.
In the early days of my own band, we used to practice in the cheapest rehearsal space in town, but would always get stuck next to the thrash metal band, so eventually, we decided to move to a more expensive space that only had three rooms.
The bulk of the trade in your rehearsal space will be used for evening rehearsals. Musicians that work during the day and practice in the evening. These bookings tend to be for 3-4 hours at a time, and are usually for at least a couple of people. It would be wise to try and block book these customers in advance so that you can better sell your room space.
Daytime rehearsals tend to be more from professional musicians and students. These bookings are usually shorter, and quite often you'll get solo performers instead of groups. It might be wise to offer a small discount to solo performers during the day so that you can sell more room space.
Block bookings are often made by music exam boards that need a place to undertake the exams. For drum exams, they usually require two rooms: one for the exam itself and the other as the warm-up room for the next drum exam. These exams take place over the course of a week or two, and it is important to block book these customers in advance. You can probably deal with them by offering a discount to the students, or by offering a discount to the exam board.
How do I soundproof my rehearsal space?
Soundproofing a room is an important step in rehearsal and recording spaces. It’s done by diffusing the sounds being made, eliminating standing waves, and absorbing the noise. For smaller studios, and ones that are retrofitted into an existing space, this is generally done by building a soundproofed 'room within a room'.
Sound diffusion is the process of spreading sound evenly throughout a room to create a uniform listening experience for all listeners. This isn't really strictly about soundproofing, but it will greatly improve the quality of the sound in the room.
Standing waves are caused by sound reflecting off hard surfaces like walls and ceilings and then bouncing back into the room. The most common cause is parallel walls within the rehearsal space. There are online calculators that can help you calculate the number of standing waves given the room dimensions, and will help you to eliminate them by (usually) adding walls and absorption panelling.
Absorption helps reduce standing wave reflections so they don’t bounce back into the room as much.
There are various types of acoustic treatments that will absorb sound waves. These include:
- Acoustic Foam: Made from polyurethane foam and is great for absorbing high-frequency noise such as voices or high notes on a guitar. This type of material is commonly used in recording studios.
- Acoustic Panels: Used to absorb lower frequencies such as drums or bass guitars. It's important to note that the higher the density of the panel, the more it will absorb sound waves.
- Acoustic Ceiling: Used to absorb sound waves from the ceiling. This might be overkill for smaller studios, and you might get by with just a regular non-soundproofed ceiling.
What kind of equipment do I need?
You've got your space sorted and soundproofed and your ideal customer identified. Next, it's time to think about what to include in each room. The following is a list of equipment that could be present in any music rehearsal room:
- Drum Kits
- PA Systems
- Loads of electric sockets
Most of these you'll want to rent out to your customers, and not just leave them in the room otherwise they might get 'lost' and you'll have to buy more. Renting them out will at least mean you can recover the cost of the equipment if it goes missing or breaks along the way.
Per room, you'll only need one kit, but it's best to have spare drums, pedals, and hardware in the studio in case one breaks or needs tuning. You can also offer rooms without drum kits. If your customers don't play the drums, you can take this out of your booking price or use the money for other things such as microphones and PA systems.
For group rehearsals, usually only one or two are needed and are typically rented out separately to the booking cost. Most established bands will buy and bring their own for quality and hygiene reasons. It's a wise idea to have a few microphones per room in the studio, as they can be quite easily damaged. If you have a few microphones, you can offer them as an option to your customers when booking. Also, if you have a set of drum clip-on microphones, you can offer them as an option to make drum kit recordings.
Reserving your best microphones for recording is a good idea, as they can be kept to get the best sound.
A PA system, or 'backline', is a system that allows the musicians to all plug into one place while they are practising. This is then relayed back in speakers in the room, and especially next to the drum kit. There are thousands of PA systems on the market, but you can pick up a second hand one online and slowly upgrade it as you go. There's not a huge reason to splash out on an expensive one right away when starting out.
Vocal booths allow people who sing to practice their vocals without having any background noise in the room. A vocal booth will usually have a cradle mounted microphone, and a pop filter, and a separated room for mixing. This will allow you to record vocals without having to worry about noise. PA systems and extra equipment, other than headphones, are rarely needed for vocal booths.
Vocal booths aren't just for solo singers - if you had a mic array setup, you could use it to record podcast vocals if there are multiple people speaking. Advertising the vocal booth as also a podcast studio could help sell more time to your customers.
What other services can I offer?
Many other services can be offered to your customers, such as:
- Guitar lessons, drum lessons, piano lessons etc.
- Recordings for groups, school bands, and hen/stag groups
- Podcasting space
- Rental of space to leave equipment in the studio
- A shop for equipment, and long-term equipment rental
Some of these offerings will be limited to how much space you have available, but these potential alternative revenue streams are worth considering upfront.
How much should I charge?
Rehearsal room prices vary depending primarily on the size of the room and the quality of the equipment. The standard rate for a small room is £8-10 per hour, but this can go up to £150/hour for the largest and best spaces. Room prices can also vary depending on whether the booking is at peak or off-peak time, is a one-off booking, a regular 4-hour rehearsal slot or a block-booking. Play around with different offers to keep your diary as full as possible throughout your opening hours.
It would be wise to research the prices of rehearsal rooms in your area before you decide on a price, and don't just try and undercut the prices of other studios - charge your studio at a reasonable price. Electricity, rent, staff costs, insurance and other utility costs all have to be included in the price.
How do customers pay for their rehearsal space?
Payment methods include cash in person, or credit card online or in-person with a card terminal. You can also book rehearsal rooms in advance by paying a deposit or by paying for an entire week's worth of rehearsals at once.
A no-show is a customer that reserves a room without paying and then doesn't turn up. With the booking paid in advance, this money is not lost. With cash payments on the day, however, this potential money is lost, and you will not receive any money from them. This is one of the key benefits of Jammed - payments are taken in advance, and you can be sure that you will get paid for your space, even if they don't show up.
How should I take bookings?
This largely depends on how much time you have available to manage the studio. Manually managing enquiries, making room bookings, chasing people, processing cancellations and taking payments through email and over the phone can be a time-intensive task. Which is why we built Jammed, a software solution that takes this work off your plate.
If you're interested in starting as you mean to go on and removing this tedious admin from day one, try our 30 day free trial.