Tips to help change the way you use your practice space
For many artists, having their own private rehearsal space is a vital component in writing, managing a band and generally keeping sharp. Most people tend to start practising at home or at school, but once you reach a certain point you need to find your own space. There are many advantages to this, not least the fact that you can leave your gear set up and ready to go. While certain rehearsal venues will allow you to keep your gear in a lock-up, there really is no substitute for being able to walk in and be playing within minutes. But what if you want to use the room for more than practising, and maybe want to consider putting down some demo recordings too? Hopefully our guide on how to optimise your rehearsal space for recording will point you in the right direction.
We’ve all seen how practice spaces can descend into chaos if there isn’t a tidy person within a band’s ranks. Yes, it’s an area to escape from the mundanity of real life, but that doesn’t mean you should treat it like a tip. Aside from anything else, there is real benefit from thinking “tidy desk, tidy mind”. By doing simple things like emptying bins, sorting out leads and cables into order, straightening everything out and generally getting it looking tidy, you can put yourself into a better frame of mind for recording. No, it’s not going to alter the sound of the record in any way, but it will help you concentrate if you’re not faced with a wall of empty beer cans leaning precariously over your prized amplifier.
It’s important to lay out the room in a logical manner, with the recording device (usually a computer) somewhere in or near the centre and its monitor speakers set at around ear height either side of the screen. From there, consider where best to set each instrument and speaker cabinet – there’s plenty of scope for experimentation here so try out different places for each bit of kit until you are happy. Worth noting also that vocals are a bit of a challenge in themselves – you’ll know yourself what kind of sound you’re going for but don’t be afraid to get creative by constructing a temporary vocal booth – it’s always better to add extra reverb at the post production stage than it is to try and tame it back once it’s tracked.
We’re talking here about organising your leads, cables, mic stands and anything else into order. When it comes to micing up a drum kit, for example, you may have lots of microphones in action at once, so make sure you know which lead is going into the desk where. Gaffer tape is your friend here; a simple strip of that with abbreviated information about where each lead goes will save a lot of back and forth when it comes to setting input gains and levels.
You don’t need to spend a tonne of cash kitting the room out for recording. A set of drum microphones like the Shure PGA Drum Kit 4 Microphone Set comes with dedicated mics for kick drums, snare, cymbals and toms, which means the recorded drums will sound crisp and professional. You can add overhead mics to create extra ambience; a couple of condenser mics like this Rode NT5 twin pack will work wonders here, and can be used for recording acoustic instruments and guitar cabs too.
Ideally, you’ll want each microphone to feed into its own track within the recording environment, so an audio interface with a few inputs will be required. The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 features 18 inputs, meaning you could in theory mic the entire band at once and have everything record into its own track, making the mixing and post production stages much easier. Alternatively, you can feed each microphone into a mixing desk, effectively creating a drum bus (where all mics feed into one overall output) however you’d lose the ability to raise the volume of individual components.
Lastly, if you haven’t already got one, you’ll need to consider onto what you’re recording. Is it a basic programme like Garageband, which is perfect for the beginner but perhaps lacking for someone more experienced. Or are you ready to invest in something like Ableton Live or Pro Tools? Read up on what kind of interface or features your band will need, and spend some time getting to grips with the software.
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