Making the Band: The first step takes practice.

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With South by Southwest in full swing and our spotlight yesterday on Suburban Home's new label offerings, we figured it was high time to start offering a bit of help to local bands trying to get a head start on next years festivities. Being in a band isn't as simple as it sounds, and doing it here in Denver takes a bit of work. Over the course of the next few weeks we'll be looking at all of these facets and providing a how-to guide to getting your band up and running. As always, please feel free to chime in on the comments with suggestions and tips for things we might have missed.

First things first, if you want to start a band you're going to need to practice. Contrary to the American way, we know, but in order to get to the point of recording, playing shows and releasing records you'll need to first start writing songs and practicing. We're no songwriters, so you'll have to figure out how to do that part on your own, and if you need to add musicians to your lineup, Backpage is always willing to help. Once you're ready to get together and make some magic happen you'll need a place to do it.

In order to practice you'll need a rehearsal place, this can be achieved a number of ways. Once again, hitting up Backpage should reveal some spots you can rent. Depending on location and amenties, these can range from $100 month on up. You'll want to treat these in the same way you'd treat apartment shopping, that means security, location and appearance all matter. The benefit of a good rehearsal space comes from security (you can leave your gear there) and soundproofing. If you have a large band or a number of friends, you might be able to consider sharing a space with another outfit, effectively cutting the rent in half.

Denver alone has a vast number of rehearsal spaces depending on your needs. These can be booked up months in advance, though, so you might not be able to be too choosy at first. Like apartments, expect a contract, which likely ends with a few lines stating that if you don't pay rent they can boot you out.

If paying money for a space to practice isn't a possibility, then you might be able to consider soundproofing an already existing space in your home or garage. It might sound overwhelming at first, but the process is actually fairly simple and easy to do on the cheap. In order to keep your neighbors and roommates away, you'll need to invest a little bit of cash into your practice space. Although the upfront cost might seem a bit much, it's considerably cheaper than renting a space.

In order to understand soundproofing your room, you'll need to understand how sound is absorbed. The short and quick version goes something like this: Sound is absorbed when sound waves are converted into heat energy, so materials like insulation and foam are often used. There are a number of ways to tackle this in your practice space.

  • Styrofoam and fabric: Okay, this might sound a bit gross to some of you, but there are a few ways to get foam and fabric on the cheap, namely dumpsters and thrift stores. Most carpet supply places will toss their scraps at the end of the day, and these scraps are great to insulate a practice space. You'll also occasionally find foam back there too, but if you don't have any luck, hitting up a thrift store for used mattress covers or foam camping mattresses can save you a lot of money. Buying soundproof foam might seem like the easy option, but it's certainly not the cheapest. Just be sure to anchor those screws when your using carpet, it's heavier than it seems.
  • Mass: When all else fails, move everything you got into the studio. Have a few bookshelves filled with books? Those operate as a sound dampener. Have a bunch of concrete blocks? Those work too. Throw everything you have in there that will still leave room to rock out.
  • Cobbled: Throwing everything you have at a blank wall works too. If you can get your hands on some extra pallets from a shipping area (often available behind big box stores like Best Buy), putting those on the walls will help diffuse the sound by altering the shape of the wall thus altering the amount of sound bouncing off the walls. Combine these together with some carpet you've found in dumpsters, Styrofoam you stole from your mom's bed and that bookshelf filled with your collection of Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections and you'll have a fairly well soundproofed practice space. It might not look like much, but it's not like you'll be performing in front of any audiences here.

A popular but often disproved method is egg cartons. You can try these if you like, but getting enough egg cartons to line your walls probably isn't worth the little soundproofing they'll provide. If you own your home you might also consider a dropped ceiling or double walls, but most rental places aren't going to let you do this type of heavy modification.

If you're in a space with amble windows, thick curtains are a great way to absorb sound and are usually available in a gaudy but usable condition at local thrift stores. Windows are the easiest way for sound to travel outside the room, so getting them taken care of is important, especially if you're in the city.

While it might not provide that romantic afternoon glow you were hoping for to write songs, soundproof mats can dampen sound and keep it inside your room. And again, Styrofoam is a great resource and depending on your window size should be cheap and easy to come by. With little resources you can make a box that can be removed from your window, in case you're one of those weirdos that likes to see the sunshine now and again.

Find tons more on soundproofing here and here.

Next week we'll be looking at ways of recording demos on the cheap.


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