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Practice Space

If I could afford a bigger house, I might not be hanging out with you lot.

Last Saturday Blue Funk played at a practice space about four miles from here. Since the beginning, we've been playing in a room at our house that's about 11 foot square. Even worse, it has hard-paneled walls, which are pretty reflective acoustically. We struggle a bit for space, as well as balancing the mix. What would be normal volumes for instruments such as electric guitar and drums can be quite loud in such a small space. It is difficult to get the vocals loud enough without them starting to feed back.

So playing in a larger space, even one we had to pay for, seemed like it could be a solution. The rehearsal space was about 27' by 16' and as it turned out, not bad at all acoustically. We were able to play at more natural volumes for most instruments, and get a good balance overall. There were some glitches, the PA was noisy with my keyboards plugged into it, I couldn't hear the drums the way I would have liked, and while the recording came out decently, the left/right balance of some of the instruments wasn't where I would prefer them to be (drums and vocals should be in the center, not to one side).

For me, this was the first time I've ever had to move all of my gear. When we've done the open mics, I've just taken some basics, but this time I pretty much took my full rig. Loading that and Lori's gear into our car got us soaked. That's living in Houston for you. But this also meant that for the first time, I was the last person ready to play instead of one of the first. I suppose all this is something I'll just have to get used to.

However, the biggest negative that came out of the session was that it seemed that none of us "felt it." I can't say why for sure, just some guesses. For me, being sweaty and sticky can make it hard to do something "comfortable." Also, once I got set up, I had to start playing more or less right away. I suspect that in most cases, if I was playing out somewhere, I'd usually have a chance to set up, relax for a few minutes, and then go play. But none of these reasons explains why the rest of the band didn't feel it either. Some suggested the new space, just because it was something different. But I'd argue that a band that plays out has to deal with that all the time. Maybe it's just something you get used to. That would explain why some musicians/bands bring a "little piece of home" with them on the road and stage, to make themselves feel more comfortable.

Another theory I have relates to the rhythm section. If the larger room made the drums and bass less distinct, that may have "drove" the band less than normal, and without that drive, we may have floundered. It wasn't that I couldn't hear the rhythm section, but perhaps we weren't feeling it.

The good part is, we sound fine on the recordings. If someone came to see us play and we played like that, I don't think there would be complaints. That says something good about us, I think!

There were a few voices that said they didn't want to spend the money to play every time we got together, so it looks like it's back to our house for jams for the most part. Lori and I are talking about other options we may be able to do here, but deciding on what will not happen overnight. I don't mind not having to move my gear, that's for sure.

Posted 2008 07 21 at 7:44 AM

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