Trustees at Indiana University are currently considering whether its marching band, the Marching Hundred, should get a new rehearsal facility that would cost around $10 million to construct. The space would span 30,000 square feet and be located across the street from the school's football stadium and basketball arena. The new construction would house a 6,000-square-foot rehearsal space, two 2,600-square-foot rehearsal rooms, instrument and uniform storage, and a repair space. This would be a huge improvement over the former church that the band currently rehearses in, which is too small for the band and can't accommodate its needs.
Not every marching band is fortunate enough to get the perfect rehearsal space, though. Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, you might be forced into small, sonically challenging spaces that don't give you the proper venue for a productive rehearsal. For other marching bands that aren't under consideration for new facilities, there are some ways you can improve the space you're in.
According to Ron Freiheit of the Wenger Corporation, there are four main areas of rehearsal space challenges: isolation, acoustics, mechanical problems and practice rooms. Isolation, he explains, makes your space a "musical island" free of outside noise pollution or distractions. In order to make your rehearsal area an island, he suggests inspecting the structure of the room. Thin doors, windows and walls can allow noise from nearby classrooms or traffic to come in and affect the precision of your musicians. Reinforcing these areas can improve the sound isolation in your space.
This also ties into mechanical noise problems. Many rehearsal spaces require more airflow than regular classrooms, so HVAC systems working at twice their usual rate create a lot of background noise. That noise can typically be reduced with larger air ducts. Other sources of mechanical noise are motors or compressors and fluorescent light fixtures. These can be solved by basic maintenance or by installing the ballast in more remote areas, respectively.
The next problem area is acoustics. If your space wasn't made for carrying musical sound, it can create a lot of issues for your rehearsals. Freiheit explains that classrooms, which are made to carry human speech, aren't conducive for musical acoustics. Typically, loudness is the outcome of having to rehearse in too small a space. One way to combat this is by extending the cubic space of the room. If you don't have the means to reconstruct the room by removing a wall, Freiheit says removing objects like desks, cabinets, closed risers, and equipment that take up space can open the room up. He also suggests adding sound absorption panels.
Finally, practice rooms require the same criteria as larger rehearsal spaces. They should be isolated with ideal acoustics for musical performance. Because they have such poor cubic volume, though, this is often hard to achieve. Freiheit says that the rooms should be heavily sound absorbing with three inch thick fibrous materials covering at least 30 percent of the room.