By Laura B. Whitmore
The weather’s getting nice and if you’re like me, you have a bunch of outdoor gigs that you’re getting ready for. Playing outside presents a unique challenge. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about sharing music in the great outdoors!
If you have a LED readout on your tuner and it’s a sunny day, you probably won’t be able to see anything. The bright sun makes the readout, well, unreadable! You’ll need a tuner with a needle meter to tune in the sunshine.
If you use any cheat sheets or lyric books, you’ll want to make sure you have a way to keep your pages in place, Even a light breeze can send those papers flying. Some kind of clip or even some tape might help. I often use an iPad as my cheat sheet and usually putting it in reverse mode (white type on a black background) makes it more easily readable outside.
You Might Sweat
If it’s hot out, your palms could become sweaty and impede your playing. You’ll want to have a small towel around, like the ones you’d use at the gym. I little bit of baby powder can help too, and a little clip on mini fan that puts you in control of the breeze.
Aside from the usual things like sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, you’ll want lots of water. If you are playing on a black stage, it can turn into a frying pan, so make sure you have thick soled shoes!
Hear Comes the Rain
A couple of years ago I was doing an outdoor gig and a sudden squall blew in so fast that no one had time to get any gear out of the rain. The PA, amps, pedals, etc. got soaked. They dried out ok, but the gig was over. Luckily we had a small pop up that we could run under and our guitars were spared. Look around and have a plan. If the weather goes south you’ll need to make a fast decision about how to get you and your gear out of harms way.
Outdoor sound can bounce of buildings or get swallowed up by large open spaces. Make sure you have an adequate PA to carry your sound into the crowd and close monitoring so you can hear yourself and your band mates. The PA system you usually use indoors may not cut it.
You’ve Got the Power
If you are playing in parks or public spaces, you may not have access to any power. That means you have to bring a generator. I’ve rented small generators that worked just great for this purpose. Just make sure you have extra gas. It’s a bummer when you run out and that’s the end of the fun.
Laura B. Whitmore is the founder of the Women’s International Music Network and a singer/songwriter based in the Boston metro area. She’s pictured above with her writing partner, Jenna Paone.