Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Traveling Brass Musician

A few days ago, I came across this article on  The author offers some advice for brass musicians preparing for a tour.  Unlike rock/pop musicians, we probably won't spend our lives touring the world performing several shows a week.  Still, we will most likely travel somewhere to play a gig.  For me, most of my travel has been for auditions and conferences.  Traveling has the same effects regardless of what type of music we are playing.  Here are some things to consider:

 - Consider your clothing. Make sure you have layers for cold weather or breathable clothing for warm weather.
 - Will you be in the sun? Make sure to have sunscreen and sunglasses.
 - Will you be outside in the wind? Invest in a few clothespins.  You can also have someone cut a small sheet of clear plastic or plexiglass that can cover your music on your stand so it doesn't blow away.

Location and Climate
 - Consider the altitude. In a higher altitude, you may have difficulty breathing if you are not used to it.
 - What type of climate does the location of your gig have? Desert climates are very dry so make sure to have extra water on hand.

 - Your location may affect your pitch.  Being inside or outside or in hot or cold air can affect your pitch so be ready to adjust.
 - If you are playing with a group (especially in another country), ask if they have any specific tuning.  For example, some groups tune to 442 to match the percussion instruments.

Gig Location/Venue
 - Consider the size of the hall/room.  How do you need to adjust your articulation and volume for the venue?
 - Will there be a place to practice or warm-up at the gig? Try to warm-up before you get there, just in case.

Musicians at the Gig
 - Consider their volume and dynamics.  You may have to play louder or softer than normal to match the other musicians.
 - Listen to their style and interpretation of the music and adjust. Be flexible with performance tempo, dynamic, and style.

 - Where are you staying? Make sure you plan enough time to travel from your hotel/lodging to the gig.
 - Can you practice there? Make sure to bring a practice mute or have a plan how you will practice and warm-up.  Hotel guests do not want to be awoken by a brass instrument in the next room.

 - What will you eat? Don't use the meal before your performance as an opportunity to try something new.  Don't jeopardize your playing with a unsettled stomach.
 - No time to eat.  See if you can bring a snack and drink with you to have just in case.

 - Plan the time zone change. Make sure to plan time to adjust to the time change, especially if it is large.
 - Make sure you have enough time to sleep and feel rested.  You may have to sleep on the plane or catch a few winks backstage.

 - How will you get there? Have your tickets organized and ready to go. Carry extra cash for cabs. Research places to park if you are driving.

 - Bring it all with you, just in case.  Instrument, mouthpiece(s), mute(s), valve oil, slide grease, screwdriver, cork, music (extra copies are good), pencil(s), a stand. If there is any chance you'll need it, bring it.

Utilizing Your Travel Time
 - On a plane, train, or bus. Listen to your music. Look it over. Read about the music.
 - In a car. Here you can do more. Buzz on your mouthpiece. Listen to your music. Sing along.
 - Waiting at the airport, bus station, or even at an audition. Have something with you that will keep you calm (book, ipod, phone). Focus on your task and think positive!

All of the above ideas are things that I have noticed during my own traveling. What other tips do you have?


  1. Great post. All of this is great.

  2. You addressed some key issues that lots of people fail to think about. I can't tell you the number of times I've been in a group that someone's music blows off the stand because they didn't plan ahead for that outdoor wedding. :)