Summer is the perfect time to attend outdoor gigs. What’s better for a punter than a bit of sun, a cold beverage and a good live band? On the other side of the stage, there are a whole host of tasks you’ll have to tackle in order to capture the sound and performance of a more intimate show.
Here’s a brief summary of how to make your outdoor gig the best it can be:
- Use in-ear monitors
- Use wireless connectivity
- Replace old guitar strings and refresh other replaceable items
- Consider multi-FX or modelling technology
- Invest in a good PA system for singer-songwriters
Dealing with Temperature & Humidity
If you’re playing music outside, it’s most likely because the weather is pretty good. That’s great for an audience, but temperature and humidity can affect both electric and acoustic guitars in negative ways. A sudden switch from a cool indoor climate to muggy open air will cause a guitar’s wooden build to expand or contract and put the intonation and tuning out of whack.
There are a few effective ways to get around the climate factor. First off, well-made guitars are less likely to succumb to these changes because of their stronger woods and materials used to make truss rods and acoustic bracing. Investing in a guitar that can handle the rigours of live shows and touring is an ideal first step.
If you’re working on a tighter budget, something every musician can address is the intonation; get it professionally adjusted during the relevant season. Another necessary step is to buy some good quality strings from the likes of D’addario or Elixer and equip them not too long before you play your show. One final point is to keep your instrument in a sturdy, air-tight case when you put the hours in on the road, as it’ll be less affected by the weather. Some of our favourite cases are made by Tourtech and Mono.
Multi-FX & Modelling Amps
It’s easier than ever to replicate your exact guitar tone from gig to gig thanks to modelling amps. No longer are guitarists burdened with hauling big amp stacks and mic’ing up speaker cabs. With a modelling amp, you get to design your tone before you even leave home – you know exactly what you’re going to get every time you play. When you get to the venue, simply plug the unit into the mixing desk and away you go.
Windy conditions can heavily impact the sound at an outdoor gig. It’s imperative you make use of FRFR PA speakers if they’re available. They rely less on the pushing presence of a speaker cabinet and can focus a more direct sound towards the audience. If you are solely using an amp-to-cab setup, opt for a slanted cabinet to allow the sound to disperse upwards slightly so you and your audience can hear what you’re playing as clearly as possible.
Modelling amps are incredibly popular and a lot of companies cater to the market. Check out the Line 6 Helix as an all-encompassing option for all the sounds you could ever want. The Kemper Profiler takes things to their intricate details and is the perfect choice for players who love to tinker with their sound. Meanwhile, the Boss Katana is the pick for guitarists after great tone out the box at a truly affordable price.
Cables are fine when you’re in an enclosed space because you’re less likely to move around and knock them out. But if you’re playing outdoors, there’s a good chance the stage you’re on is larger than what you’re used to. Therefore, your cables have to be longer too. If you’re really stretching them just to plug them in, you’re in a sticky situation. This is where wireless systems are handy.
Wireless guitar systems don’t require any cables, so you’re not going to accidentally tread on anything important. They also cover a massive distance, meaning you can keep your rig at the back of the stage in order to create more space for your performance.
Another invaluable wireless tool at your disposal is in-ear monitoring. Blustery big spaces can make it difficult to hear what you’re playing, and stage monitors don’t do much to combat it and when cranked, can damage your hearing. In-ear monitors provide quality audio, protect your ears from the high volumes required to travel further distances to the crowd and still allow you to move freely.
For the singer-songwriter soloists and duos, a portable PA system is an invaluable tool to take to every gig. There’s a good chance your outdoor venue is simply a space for you to play rather than a kitted-out stage. In this case, you’ll need something to plug your acoustic instruments into. Active PA speakers are perfect, as they won’t colour the natural tone of your guitar while serving their purpose in making your show audible to everyone.
The key to getting the appropriate PA system is setting yourself a clear budget. Make sure you choose the appropriate amount of inputs. You might want a few if you’re plugging a microphone direct in, as well as any extras like phantom power to cover condenser microphones. Some PA systems also include expanded EQ options and effects, of which the choice is all down to you.
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