How to Adapt your Guitar Rig for Outdoor Gigs

Outdoor gigs and festivals are a massive part of working your way up the music industry ladder, but are also some of the most difficult live shows to master. Here’s what you should expect when you take to the open-air stage…

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

When festival season rolls around you’d better be prepared to put on a great show! What’s better for a punter than the sun shining down, a cold beverage in hand 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 your audience expects.

Here’s a brief summary of how you can improve your outdoor gigs:

  • 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

strings outdoor gigs

Dealing with Temperature & Humidity

Most of the time you’ll be putting on your outdoor show when the weather is pretty good. That’s fine for the audience, but temperature and humidity can have their drawbacks for both electric and acoustic guitars. A sudden switch from a cool indoor climate to muggy open air, for example, will cause a guitar’s wood parts to expand or contract and potentially 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 set up during the current season. Another necessary step is to buy some good quality strings from the likes of D’addario or Elixer and equip them shortly 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 conditions. 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 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 slightly upwards, 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.

Wireless Connection

Cables are fine when you’re in an enclosed space because you’re less likely to stray far from the amp and knock them out. But if you’re playing outdoors, there’s a good chance the stage will be larger than what you’re used to. You’re in a sticky situation if you’re really stretching to just plug them in. This is where wireless systems come in handy.

Wireless guitar systems don’t require any cables, so you’re not going to accidentally tread on the lead and pull it out the socket. 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 open spaces can make it difficult to hear what you’re playing, and stage monitors don’t do much to combat it. They can also damage your hearing when cranked to ear-splitting levels. In-ear monitors provide quality audio, protect your ear drums from the high volumes required to reach the crowd and free you up to pull off all your best dance moves.

PA Systems

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 amplify your acoustic instruments. Active PA speakers are perfect, as they don’t colour the natural tone of your guitar increasing the volume of your music for everyone to hear.

The key to getting the best PA system is setting yourself a clear budget. Make sure you choose the appropriate amount of inputs for each instrument. You might want increased capacity if you’ve got percussion, and a handful of guitars and singers. Some PA systems also include expanded EQ options and effects so you don’t have to carry around the extra gear.

If you enjoyed this read, check out more of our Learn articles!

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Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big prog/modern metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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