Being "on the road" is both an exciting and tedious part of being a musician. There are great rewards (seeing the world, playing for and meeting fans) and great sacrifices (missing family, risking hometown gigs). It often takes a lot of traveling to find your own groove in terms of how you travel best. Hopefully, these tips will help to get you started, or, if you are already a seasoned traveler, remind you of some things you have gotten a little lazy about.
Travel Instruments – Many well-respected musicians leave their favorite instruments at home rather than subject them to the rigors of the road. Too many stories exist of upright basses reduced to splinters or saxophones damaged beyond salvation by airline baggage handlers, bus drivers or stagehands. Having a second "travel instrument" available is must for many musicians who want to know that their "baby" will always be there for them when they get home. Most brands offer lines of instruments just a step below their high-grade models, making quality more affordable and allowing the traveling musician to play well while not endangering their beloved instruments.
Cases – a previous article covered the various models of cases available, so I won't repeat that here. But having a case that travels well and protects your instrument is vital for the traveling musician. Always consider (and call ahead when you can) the size of the airplane overhead bins for your upcoming flights and make sure your soft carry-on case will fit. If you must check, you must use hard shell cases, no exceptions!
Valve Oil, Slide Grease and Cleaning Supplies, Oh My! – Trumpet players need to maintain their instruments on the road to be sure they are receiving the necessary upkeep after being jostled around the globe. Start every tour with fresh (or replenished) supplies of all the necessary supplies.
For various trumpet cleaning options available click here.
For valve oil options available click here.
For slide grease options available click here.
Local Contacts – If you know the cities you are traveling to, it can be a worthwhile task to reach out ahead of time to local musicians, musician's unions or music stores to find the contact information for reputable repair shops. Pulling into town and knowing in advance who to call in case of an instrument emergency is a great comfort and can be a lifesaver, and I speak from experience on this one. Advance preparation of local contacts is also incredibly helpful for last minute emergencies where you may need a substitute musician. Let's face it, eventually you will get sick on the road. Your bandleader will be eternally grateful that you've done some advanced work to protect him from having an empty position on stage. Having an active list of the best local players in the cities you're touring in will take a little effort, but it can prove well worth it. It's also a great way to make new friendships with people who do what you do!
Insurance – When you have the opportunity, don't hesitate to purchase travelers (or permanent) insurance to protect your gear. This is available in many forms and through many sources. Ask other traveling musicians for recommendations.
Instrument Ownership Documents –These are rarely necessary, but if you travel a lot in foreign countries, having proof of ownership documents for your instruments can come in handy in some customs instances.
Clothing and Carry On – Remember, if you are flying a lot, to travel light! Don't weigh yourself down more than you have to. This includes clothing (for example, slip-on shoes makes the security process go much quicker).
Practice Mutes – For traveling trumpet players (and other wind players) travel mutes are a must. Read the article here for examples. You will want to be able to practice well in quiet zones like hotel rooms and even tour buses.
Practice Material – From practice books to play-along music on your iPod or Smartphone, make sure you have enough practice material to keep you interested, especially for longer tours.
Don't Waste Your Time! – Your music career is a business! It needs your constant attention. Life on the road often includes long stretches of driving or waiting. Bring your laptop on the road, but not just for games! Use this down time wisely to follow up on work emails, maintain your website, work on projects, etc. Just because you're stuck in a bus in the middle of farmland doesn't mean you can't be generating income!
Enjoy the opportunity to play music on the road. Some of your best life memories will come from these times. And take pictures!
Woodwind & Brasswind is proud to offer high-quality pro-audio equipment for all musicians. The Woodwind & Brasswind's top quality recording equipment is backed by The Woodwind & Brasswind's 110% Price Guarantee, assuring that you won't find quality products at a lower price anywhere else.
Tony Guerrero is a freelance trumpet player in Los Angeles California. Performing and recording with a wide range of artists ranging from John Tesh to High School Musical, Tony is at home in nearly any style on both trumpet and piano. For more information on Tony including his latest Recording titled "Blue Room," visit www.tonyguerrero.com.