There are certain problems that only professional musicians will understand. Being on the road all of the time, living and working with your bandmates is one of the most amazing parts of being a travelling musician. But it can also be one of the most stressful.
There are many problems that amateur, semi-pro and pro musicians have to endure. Some are personal, whilst many can affect the whole band.
Here, we take a look at arguably the 10 most common and annoying dilemmas that can all so often take stress levels to the extreme.
1. “My Eyes Aren’t What They Used to Be”
They might look pretty, but even for young eyes, abalone side dots on guitar necks become virtually invisible under low stage lighting.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing guitar, at practice you can hit the desired fret without looking, but are you going to risk that in front of an audience?
And, why do so many makers of floor effect pedals use red LEDs in the status display? Red LEDs are less efficient in so many ways than blue, green or white and virtually disappear under red lighting and are unreadable at a sunny open air gig.
2. The Droopy Mike Stand
Yes, it still happens.
We have some of the finest technology available now for musicians and sound engineers to work with both live and in the studio, but they’re still out there, the droopy mike stand.
Fine, if you are the lead vocalist, dipping the shoulder as you tighten the grip is all part of looking cool as you announce the next number. But for the guitarist who has a mike on his cab, all he can do is watch it melt to the floor as he becomes more subdued through the PA system.
3. “Please Let It Be a Clean Dressing Room”
Most are clean. Some though, on the busy band club circuit, will have evidence in more ways than one where it doesn’t take much detective work to analyse what sort of band was in the night before.
Some horse boxes can smell sweeter and are tidier, and the chances of the shower working is pretty remote. And why don’t musicians treat toilets like they would at home? Well maybe that’s what they are doing (argh!) but hey, that’s rock ‘n’ roll.
4. Being the Band Leader
Rather than an actual bandleader, most amateur or semi-pro bands usually have one active member who painstakingly organises rehearsal nights and sends members links to the songs to be learnt on said evening.
All’s well for the rehearsal until the inevitable phone call on the night, “Sorry I can’t make it now”, or if they all turn up there’s a good chance someone is going to say, “I haven’t had time to rehearse, how does it go?”
It can be a real pain being the unofficial band leader.
Thankfully, these days musicians and vocalists don’t suffer the effects of singing and performing in smoke filled clubs. But a minor cold or allergy can have devastating effects for the lead vocalist or the band’s front-man guitarist/vocalist.
Optimum health is essential for the vocal cords, and vocal coaches will insist that a moderate alcohol diet (ha haaaaaa!) is vital and sleep is a key factor for juggling tonsils, unless of course you are in a death metal band where vicious, gritty grunts and Chewbacca growls are essential.
6. Putting Your Instrument in the Hold
Either separate cars or band vans are usually the chosen forms of land transport, that’s fine. Chuck it all in the back, and as long as the instruments are in Fusion Bags Gig Bags they’ll be fine… no worries.
But what about flying?
Unless you can talk the flight attendants into taking up all of the room in the coat closet, alongside someone’s tuxedo or wedding dress, it’s gonna be a rather chilly flight for your precious and delicate instrument down in the hold.
Most airlines are pretty good with smaller cased instruments, this is ok if you board with a small travel guitar, flute, clarinet or trumpet for example, but what about the stress involved for double bass players, or touring with a tuba?
Don’t forget to read our blog with tips on flying with a musical instrument!
7. The Fiddler in the Band
The fiddler in the band can be so annoying and push stress levels to breaking point.
They can be any member who just won’t shut up between songs on stage or keep quiet when you are trying to discuss vocal or guitar parts during rehearsals… tap tap, boom boom, strum strum… shut up!
You have to admire the respect for the orchestra conductor, two taps of the baton… utter silence... bliss!
8. The Clashing Keyboard Player
When it comes to quavers and demi-semi-quavers, keyboard players are arguably the most educated in the band. They’re experts on sight reading and passed all their grades way back in their school days.
Whilst the keyboard has the ability to handle the bass lines, harmonies, lead lines and rhythm, a really good player will know when to keep levels down during the verse and chorus and know when to lift for solos.
More to the point, it’s essential not to let the left hand muddle with the bass guitar and not let the right hand clash with the guitar player as both will be playing more or less in the same register.
If not, it’s just one sonic swimmy mess.
9. The Empty Gig… Whose Fault?
There’s always been some hostility between promoters, artists and bands, many horror story books have been written on the subject.
To be fair, most promoters operate a slick organisation and do a pretty good job. You can’t expect bed and board, a huge rider with fresh fruit and flowers, and equipment all provided at the local pub gig.
But the ‘you-know-what’ hits the fan when it’s blatantly obvious a lazy or dishonest promoter has made no attempt to send the venue your all-too expensive flyers and posters.
10. Dismal Demo Response… the Full Circle
Of all the stressful scenarios for musicians this one's way up there and often responsible for the breakup of many bands.
You’re good, you know you’re good, your fans tell you, they buy your merch and come to your shows. You want a record deal and air-play so you send your latest demo to record labels and radio stations, but why oh why is there such a lack of response?
You’re told that nearly all your favourite bands and artists have been in the same situation, but this doesn’t soften the blow.
You’ve listened and followed the advice from the professionals and ticked all the boxes. The tracks are catchy with great hook lines and you can play them all live, but still no response.
Don’t give up.Want to make life as a travelling musician a little easier? Upgrade your instrument case and pick up a Fusion Bags Gig Bag from our store. We can’t promise it will quieten the fiddler, improve your health or improve your chances of being heard by a record station - but it will definitely make travelling easier!