Music Al Fresco: Tips for Performing Music Outdoors

Summer is the time for music al fresco. Block parties, outdoor cafes, busking, festivals, parks, farmer’s markets, campfires… Sometimes it seems all you have to do is think of a place and you’ll find musicians there.

But playing oudoors isn’t all roses and sunshine.

The following tips will help ensure your outdoor performances (or those of your students) shine like the sun.

  • Amplify the vocals: No, you can’t sing loud enough to be heard in open air without amplification. And acoustic guitars only project so far. (Be aware, though, that amplification is not permitted or possible in some venues, in which case you may have to settle for only being heard by those nearest to you.
  • Extention cords! Often outdoor venues are located far from outlets. If you’re using someone else’s sound system, bring extra cables, mikes, and a mult-box for cords.
  • Gimme shelter! The sun can be brutal (and shade from a tree moves throughout an afternoon). Ask about shelter, and consider investing in a portable pop-up tent to protect you and your instruments from sun — and showers. 
  • Electronics and water don’t mix: If you don’t have shelter, have an evacuation plan: a car parked nearby, a shelter you can retreat to, or a completely waterproof tarp big enough to cover everything if it starts to rain. 
  • Bring bug repellent: it’s hard to play when you’re swatting at mosquitoes.
  • But be careful with the repellent, because it can strip the finish off instruments.  Bug-repellent infused clothing can help, as does a wide-brimmed hat. If you put on bug repellent, put it on half and hour or more before the gig, and avoid putting it directly on your hands or parts of your arms that directly touch the instrument.
  • Wear sunscreen (or sunscreen with bug repellent mixed into its formula).
  • For night gigs, if you use sheet music or chord charts, you’ll need a battery powered music light (Available from music stores). 
  • Bring your own music stand, and clips to hold the music in place if it’s windy. 
  • Layered clothing will keep you comfortable if the weather changes suddenly.
  • Bring a towel for wiping off sweat. 
  • Have plenty of water on hand. Musicians Friend (a music supply company) sells bottle holders that can clip to a music stand.

And have fun!