Preparing for a Tour with a New Band

Q: How do you prepare for a tour with a new band?

A: There is much that goes into properly preparing for a tour.

First, the nuts and bolts:

Packing

Do you have days off for doing laundry? Always try and pack as light as possible. If you can get by on four days worth of clothes (including gig wear) and do laundry every four or five days, go for it. Packing light makes it easier on your back and saves space in the van, rental, etc.

If you are flying and can manage to live with carry-ons only (on short tours), you will be happy you traveled this way. Just be sure to have some extra emergency “coffee spill” replacement shirts, just in case. You don’t want to be stuck wearing a horribly stained shirt.

Nice travel stores carry travel clothes that wash well and dry quickly. This is great for hotel sink laundry duty. Wash it and let it dry over night and you’re set. It’s a bit pricey but these clothes travel really well and makes life easier.

Make sure your bags are under the weight limit for flights. Get a little hanging scale to double check your luggage before leaving.

Planning

Print out a complete itinerary to travel with you so you can always reference it in times of need.

If you travel with a laptop, back up your data daily and travel with a small, light-weight bus-powered hard drive so you can always be safe if your internal drive takes a dive on you.

You get the idea. Make sure you prepare for anything and you will be in good shape

Musically Speaking?

If this is a new band and you have minimal or no rehearsal time, I recommend simply shedding the music as much as possible beforehand. I try not to get married to the form, but also have the form memorized and be able to recognize different sections easily so I can switch in the fly, if I need to.

Listen to the music while you are traveling. If you know the tune like the back of your hand by ear, playing it is always easier.

I also have a habit (with jazz groups) of making sure my charts are legible in low light situations. Use a highlighter to highlight repeats, codas, etc. If the chords are hard to read, go over them with a sharpie or make your own chart.

I also tend to learn the melodies, at least a little bit. If it seems the type of melody that I may need to reference, I’ll rewrite the chart in bass clef (if I feel unsure about the line in treble clef).

The Rest

Always keep your cool in stressful travel situations. A rule of thumb? Never hassle with the people that handle your food or luggage!

A little rapport and kindness can be the difference between a nightmare situation and an easy situation (especially when dealing with customs officials and foreign security).

Respect anyone in a uniform wether they have real authority or only perceived authority!

Although you may be tempted to maximize the party while on the road, you may be happier in the end if you travel on the more sober side. Early morning flights, late nights, noisy hotels… These things take a real toll on both your body and your mental constitution. Try and treat yourself well and keep a good head on your shoulders.

If you may be getting paid in cash on a per gig or per week basis, get yourself a discrete, on-the-body money belt or pouch.

Be honest when declaring anything you bought or cash carried on you. They can legally confiscate anything you fail to declare when traveling abroad, including your money!

Basically, be cool, be prepared, be street smart and don’t abuse yourself. Practice hard and don’t play for the musicians, play for the music. You’ll make it back home with good stories and get called for the next tour!

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to askdamian@notreble.com. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Love your columns D.E. Not only is the info great, but your writing is top-notch. Keep it up!

  2. Ask Damian Erskine: Preparing for a Tour with a New Band: Q: How do you prepare for a tour with a new band?
    A: Th… http://bit.ly/9xTUYk
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Jason

    Damien, what do you mean by “shedding” the music?

  4. Excellent article, Damian. The one thing I’d add is to look carefully at your gear, and make sure you bring spares for everything you can – strings, tubes (if needed), batteries, cables, etc. Get yourself a gig bag, and put everything in it. Then, if you have a gear emergency, you’re covered. (I’m lucky that I’m able to carry an extra speaker cabinet (a 112) and a spare amp (a micro-amp).