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Thread: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

  1. #1
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    Default Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I would sincerely appreciate your collective thoughts on playing mandolin at outdoor gigs and what to be aware of as far as the weather, especially the temperature. Next month I am scheduled to play a gig with some friends up in Seattle who have a Rolling Stones cover band. The two numbers I will be playing mandolin on are "Wild Horses" and "Sweet Virginia". My question to you regards temperature and my selection of which mandolin to play.

    My two choices are my relatively cheap Dillion electric, and my Gibson F-9, which has a transducer pickup--i.e., I can amplify with either. My first choice, if it was going to be an indoor gig, would be the F-9. But, it's a crap shoot at this point what the weather may be like, so that I will take both up with me. What I am really aiming at is when, temperature-wise, it would not be advisable to go with the F-9. It's Seattle, but in August it can be in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or whatever. My gut reaction is to not play the Gibson if the temp is in the 90s, and possibly not if it's high 80s. But, am I being overly cautious, or somewhat sensible?

    In any case, of course, I will have a towel to try to keep down the sweat, especially if I'm playing the Gibson. Anyway, long story short: I don't have prior experience gigging outside with the Gibson, and limited experience using the Dillion electric outside. I would really appreciate your thoughts, and your experience, with outside gigs and temperature.

    Many thanks in advance!!
    Old Dog Dave

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Instruments are made to be played. Take the one you like the best and Play it!

    PS -- Monroe's Loar is 99 years old today. Played in every weather situation possible for 50+ years!

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I'm pretty sure nobody in the audience will know which mandolin you're playing if that makes any difference to you.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Play the one you enjoy most. I'm sure you want to have fun on those songs.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I have played at lots of Farmer’s Markets and Foot Truck Rallies in the sweltering summer heat of coastal South Carolina where the temperature was in the 90s and the humidity was in the 80% range. The mandolin didn’t mind, but it was torture on me.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Have played "good" mandolins (and guitars) from about -10F to around +95F. Main things is try to avoid rapid changes of temperature (harder to do in the cold).

    As I have a tendency to sweat a lot, with guitar I would put a towel between myself and the instrument. Yes, it mutes the tone a bit. Have also ruined the finish of a Martin (and a shirt) when not doing that. On mandolin that's an advantage of using a Tone-gard.

    Otherwise, just use the instrument that feels the most comfortable.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Use sweat bands on your wrists like the ones used by basketball players. I found that it keeps sweat from running down my arms and onto my palms and the instrument.

    Even in the heat, I use my best and favorite mandolin.

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Is it safe to assume the electric is single string? If so, I think the F-9 will be more suitable for those songs. It will allow you to use tremolo without having to modify your picking technique. That's my experience, anyway. Also, that's the sound I hear in my head of what kind of mandolin part would be best there.

    As to how to care for the F-9 in the heat and humidity, common sense will lead you. Don't leave it in the sun, keep it in the case in a shady spot when not playing, wipe after playing, stuff like that. Just so you know, I play my 100+-year-old Gibson A in the heat and humidity here, and have done for years, and all I've ever had to worry about was the sweat on my right wrist forearm damaging the finish on the top where it tends to rest. Judicious wiping will get you through a gig and a bit of cleaning when you get home should be enough. Especially if you're just doing two songs, instead of the 3 1/2 45-minute sets I'm doing. We're in the shade, but still ... I'm more concerned about the mandolinist than the mandolin at this point. It's a good idea to get out of the heat as much as you can. That stuff will creep up on you.

    Good luck and have fun!
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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I wouldn't play in the rain with either one. I hate wet instruments. When it's sunny I wear a wide-brimmed hat.

    Play the F9. It won't melt. One thing worse than being uncomfortable on stage is being uncomfortable on stage playing a second-rate instrument.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I've played outside when its 99 degrees and when the wind was blowing so hard at 50 degrees your fingers abouy froze off...... There's nothing ya kin do ...just try your best to stay in tune and hang in there ... Its even worse on fiddle players.

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Just keep it out of the direct sun. Many years ago a band I played in at the time was playing a corporate gig for a big factory. They had us set up on the loading doc. Later that day we were in direct sunlight, nothing would stay in tune. I could tell more stories but just keep it out of too much direct sunlight.

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    What? No Love in Vain?

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I play my best mandolin on a river cruise weekly. It gets hot and humid on the river with sometimes cooler and humid as it gets dark toward the end of the cruise. I will open my case when I get home to not trap the humidity in the case and let the mandolin dry out, so to speak. Been doing if for a lot of years and hasn't hurt anything yet.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Agree with all of the above advice. I’m currently near Charlotte, NC, but also lived in Charleston, SC, for 7 years. I’m more cautious about playing in the cold (because our basic instinct is to get someplace heated quickly, so you can subject the instruments to rapid temp swings that way). Try to avoid direct sunlight if you can, but even if you can’t, for 2 songs you and the mandolin should be fine. So I agree, play the F-9, and have a blast doing it!!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    I played my Gibson f9 outside all the time. No issues unless it rains haha

    Where in Seattle? I just moved up here and it'd be fun to catch some music. Lmk

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Outdoor cold weather temps below 60F and hot weather temps above 90F get our special attention and we'll often turn down gig requests for these. Especially clear hot summer days where we'd be playing in direct sunlight.

    Generally for cold weather if the temp is below 60F we'll have trouble getting our fingers working in a reasonable period of warm-up.

    Generally for hot weather, we've seen expensive guitars open up their top center seams after baking in direct sunlight above 90F and won't take a chance of this happening with our nice instruments for a gig that nets a few dollars. It just isn't worth the risk.

    For both of these cases we'll often say thank you but no thanks. Exceptions are possible, for example if the venue has heaters on cold days so we can warm up, or easy-ups on hot days, to make sure we don't get baked.

    I'll add, for the kind of music described to be done in the OP, if it were me I'd use the Dillon Electric. It sounds like the other instruments present will be dedicated electric amplified instruments with full-on signal chains. The flexibility built into the Dillon would fit right in, where an F-9 with a piezo pickup would be a tone/voicing compromise and would also technically be of out of place. If it were an acoustic band doing typical acoustic covers, the F-9 would be great, but for RS covers I'd think the Dillon would simply be the right tool for the job.

    To the OP, whatever the decisions, I wish you the best!
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    When I first got the Eastman 615 mandola I used to own, I played it at a 70th birthday picnic for Jerry Schneider of the Blue Ridge Country Ramblers (J S is still pickin', well past 80). I played a bit in the direct sun, and found to my surprise that my "planted" pinkie had worn through the instrument's finish! The 'dola was less than a month old; I had the finish touched up and a small, transparent, self-adhesive pick guard installed.

    Eastman instruments of that vintage were sometimes found to have soft finishes; I'm not the only one of my acquaintance that reported wearing through in a very short time. Seems to me that neither of the instruments you mention would have that problem, but direct radiant heat can definitely soften certain finishes. The temperatures you describe are within what most instruments can tolerate, but be careful about direct exposure to the sun.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Well I guess I'll offer the counter view. I dont take my Gibson to outdoor summer gigs here. I will take it to outdoor jams/festivals where I can come and go if I want but thats different. The reason is I know 100% it will be sweated on and hit high temps and I'll be guzzling over it with a water jug spilling and its a 4k plus instrument and there is just no need to put it through all that. Folks get hot and impatient and things get moved around and there's always a fifty % chance of pop up thunderstorm and I dont want to have to worry about it. I already have three thousand dollars worth of PA stuff to worry over. I take my 400 dollar Eastman instead. By the time the surface piezo its eq'd thru the mixer and blended with the band no one is going to notice any tone difference. So why not take advantage of using the body double ? I like playing both so theres no down side to minimizing the risks here.
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ... instruments of that vintage were sometimes found to have soft finishes ...
    This is a really good point... My 2002 F-9 has a very soft finish. When I first got it used I noticed immediately that the previous owner had finger rash all around the treble F-hole as well as arm rash on the upper edge of the instrument, so I installed a pickguard and an armrest, and eventually a ToneGard, so I wouldn't add to that. I like pickguards and armrests and ToneGards anyway, so that extra finish protection wasn't a big problem for me.

    The finish also scratched extremely easily, and even with very gentle cleaning, the satin finish was buffing to gloss -- by now at this time the top looks completely gloss. Then over just a couple of years of playing I wore through the finish on the back of the neck, so I got a French polished speed-neck when I had the neck re-profiled and the instrument re-fretted. The original finish is soft and malleable enough that I've often wondered if this was a varnish finish...

    I don't know if my 2002 F-9 just has an unusually soft original Satin Vintage Brown finish, or if that happened a lot with that year F-9 mandolins, or if that even continued potentially into the OP's 2004 model year, but it's worth it to consider it.

    Having a soft finish hasn't been horrible, but I've had to try to be especially careful, I've made some changes to protect or hide the finish, and I've put up with having scratches in it where I had little or no control about it. It hasn't changed my enjoyment in having and playing this instrument, but I'm always aware of the soft finish and try to be extra careful about it.
    -- Don

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    If it were an acoustic band doing typical acoustic covers, the F-9 would be great, but for RS covers I'd think the Dillon would simply be the right tool for the job.
    Well ...these two songs are more acoustically-oriented than much of The Rolling Stones oeuvre, and are likely serving as a contrast to what is probably going to be a mostly rocking show. If they were asking for mandolin on "Brown Sugar" then yeah, use the electric. But in this context, I'd choose the F-9. Its sound will work best. Just keep it safely tucked away the rest of the gig.

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    What? No Love in Vain?
    Ha! Good one. For those who might have missed it, this was one of the first times mandolin was used in a rock song. If not THE first.
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    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Well ...these two songs are more acoustically-oriented than much of The Rolling Stones oeuvre, and are likely serving as a contrast to what is probably going to be a mostly rocking show. If they were asking for mandolin on "Brown Sugar" then yeah, use the electric. But in this context, I'd choose the F-9. Just keep it tucked away the rest of the gig.
    It's a good point, and I'd agree if everyone else in the band tucked away their electric instruments and played acoustic instruments for these two songs...

    Otherwise, if everyone else in the band is staying with their electric instruments, the only thing the F-9 would accomplish that the Dillon wouldn't accomplish is demonstrating a temporary tone and voicing contrast between acoustic-but-plugged-in instruments and fully electric instruments, which even for these songs would seem sort of gimmicky at least to me. And then there still would be the technical advantages the fully electric Dillon would share with the other fully electric instruments.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Probably not Love in Vain, but maybe "Dear Doctor" (which, I must admit, is not one of my favorite Stones songs). In addition to the mandolin, I will do vocal and maybe some harp on "Bright Lights, Big City", vocal on "It's All Over Now", and tambourine on "Satisfaction". Fun stuff!!
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Many thanks to all of you who have responded. Some really great thoughts and I do feel a lot more comfortable with considering playing the F-9. The Dillion is double-stringed and it has a nice feel to it. But, I'm not sure I can get the tonal quality out of it that I likely will with the F-9. I will be using a 30-watt Behringer amp, and though it has some effects available, I haven't quite yet gotten the tone out of the Dillion that I would like. But, as someone commented, this is an electric gig and the Dillion would probably suffice. I kind of wish they would do an acoustic set, which both "Wild Horses" and "Sweet Virginia" would work well.

    Again, my thanks to y'all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Y'all are SUPER!!!
    Old Dog Dave

    Do the best you can, as long as you can, and all the rest is gravy.

    2004 Gibson F9
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    Bruhn double-point
    The Epiphone MM-30
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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    ... if everyone else in the band is staying with their electric instruments, the only thing the F-9 would accomplish that the Dillon wouldn't accomplish is demonstrating a temporary tone and voicing contrast between acoustic-but-plugged-in instruments and fully electric instruments, which even for these songs would seem sort of gimmicky at least to me.
    I think this is sort of the point of having a mandolin in there at all - not so much gimmicky as providing a contrast, on a couple of songs. Also, there is a long history of blending electric and acoustic string instruments in rock and roll, particularly with amplified acoustic guitars as the main rhythm instrument. A mandolin provides a nice contrast, a different texture and color in the palette.

    That said, now learning the Dillion is double-stringed makes a difference in my thinking. That might be the better choice, if you can figure out a setting on the amp that will allow it to sound right. I suggest adding some reverb - helps soften the edges a bit and adds a bit of sustain. See what differences the tone controls make. Avoid chorus, though some say they like it; mandolin has enough innate chorusing. You've got some time to mess around with it before the gig to get it where you like it.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Temperature and Outdoor Gigs

    Quote Originally Posted by mbruno View Post
    I played my Gibson f9 outside all the time. No issues unless it rains haha

    Where in Seattle? I just moved up here and it'd be fun to catch some music. Lmk
    It's apparently going to be at a place called "The Tap House" in Shoreline. I live in Olympia, but will come up and spend the day with my daughter and son-in-law in Mountlake Terrace then head over for a 5pm show. The rest of the band ("Mick", "Keith", "Bill" and "Charlie") live in Shoreline and nearby. As far as I know right now, the gig is scheduled for Sunday, August 14th. I'll know more after "Keith", a good friend of mine, returns from an extended vacation.
    Old Dog Dave

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    Dillion Electric (Rickenbacker style)

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