It’s no secret that I’m a fan of technology, and that I’ve enjoyed using my tablet as a music reader.
While originally I was looking forward to the convenience of always having the music I needed at my fingertips, I didn’t anticipate one of the more unique use-cases for digital music reader – outdoor gigs.
Outdoor gigs offer quite a few challenges for musicians beyond just the acoustics.
Probably the biggest variable for outdoor playing is sheet music. Aside from being positioned next to an air conditioner vent, when you put music on your stand indoors it will stay put. Outside, a comfortable breeze can be a nightmare if you don’t have your music secured (somehow) to your music stand.
Of course, securing your music can be a challenge. There are the old-school clothespins, but those can be tricky to fit and make page turns challenging. Two of the more interesting solutions I’ve seen are transparent wind clips or magnetic note clips. These are both a bit easier to use for page turns than clothespins, but neither are perfect. The magnetic clips especially – although they seem perfect, the magnets won’t work on all music stands.
Using my tablet outdoors, though, makes playing in light to moderate breeze no problem. I do still have to worry about a strong wind knocking over the music stand, but that’s also a problem without a tablet!
Using a tablet for outdoor gigs isn’t without potential drawbacks, though.
If your gig is in the late afternoon or early evening (when the sun is setting), or if it’s a very bright day outside, visibility of the tablet screen can be an issue.
This is especially a problem if the sun is setting directly behind you, and while sometimes turning up the brightness can help, there are other times when you may need to adjust the direction your screen is facing. If the sun is behind you, and you are under a cover, angling the screen up often can help. Also, be aware that the screen is one of the main power draws for a tablet, and turning the brightness up can eat through your battery much faster. (This is also why you should always have a portable battery pack with you!)
Similarly, while rain can be a disaster for electronics, it’s also pretty bad for sheet music (and lots of instruments) so you usually don’t have to contend with that too much.
All told, while I didn’t consider playing outside when I got the tablet, I’ve really been happy with some of its benefits. If you’ve been using a digital reader, what sort of surprises (good or bad) have you run across?