Creative gear on the road - (Road Diary #3)

08.07.2016 (This is a longish, gear-centric post... But I'm sharing my gear list - trumpet and non-trumpet - in this post with hopes that it might help other trumpet (music!) folks travel with a bit less anxiety).

(Abstract - Marcus Bona case and Natural trumpet)

It's possible to make it across the country with your trumpets and your digital office. You don't have to check them. It takes planning. Creativity. Compromise. 

It is possible.

I have little room to complain when I speak of air travel with trumpets and the other gear associated with a career in the arts. Many have it much worse: Tubists. Cellists. Bass players. Drummers. For folks with larger equipment these folks, air travel can be a real nightmare. Even with the latest laws that support instruments as carry-ones, dealing with airline staff while boarding can induce a lot of anxiety. 

I hate it.

Instrument size, however, is not the only hurdle.

My overriding strategy is always: Instrument(s) = "Carry on", Essential creative/office gear = "Personal Item". 

For early music gigs that demand flying... I try to fit all needed instruments in a single Marcus Bona natural trumpet case that can serve as my carry-on. The remainder of my music, writing, and photo gear go into my "personal item": this Domke camera bag. It fits under the seat in front of me and carries a ton. I generally remove the included padded divider when using it as a travel bag. 

The Bona case is a bit too long to be considered a legal carry on, but its cross-section is so small that it fits in any overhead bin I've ever seen. It also hides on my back as I board the plane, drawing less attention from the "you have to check that" police.

My clothes might not make it across country, but I'll be damned if I show up in a new city without my performance and work gear. Sending it under the plane is NOT an option. On this particular trip out west, my performance gear list looks like this:

  • Egger Baroque Trumpet Corpus - MDC Long model (4 hole)
  • Keavy Baroque Trumpet Coprus - 4 hole model
  • (3) Egger Crooks in D415 and C415 for Purcell - D440 for Mozart
  • (3) Keavy Crooks in D400, C440, and Eb400 for Mozart
  • (6) Assorted 4-hole Yards for the keys above, plus a "no-holes" yard
  • Assorted leadpipes and tuning bits
  • Egger "Bull" BL5 and BL2 Mouthpieces, as well as a "spare" (Egger SI-7 Opt)
  • Music for Purcell's The Fairy Queen and Mozart's Don Giovanni

(I wish I would have remembered trumpet stands)

I was able to get all of the gear above, with exception of a few crooks and the mouthpieces, in my tiny Bona case. I used a microfiber car drying towel to buffer the trumpets from one another. As I buy more crooks for the Egger, the Keavy will stay home. The crooks and mouthpieces went in my "personal item" bag (the Domke camera bag mentioned above).

(Abstract snap from my Instagram feed of the two trumpets in the case)

I enjoy publishing regularly to my Instagram feed, even while traveling. Something for which I prefer NOT to use my iPhone if possible... As the small sensor and lens allows for little creative control of depth of field. For this reason I bring one or two large-sensor compact cameras. Downtime on the road is also useful for catching up on project planning, scheduling, creative writing, correspondence, and similar tasks. I'm trying hard to balance gear size with performance.

Is it worth it to bring it?

For the first time for me, there is no laptop on this trip. All photographic processing has been on an iPad (shooting Raw+Jpg on my cameras... Processing jpegs on the road, Raw files later on the laptop if I want), as well as all other tasks too intensive for my iPhone. On this trip, the supplementary gear list looks like:

  • Apple iPad (4th Generation)
  • Anker Bluetooth Keyboard
  • Anker folding iPad stand
  • Sigma Dp1 Merrill Compact Camera (fixed 28mm lens)
  • Sigma DP3 Merrill Compact Camera (fixed 75mm lens)
  • Lightning-to-SD Card adapter (importing photos from Camera's SD Card to iPad's Camera Roll)
  • Charging Cord and "block" for iPad/Phone (shared)
  • Anker "PowerCore" lithium external battery (charging iPad and Phone on long travel days)

To be completely honest, a small laptop wouldn't take up any more space than the iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. This, for me, is a question of working style. I enjoy the option of using the iPad with a keyboard (Work mode) or without (House of Cards mode). It can also serve as a music reader on the stand, using an app such as forScore, without the keyboard becoming a nuisance. While traveling, I also appreciate the continuity of interface between iPhone and iPad. 

(My desk on this trip - notice the file error on the right side of the image... I think a product of the cheap card reader)

I also could replace the Sigma compact cameras with a single zoom-enabled compact or mirrorless camera... Something I'm considering in the future. Again, this is an issue of working style. When I shoot with my DSLR cameras, I only shoot with fixed-focal-length lenses. My entire research trip to Rome, Italy in 2014,  was shot at 28mm on the DP1M. I was very happy with the results... So I'm sticking with the cams for now. 

My hopes are that this is helpful to some folks. I'd love messages or comments regarding this subject. Air travel for musicians can be an anxiety-laden situation... But it is possible to travel with your axes and your office with some careful planning.

Cheers! Shelby

(Some samples from the Sigma DP1 Merrill - low quality captures from my page Facebook)