The Touring Musician’s Handbook

The Touring Musician’s Handbook shows you:

How to become a touring musician

How much money you can make

The difference between a club and a touring musician

What kind of chops you need

What kind of gear that you’ll need

Everything you need to know about proper touring etiquette

Secrets to auditioning well

How to prepare for a tour

What to look for in a tech

What to expect on the different types of tours

Proven road survival techniques

and much more!

What It's About

For a musician, touring is the brass ring. It’s the thing that everyone dreams about from the first time they pick up an instrument. But what do you do when you finally get that chance? How do you audition? What kind of chops do you need? What equipment should you bring? How do you prepare for life on the road? Regardless of whether you’re a sideman, solo performer, or member of a band, all of these questions are answered in The Touring Musician’s Handbook.

As a bonus, individual touring musician guides for guitar, bass, drums, vocals, keys, horns and strings as well as interviews with famous and influential touring players are also included. Plus, there’s a DVD-ROM complete complete with tutorial movies for preping your gear and your personal luggage for the tour.

Kind Words From Readers

Absolute recording Bible! Straight forward, to the point, demystifying the secrets in recording. If material beats method, THIS is the way to go!” 
Axe Follin

A great reference you can keep going back to, and a must-have in any serious musician’s book collection. Worth every penny!

Jordin Brady

I just wanted to say thanks for your work. Straight to the point, and it doesn’t drag on. Perfect. I’ve learned lots from it.”
Jared Gardner

In my opinion, the BEST book for recording TECHNIQUES. There are interviews with professional engineers littered throughout the text, explaining what they use, how they use it, where they put mics. Obviously there are no rules when recording, but this will help you see some of the basic setups for recording literally ANYTHING!
Dr. Kenneth

It’s the best of its kind!
Florian Huckler

Mr. Owsinski’s books and this one in particular are awesome for fundamentals as well as some more advanced concepts. They serve as a great resource/ lecture material to use with my classes. Highly recommended!

Lance Kuyper

…and dozens more like it!

Let's Look Inside

Table Of Contents

    Meet The Contributors

    Bobby Owsinski Bibliography

Chapter 1 – The Mystique of Touring
    The Differentiators

    People You’ll Encounter

        The Musical Director (MD)

        Road/Tour Manager

        Stage Manager

        The Crew

        The Artist’s Manager

    Interfacing With The Artist

Chapter 2 – A History Of The Touring Musician
    The Troubadours

    The Minstrels

    The Touring Orchestras

    The Wild West


    The Big Band Era

    The Bebop Era

    Country Music On The Road

    The Chitlin Circuit

    Touring In The 50’s And 60’s

    The 70’s – The Turning Point

Chapter 3 – The Touring Musician’s Difference
    Attributes of a Touring Musician

        Your Chops

        Your Personality

        Your Onstage Demeanor

        Your Gear

    A Sideman’s Mindset

        Having A Boss

        Your Ego

        Your Ability To Take Criticism

Chapter 4 – Different Types Of Tours
    Tour Duration

        The Local Show

        The One-off

        The Fly Date

        The Mini-Tour

        The Full Tour

        The Corporate Gig

    Types Of Shows

        House Concerts


        Small Halls

        Large Halls





    Promo Tours

    International Touring

Chapter 5 – How Do I Become A Touring Musician?
    Getting Noticed

        Your Band

        By Referral

        By A Manager

        From An MD

        By Being Seen

        From A Recording

        By Reputation

        By Association

        By An Advert


    The Audition

        Know The Material

        Don’t Be Late

        How You Look Counts

        Your Onstage Demeanor Also Counts

        Bring The Right Gear

        Be Nice To Everyone

Chapter 6 – How Much Money Will I Get Paid?
    Normal Pay Rates

    Per Diem

    How You’re Paid

    Ways To Save Money

        Your Budget

        Venue Catering

        Your Hotel

        Send It Home

        Exchange Rates

    Other Considerations

    Questions To Ask

Chapter 7 – Your Gear
    Everything Must Work!

        And Your Need A Backup

    Road Cases

        The ATA Standard

        Types Of Road Cases

        Protective Foam

        How Cases Get Damaged

Chapter 8 – Tour Rehearsals
    It’s All About The Preparation

        Coping The Sounds

        Stage Setup

    The Rehearsals

        The First Rehearsal

        Other Rehearsals

        The Last Rehearsal

        Rehearsal Etiquette

Chapter 9 – Preparing For The Tour
    What To Pack

        General Clothing



        Private Time Items

        Other Useful Items

        Keep your weight down

    Additional Preparations

        Sign Up For Your Perks
Check With Your Doctor


Chapter 10 – The Tour
    The Day Sheet

        Get Your Apple On

    The Tour Bus

        The Bus Itself

        Life On The Bus

    Your Hotel Room

        Have A Routine

    The Venue


    The Show

    After The Show

    Staying Healthy

        Your Diet

        Keep Exercising

    Traveling International

        Your Passport

            How To Obtain A Passport

            Keep It Close

        Dealing With Jet Lag

        Flying With Gear


Chapter 11 – The Touring Guitar Player
    Be Your Own Tech

        The Guitar Player’s Utility Kit

    Your Guitar Tech

        Where To Find A Tech

        The Tech’s Responsibilities

        The Tech’s Toolbox

        Communicating With Your Tech

    A Word About Gear

        Keep Your Amps Reliable


Chapter 12 – Guide For Bass Players
    Be Your Own Tech

        The Guitar Player’s Utility Kit

    Your Bass Tech

        Where To Find A Tech

        The Tech’s Responsibilities

        Communicating With Your Tech

    A Word About Gear

        Keep Your Amps Reliable

Chapter 13 – Guide For Drummers and Percussionists
    Be Your Own Tech

        Tuning The Drums

        The Drummer’s Utility Kit

    Your Drum Tech

        Where To Find A Tech

        What To Look For In A Tech

        The Tech’s Responsibilities

        The Tech’s Toolbox

        Communicating With Your Tech

Chapter 14 – Guide For Vocalists
    Take Care Of Yourself

        If You Get A Sore Throat

        Singer’s Utility Kit

Chapter 15 – Guide For Keyboard Players
    Be Your Own Tech

        The Quick Setup

        The Keyboard Player’s Utility Kit

    Your Keyboard Tech

        Where To Find A Tech

        What To Look For In A Tech

        The Tech’s Responsibilities

        The Tech’s Toolbox

        Communicating With Your Tech

    Keep Your Gear Reliable

Chapter 16 – Guide For Horn Players
    The Horn Player’s Utility Kit

    Your Case

        Some Precautions

        Flying With Your Case

    Being Miked

    Hearing Yourself On Stage

Chapter 17 – Guide For String Players
    The Difference With Pop Music

        A New Challenge

    Your Instrument On The Road

        The String Player’s Utility Kit

    Making Your Instrument Louder

    Hearing Yourself On Stage

Walter Earl

Bob Glaub

Mike Holmes

Terry Lawless

Heather Lockie

Michael McConnell

Paul Mirkovich

Ed Wynne

Bassist Bob Glaub Interview Excerpt

Bassist Bob Glaub
Interview Excerpt

Since the 70’s Bob Glaub has been a first-call bass player for superstars such as Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen and many more. Currently on tour with the legendary Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob gives us the benefit of his thirty-plus years of experience on the road.

How much rehearsal time do you usually get before you go on tour?
That varies according to the act that you’re playing with. For this tour with CSN, we had six days of rehearsal booked, one of those were cancelled, and we didn’t rehearse all that much on the remaining days, to be honest. Steven, Graham and David have been together for forty-one years now so they know their material and just want to get the tour going. The first couple of gigs are almost like dress rehearsals.

That being said, a friend of mine in a fairly big band just finished rehearsing for a month before they left on tour, so it’s all different.

Have you been out with CSN before?
Yeah, I worked with them in ‘87 and ’88 when I did a couple of tours and a couple of albums with them. One was with Crosby, Stills and Nash and the other was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I toured with them last year too.

What are you talking on the road with you gear-wise?
I’ve got two new matching Ampeg SVT-VR’s, which is a reissue of the old SVT’s. The cabinets I’m using are the four by ten model (SVT-410HLF) that are like a half of a standard  8 x 10 SVT cabinet. One of those is a spare that’s set up next to the one I use, so I have them both on stage.

Is that what you usually take on the road?
You know, I’ve used a lot of different gear over the years. This is kind of new setup. I got them last year and I’m using them again this year and I’m really happy with them. The reissues sound pretty close to the old ones. I haven’t had an opportunity to do a direct A/B comparison, but they sound pretty darn good.

I like vintage gear, but I don’t take vintage amps on the road. I have friends who are “vintage snobs,” that would never take anything other than the original item, but I don’t find the need to go find a vintage SVT right now.

How about your basses?
Bass-wise it’s pretty simple on this tour. It’s always different with different people that I play with. I just use the ones that I think will sound good for the particular type of music I’m playing. With this band I’m using three Fender Precision basses; a 1959 P-bass, a 1965 P-bass and a 1961 model that I hot-rodded in the 70’s with active pickups. I also have one Lakeland bass which, until recently, was my signature model with that company. It’s basically a really nice P-bass copy. I have a couple of bass ukulele’s (bukulele’s) which is a new instrument made by Kohala Ukulele Company. Those are cool. I’ve also got a little acoustic guitar and a bukulele for my hotel room.

Aren’t you worried about taking expensive vintage basses on the road with you?
It does worry me a little bit. I used to be more worried about taking my instruments on the road than I am now. A couple of basses have been sitting in their cases for almost twenty years so it’s kind of fun to be playing them again. They were made to be played and I’m happy to be playing them so it’s kind of cool to have them with me. I get the “What if’s” every now about what could happen, but I don’t let that bog me down too much.

U2 Keyboard Tech Terry Lawless Interview Excerpt

U2 Keyboard Tech Terry Lawless
Interview Excerpt

Terry Lawless is one of the premier keyboard techs on the road today, having spent the last nine years with superstar band U2. They’re not the only elite act that has utilized Terry’s expertise though, as he’s also been out with Don Henley, the Doobie Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, Phil Collins, and David Bowie among others. Terry is also a great keyboard player himself, and you can find more info about him at A fountain of useful information, Terry has an abundance of useful tips and tricks thanks to his many years of road experience.

What do yo take out with you in your work box?
We’re lucky enough to have a bench tech on our crew, but when I’m going out myself as a keyboard tech I take a laptop because there are a lot of programs for MIDI analysis or libraries that come in handy. I’ll take some rudimentary tools. You have to make sure that you have a spare internal battery for every piece of gear that you have, a compliment of short to long audio cables, some really long MIDI cables (up to 50 feet it really doesn’t matter if they’re short or long because they’ll work fine), cleaners for the keys and tops of keyboards, and some extra lightbulbs.

In my workbox I also carry a really good soldering station because bad soldering jobs are as good as no soldering jobs sometimes. I keep a spare MIDI and a spare USB keyboard around, a headphone amp for troubleshooting, a good pair of isolated headphones so that you can hear no matter what level the band is playing on stage, an assortment of hand tools because you have to crack the chest of a keyboard quite a bit. If you’re on a show that uses a predominance of Roland keyboards, you try to carry an extra set of Roland keys both weighted and unweighted. You carry extra power cords. You carry a supply of every battery that you’re going to need in the show, because why would you put a half a million dollar show on the line for a 99 cent battery.

I also carry an assortment of regular wireless and MIDI wireless systems as well as some MIDI long transmission gadgets that will let you send MIDI to the front of house if you need to. I carry the manual for every item that I take on the road. If you’re carrying something unique like a Fender Rhodes piano, you have to carry parts and tines for that. If you’re keeping a Hammond organ running it’s a good idea to keep a spare Leslie around. If you can’t, you need to keep a full assortment of tubes, belts and O rings. In my work box, because I’ve gotten a name as Hammond person, I carry a Trek Hammond preamp that will accept any pinnage of cable out of the back. I also keep a variac in my workbox just in case the voltage gets weird so you can bump the voltage up or down as necessary if you don’t have an electrician on hand. That’s one of the staples of my workbox.

You try to have a spare for everything that you have on stage, and if that’s not possible, you have one generic keyboard crammed with every program that you use in the show just so you can slide it in as a replacement for any keyboard up there.

You carry a lot of space blankets and plastic sheeting that you can toss up at anytime. One of the most important things that you can carry in your work box is a hair dryer. We built a unit out of a piece of PVC pipe that you can mount a hair dryer to that has holes drilled in it. You can then mount it over a keyboard just to have some warm air blowing out there. Sometimes it’s good to keep a big pop-up umbrella in the truck.

After you set up a show and have everything working, you go through a series of “what if’s.” You go through every piece of gear and say to yourself, “What if this goes down?” This is very important – when you back up programs on a synthesizer, you have to do it on at least two different media. You may have them backed up on your computer, but what if your computer goes down? You may have them backed up on a MIDI data filer with a floppy disc, but what if that goes down? Whenever possible, you have everything backed up on RAM cards because that’s the fastest thing you can use to restore everything. The important thing is to have backups of your backups in different media if possible just so you can cover you self.

You also take a multimeter so you can meter the power before you plug in because sometimes it’s not right. Even the simplest little 3 pronged polarity tester will tell you whether things are wired correctly. That’s a ten second test that can save you thousands of dollars.

What’s the most difficult thing you have to do?
The most difficult thing is making sure everything is the same on stage every day regardless of the situation you’re in. Depending upon the size of the act, the bigger the stage, the more you’re going to be able to make it the same every show. The most difficult thing is working with a smaller act in smaller venues and still trying to make it feel the same and be comfortable for the player. You just have to get creative about it sometimes.

Other than that, the hardest thing for any tech to get down is the hang, because the hang will make or break you in the business. You have to be able to work with other people and do your own work without stepping on anybody’s toes and making them upset. That’s what the whole touring world relies on and that’s why it’s mostly the same people doing most of the jobs, because people that don’t fit in get weeded out quickly and people that work well with other people get asked back.

Chapter 3 Excerpt - The Touring Musician's Difference

The Touring Musician’s Difference

Attributes of a Touring Musician
Every touring musician has mostly the same attributes. They’re demanded by the nature of the gig.

Your Chops
Despite what you may think, the typical touring sideman is not all about chops. Sure they’re important, but your ability to learn and retain the music is much more significant than your technical chops. Can you learn a body of work quickly, play it really well, and not forget anything from show to show? Can you play with confidence under unpredictable conditions? You can have the best chops in the world, but without those other traits, you’ll find yourself soon sitting in the audience instead of on stage.

Most of what we do has very little to do with playing, but has everything to do with entertainment. If most musicians could keep the entertainment and sales side of the business on their minds, they would work more and they would probably do a better job in most situations.
Ed Wynne

Of course you need a minimum amount of proficiency on your instrument, but that limit is dictated by the type of music and the role you’re asked to fill. The demands for a bass player playing with jazz fusion keyboardist George Duke are a lot different from what folk balladeer Leonard Cohen would require. Playing rhythm guitar behind country music star Reba McEntire requires a whole different skill set than playing guitar behind alt-rocker Billy Corgan. Some rolls require a precise technician with superior physical dexterity while others need you to be solid in the pocket pushing the rhythm and nothing more. But whatever the role, you have to do it to the satisfaction of the artist, and do it so well that your performance is never a concern. Part of the reason that you’re hired is for the security of knowing that your parts will always be played just as the artist needs and wants.

Your Personality
Your reputation among other musicians and people within the touring industry is what gets you hired and keeps you working, so if other artists, musicians, producers and engineers like you as a person, like how you play, and like the feeling you bring to a rehearsal and tour, then you’re more likely to get calls for work. If you were cooped up in a submarine for a while, you’d sure want to get along with the other people there with you. Obviously, touring conditions aren’t even close to that in most ways (although a bus is a little like a submarine in terms of how intimate the quarters are), but the fact that you are working very closely with other players, crew, production, artists, label and agency people and who knows who else, usually means that the easier you are to work with, the more likely you’ll get asked back the next time, or referred for another gig.

Playing comes first and it always will, but if you make the people paying your check uncomfortable in even the slightest way, it will come back to haunt you. Smiles and a pleasant, accommodating attitude, as well as superb personal hygiene (that’s so important!) and an appropriate sense of style go really far in the touring business. There are a lot of great players available and unless you’re something unbelievably special, the people paying your check will always take the player easiest to work with, all things being equal. No back-talk, no sass, no snide remarks, nothing other than a wide smile and a “Tell me what you want,” and “No Problem!” attitude is what the people with the ability to hire you are looking for.

If you’re too much of a personality yourself, you might have difficulties. That’s just purely from a support musician’s standpoint. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have your own personality or opinions or wants and desires, but you have to be flexible and easy going enough to understand that it’s not about you. It’s just about creating a vibe and the individual doesn’t matter so much.
Heather Lockie

How amicable are you? Can you get along with everyone else in the band? That’s important, but not essential. Are you able to detach from everybody and not worry whether you’re getting along or not? That position works too. If you’re a pro, you’re always all about the music, so there’s never an issue about getting along. You never have a bad word to say about anybody and you avoid drama at all costs. If there’s ever an argument, you know enough not to get involved or take sides.

When you’re playing a gig at the bar on weekends, you’re might not get along with another player or crew but you know that you’ll be going home right afterwards so it’s easy to tolerate someone. When you’re on tour, you have to live with your co-workers in very close-quarters. You’re room mates because of the close nature of the tour bus, so you have to have the ability to get along with others comfortably with no problems.

Your Onstage Demeanor
Do you have the appropriate on-stage personality for the artist? A lot of players get gigs because their physicality on stage is the right fit. It’s not only how you look physically, but how you look when you’re playing the music. Are you active on stage? Are you a showman? That may not work for an artist who requires that you just stand there and play, but they still might want you to be passionate about the music if you can restrain yourself from not jumping around like Pete Townsend. Do you know your place on stage, and are you able to tailor your demeanor to the client? Well cover this more in Chapter 5.

Your Gear
We’ll go over this in detail in Chapter 7, but whatever gear you bring must be not only be in excellent working order, but will be dictated by the type of music and the type of tour that you’re doing. If storage space is limited (like when you’re flying), then you might only bring your main axe, (if you’re a guitar or bass player) and a backup and backline will be supplied by the promoter. Likewise, drums and keyboards will be provided by the promoter at the venue. If you’re on a bus tour and you have more room, you’ll bring your instrument plus whatever you need as a backup, but almost always, weight and space is an issue so the less you need to bring, the better (unless you’re with a superstar). Regardless of how much or how little gear you bring on the road, it all has to sound great and work flawlessly every time.