• In the first years, as we figured this whole thing out, there was about a 20% attrition/breakage rate/did not get to play the entire season among the string players. Harsh conditions out there. Snapping all your strings or breaking a bridge/dropping a sound post were the usual culprits
• Leave your Stradivarius at home! Having seen daytime temps to 115 F/46 C and night time to 38 F/3 C, in the driest environment you’ve ever seen, a “good’ instrument will die a thousand deaths out there.
• Robust wooden school instruments (Cecilio, in personal experience) seem to work well
• Regular bows sometimes fall apart—the heat melts the glue holding the horse hair tight or hair just disintegrates in the dust and sand. Some have had success with rather modestly priced carbon fiber/Spectra haired bows—broadly available on the web/Amazon/etc—and also, fun ones wrapped in shiny vinyl! –from http://www.incredibow.com
• Since you’ll probably be biking to and from rehearsals and concerts, have good strong straps for slinging your case on your back as you pedal so that it doesn’t drop off by the man and get crushed by a group of crazed art cars on parade.
• Cellists: at least 2 spare A and D strings (not gut cored, they can’t take the conditions)—Violins–2 spare E and A strings. For reasons that are completely unclear, violas don’t seem to break strings out there! But maybe violists should bring at least one spare anyway A and D anyway.
• Know that the in the past, a luthier has been found in the Bluegrass camp—the location of which moves around. At least there’s a chance of getting a sound post back up!
• Peg rosin; it gets so dry, the pegs slip.
• Some folks, rollin’ in the dough, have found that carbon fiber instruments do well out there—and they’re tough and sound wonderful.
• Electronic cellos and violin instruments can do well too, but you’ll need a strong battery powered amp, spare batteries for the week, and a good way to clean out dust-filled pick ups to get them through the entire week.
• I can’t even imagine—I’ll ask a oboist to fill this out!
• Personally, I’ve watched the heroic act of a bassoon making it out there—awesome.
• I can’t imagine how these amazing people put a metal mouthpiece to their lips in over 100 degree temps. I suspect such stalwarts go to Thunderdome just to relax.
• We’ve never figured out how to move a collection of timpani (singular, “timpano”), at 140 lbs each and $30-50k a piece around on the Playa. Although, on a napkin somewhere resides an abortive design for, yes, fire-breathing timpani.
• Instead, we use Yamaha synthesizers for most percussion parts, playing out of speakers; it works and sounds great.
• We do have, actually a full metal gong, made in a metal shop