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Hello all, thought I would chime in here.
I have toured Europe many times with a five piece Bluegrass band, and for sure flying is the way to go right now, trains are much more expensive. The last tour I booked was all over europe, and for about 12 flights, the average cost per flight was only about $50 per person, this is like for flying to Budapest today, Paris tomorrow, etc.
BUT, like Rick says, watch out for those luggage fees, they will get you. What we found was the best plan was to carry on whenever possible. In europe (last year at least) the restrictions on carrying on an instrument are much less ridiculous. For example, in London we checked in, paid a bunch for overweight because the gate agent told us no instruments can be carried on, and when I got to security there was a dude with a full size cello going through and I asked the security people, and they told me that there was a rule that the airlines HAD to let musicians carry on their instruments, too late for us on that one, but later we used it to full advantage. Also, they looked at me like I was a moron, "of COURSE you can carry on an instrument" and also, they DID not count it against my carry on bag limit. Now, be careful, if it wont fit in the overhead you are going to have to gate check it. That is why I try to use Calton flight cases, that way, if possible I carry it on, if not it will still be ok in the luggage. Planes are smaller over there, be careful, if you are using a soft case, and you have to check it, you are screwed. Our bassist uses an upright electric, big old box, pain in the ass.
The 10 or 20 kg limit rule is also a toughie, but what I do is wear cargo pants, it is really amazing how much you can stuff in there weight wise, and that helps when you are paying about 6 to 10 dollars PER POUND for overweight luggage.
Also, on lots of the budget airlines, you can pay a small fee, about 10 to 20 bucks, to board early, this is a very important tool in your flying arsenel, if you can board first, your chance of getting an instrument on or stowed somewhere are much better. Remember, in europe musicians are revered and respected, not treated as idiot scumbags like we are sometimes in the states, this helps too. Also, when loading or in the gate area, dont be conspicous, hold larger things to your side, be smart, it helps. Also, have a lot of swag around, just a cd or something to a gate agent has help A LOT.
Of course ground transport is ground transport, always best to have a friend deal with that. Hostels are the cheapest place to stay, and most are really nice, they cater to kids, but old codgers like me can stay there too.
Be careful how you pack your electronics, they will sometimes check them for a long time, leave plenty time for security, and also, I have had mandolin strings confiscated several times, so put strings in checked luggage if you can, try to find mandolin strings in Armenia sometime!!!!!!!
I've played in 50 countries and hope to play in 100 before I'm done. I love it.
Looping is kind of new to me, well not new I guess as I have been building my system for almost two years. I am using Looperlative LP1, Rance Cm 86 mixer (THE BEST LOOPING MIXER ask me why..) a Novation Zero midi controller with small keyboard, a Yamaha TG55 for key sounds, a Hammond XM-1 for organ, a Digitech 1101 for my acoustic instruments, a TC M300 for effects and a Fishman Aura for all my acoustic instrument preamp settings. Then I have a midibuddy for LP1 commands.
I have ready, not all are used on every song of course, or even every gig, but I have ready, preamp sounds set, digitech settings saved, for acoustic mandolin, electric mandolin, octave mandolin, mandola, electric mandola, fiddle, electric and acoustic banjo, lap steel, pedal steel, electric and acoustic guitar, mandocello, bass and of course whatever keys I have set on a particular song. Of course I have hand percussion too, and mics for vocals and a Digitech V4 for harmonies or vocal effects, and both mics go through the CM86 so they can be looped too. I use a Furman 16 channel in the ear monitor setup and a California Blonde amp from SWR if I need an amp and an alesis hr16 for drums sounds. Then all this is tied in to a Nuendo system on laptop for recording, but I loop on the LP1, dont trust a laptop for that.
I work on my rig every day, always something to get it where I want it, but almost there, just added some midi solutions thru and merge boxes to clean up midi going through so many things. Technically I'm real happy with where it is right now, it's just time to start working more on the musical side of things. I dont do much pure ambient music, of course I can and do some, but I am more about live tracking of my songs. It sure is easy to get a nice loop going, but getting to that next song is sure the bitch as you all know, can fade EVERY one, lol.
The Rane CM86 I think is a great loopers mixer. It is eight channels, two aux sends per chanell, which can be switched pre or post, which is good, pre puts it in the effects unit, post takes it out, which is easy way to switch on effects on the fly, also there is a mic/line switch on the front of each ch, so you can use that as an on/off, or have both inputs plugged in if you like to switch back and forth. There is a tape in that can be another stereo chanell, and it is true A/B stereo, with a master one and two out, so you can send A to monitor, B to the LP1, then bring the LP1 back in on the tape loop, works great. Each channel has an insert also, and switchable phantom for each channel. Also what is cool is that there is no pan, each channel has concetric pots with both A and B sends. You can see the manual on Rane.com They dont make it now, but I bet they can be found. It looks like that three rack space Behringer but better.
OK, enough for now.