“Give me liberty, or give me death,” quoth Patrick Henry as he vainly struggled to free his encumbered legs from the instrument cables connecting his mandolin and pedal board.
Ok, perhaps that is a little bit of revisionist history. One might argue that Patrick’s original context was on a more somber and important topic. The principle is still sound, though. Previously we explored different pedals and effects that are handy for a hard-working mandolin player. The icing on top of the cake is the freedom of taking your mandolin wireless – both the instrument and your in-ear monitors (if you use those).
I believe that wireless is the way to go for any musician, but here are three reasons why a wireless rig is especially great for mandolin players.
- Collaboration. In the Nov/Dec 2016 and Jan/Feb 2017 issues of [WM] I wrote about challenges and strategies related to playing mandolin in a modern worship setting. Key to the entire approach is communication with other band members. Many stages are large, and the band is distributed across it. Some of the musicians (guitars, bass) have only a 10-foot radius on the instrument-cable-leash they are tethered to. Others (drums, piano, keys) have no freedom of movement at all. If I want to find the right spot in the arrangement I have to be able to talk to these people, and my wireless rig allows me to do just that–especially during band rehearsal.
I wander over to the drummer during some songs to watch him play his kick/snare patterns if I need to better work out how to support the rhythm. I’ll stand there next to him and ‘chunk’ away until I get it right.
I visit the keyboard player during a soft, low-dynamic interlude to see what kind of pad she is playing and perhaps have a quick conversation about what register to play my tremolo in to complement the chord position she is using.
I make regular stops to the front corner where we stash our lead guitar player. This helps us coordinate which of us will be coming in and out of fills in the verses or hooks after the chorus. It lets us communicate and practice fun elements like doubled or melody-and-harmony lead lines together.
I’ll usually stop in to say ‘hey’ to the bass player on occasion too. I don’t generally need to know what he is doing in the song, but it feels bad to leave him out.
My wireless rig lets me visit each of these stage stops multiple times for a single song if need be. Arrangements get built more quickly that way, and when I’m done I have a much better feel for how my own parts are locking in with the rest of the band’s.
- Tone Check. Let’s face it: for all the cool electronics we can use with our mandolin, it is still an acoustic instrument and it needs to sound like one. If you are lucky your sound guy will also be an experienced mandolin player who knows what a mando should sound like. But for the 99.9% of the rest of us, it wouldn’t hurt to verify that your tone in the PA is coming out the way you intend. During one of the songs (again, at rehearsal–I recommend against trying this during the service) walk out into the auditorium and listen for how your instrument sounds. If some things like EQ or gain need adjusting to get the sound that you intend, no problem! You’re already wireless, so just wander back to the sound guys and have a (respectful) conversation with them!
- Energy. The mandolin is cool and adds energy to the arrangement. Reinforce that visually by not standing in one place through the whole worship set. (For this same reason, I wish we saw more keytar players in church–but that’s another topic.)
Sure, maybe you shouldn’t wander all over like you did during rehearsal, but give yourself the freedom to bounce to the beat, interact with the band, and otherwise physically demonstrate that you are excited to be there without the worry of getting caught up in your cables.
There’s no question that going full-wireless for your mandolin is a bit of an extravagance cost-wise, but it is worth considering if you are ready to take your game to the next level.