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Thread: How low (temp) would you go?

  1. #1
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    St. Paul, MN

    Default How low (temp) would you go?

    Looking outside and seeing snow in October got me to wondering. For those that live in northern climates, how much cold are you willing to tolerate to play music outside? I have done a couple of short stints outside at around 0F (-17.7C). Those were for less than 20 minutes. Have played longer at around freezing (32F, 0C).

    My limit seems to be the fingers. As I get older they can feel the cold quicker. (And yes, my profile pic is playing outside in cold weather in January on the Collings MT. Cheating as there was heat from the vehicle).

    So, if you are willing to venture out in the cold, what's your limit?
    2008 Weber Gallatin F, 2018 Collings MT, 1989 Flatiron Performer A, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 2018 Eastman MDO-305

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    S.W. Wisconsin

    Default Re: How low (temp) would you go?

    I have played gigs as low as 30 degrees, but my hands have a hard time these days doing that. I remember playing an outside dance in Oct. and we had to move it into a parking garage as it was snowing too hard to stay where we were. These days I am not willing/able to play in those temps, and a 4 hr. gig in the 30's is a long time.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Mar 2017
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default Re: How low (temp) would you go?

    I've played fiddle for Morris dancers with snow on the ground, at about 0C, 32F. I wore shooter's or hunter's gloves, with a flip top over the fingers. It was uncomfortably cold then, and I'm thirty-some years older, so I'm not sure I'd last too long now. Here's Randy Bachman playing outdoors, with gloves on, in Ottawa on Feb. 2, 2007. It must have been at least -20C that night, and, boy, were my toes cold. The musicians had onstage heaters, but still complained of the cold. (There was no live album from that show.) Somewhere along the line, the city decided outdoor concerts on February nights weren't a great idea. Another video shows a very old Yank Rachell (80's?) playing outdoors in Chicago, and complaining of cold hands. I hope he was paid well.

    Last edited by Ranald; Oct-23-2020 at 7:55pm. Reason: typo
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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  6. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: How low (temp) would you go?

    I have two pairs of fingerless mittens, suitable for below-freezing temperatures, though not for long! I've done outdoor peace and union rallies in mid-winter, though only for three-four songs. For years I was involved in a Yuletide program involving caroling for visitors at a local restoration, and temps got below zero sometimes. Only instrument I could play at that temperature was concertina, and our group only sang one song for each tour group passing by, then ducked back into a warm building.

    Fretting is the main issue I find; frozen fingertips seem painful. However, last holiday season three friends and I took on a Christmas/Chanukah music gig at our city's public market, and we sang both inside and outside for three hours, with banjo, concertina, and ukulele. It was definitely down in the 20's when we packed it in around 9 p.m.

    I've found the trick is to play out in the cold for a few minutes, then go inside. After maybe 15-20 minutes in below-freezing temps, your discomfort really begins to affect the quality of performance.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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  8. #5
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Default Re: How low (temp) would you go?

    I've never been able to play in the cold. When things cool off in the evening I've always been the first in the jam session to have to quit because my fingers just quit working. Now that I'm old it definitely isn't any better!

  9. #6

    Default Re: How low (temp) would you go?

    At one time in my now long life I lived outside for three years. Some things I learned:

    -Temperature between +5C down to zero is the worst. Between zero and -8C is actually quite nice.
    -Wear heavy ski trousers ALL the time.
    -From -8C and down, an umbrella, even a small one really warms you up, that’s if there’s no wind, but you do look a bit strange.
    -If you have to stand up, keep out of the wind and stand on a small block of polystyrene kept as the liner of a small back pack, you can put your boots inside the backpack.
    -A hot water tap will save you, just fill a litre plastic bottle (or two) with hot water, put a long sock around it and keep it (or them) in your jacket, keeps your fingers warm all day.
    -The mandolin, like the banjo can begin to moan just before the snow arrives. Take advantage of it and play those minor tunes.
    -Don’t get all cheerful as you see the sun slowly rise as it skates across the horizon, it’s not going to get that much warmer!

    -8C is my limit, just because I can’t play mando and hold an umbrella at the same time.

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  11. #7
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC

    Default Re: How low (temp) would you go?

    In my first late afternoon jam session, that after starting around 60F got down to maybe 40F at sunset, was the debate between "we need to re-tune" and "no we don't, because we're all out of tune by the same amount". Good possibility that it really didn't matter ...
    - Ed

    "Then one day we weren't as young as before
    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the knowin' of you."
    - Ian Tyson

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