Not a battered old acoustic in sight
Traditionally, the Summer music festival season is when people reasonably expect to see the highest quotient of mistreated acoustic guitars, bongos and kazoos per person. Visit any festival in the UK and, as sure as eggs are eggs, there will be someone hammering away on a guitar – mostly not very well!
I never understood it. F1 fans, for example, don’t visit Silverstone and then sit in the car park revving the engine in their Ford Focus (or maybe they do…). Fact is, this will always be the case. We will never get away from this. And, as musical instrument retailers par excellence, we welcome it. Of course we do: we sell guitars, y’know. And bongos. And even kazoos.
But, the thing is, we know that times are changing. Technology is giving musicians new and exciting ways to create and perform. It just so happens that there is new tech out there which could one day replace the humble acoustic as the festival weapon of choice.
See, a lot of the more high-tech stuff is so advanced it can be powered using these small cylindrical devices called batteries. I know, right? Let’s take a look at some alternative portable festival music gear, which could mean your guitars, bongos, and kazoos can all have the summer off.
1. Teenage Engineering OP-1
If you follow music tech at all you’ll know that the Teenage Engineering OP-1 is a big favourite of ours. It combines superb design, a strong collection of sounds and just the right amount of Scandinavian craziness to deliver a piece of tech which is entirely in its own league.
The OP-1, if you don’t know, is the closest thing you’ll get to an entire recording studio in a box around the size of a takeaway menu. It has, built in, different synthesizers, drum machines, samples and other sounds. It also has a sampler, arranger, mixer and effects. Everything you’d need to create entire tracks from a single unit.
It’s small enough that you can throw it in a bag, has a strong enough battery that you’ll get a good amount of work done in a session, and is so fun to use that you can easily find yourself getting really stuck into its Nordic charms.
It’s not – it must be said – a cheap device you buy on a whim. But if the promise of taking an entire studio with you sounds too good to be true, on this occasion it actually isn’t.
2. Teenage Engineering PO series
If the OP-1’s price tag is enough to put you off it, let us direct to you to its equally bonkers siblings. The Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator (PO) series is a collection of four small devices, around the same size as the calculators you used at school. Each focuses on a particular discipline within music.
So, for example, the PO35 is a vocal sampler, which can take voice (or other) samples and then mangle them into all sorts of different noises. The PO33 is slightly different in that it records drums, so you can sequence beats using anything you can record. Tent zips, bottles being opened; you’d be surprised what you can make a beat from if you think about it creatively.
Rounding off the series are the PO16 and PO32 synthesizers. What’s particularly cool about these, however, is that the batteries last for ages and they can be synced up together to form an actual electronic band (of sorts). You could use them to attract those weird half-friends people seem to collect at festivals.
3. Roland TR-08
Of course, if we’re talking iconic, G.O.A.T. drum machines, the Roland TR-808 has to feature near the top of anyone’s list. What’s interesting in this context is the newer, battery-powered mini version called the Roland TR-08. Now, with just four standard AA batteries, you can take one of history’s most respected drum machines anywhere you like. Yep, even a rainy field in the Midlands.
4. Blackstar Fly 3
Ok, a sneaky one now. While we have been trying to offer alternatives to guitars in this post, we think we can get this one through on a technicality. You see, the Blackstar Fly 3 amp doesn’t have to be used on guitars. In fact, any of the above-listed items could take advantage of the Fly 3’s great portability, battery power and even its built-in effects.
And, for those moments when the creative spark is taking a well-earned rest, you can use the Fly 3 (or two, in stereo) as somewhere to play that Spotify playlist you created beforehand.
5. Farida M15E
Ok, we caved. Here’s a guitar. A great one for festivals. The Farida M15E is a parlour guitar, meaning it has a smaller-sized body, but the sounds that this one puts out will make the guy in the tent-circle next to yours sound very silly indeed. If you’re going to do it, do it properly, yeah?
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.