One (Not Very Great, But Cheap and Effective) Way to Tour Europe With a Vintage Synth

by | Jul 15, 2016 | Best Music Keyboards & Synth Pads, Booking Gigs & Touring


My band Pretty & Nice were lucky to tour Europe twice, once right when I joined up, in 2009, and then on what might end up being our last tour, in 2013. Touring Europe is a wonderful, terrible, amazing, frustrating, meaningful experience that every band should try, unless they don’t feel like it.

As a touring band, we used a very particular set of equipment, but due to the expense of shipping amps overseas, we made do with what our Tour Manager provided to us, although we still wanted to bring over the particular instruments and pedals we were used to using, including my Realistic MG-1 (a late-’70s Moog Rogue copy that was sold at Radio Shack and is a surprisingly robust analog synth.)

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Bringing the Realistic MG-1 abroad presented a handful of problems, the first of which is the power. Like everything produced for the U.S., it expects a regular 110V, 60Hz current. That means you’ll need a converter for Europe’s 230V, 50Hz current, and don’t get a cheap one, because then you’ll end up searching through tiny electric stores in a crowded villa on Catania for just the right fuse and you’ll find one that is only just right enough. So get a nice one (after the crummy one that you bought in America blows out) — go for the €50 one instead of the €20, even if you needed the money to eat that day.


The next issue was transit. To save money on the flights, we took a number of cost-cutting measures, from bringing guitars as carry-ons packed two to a gig bag, to stuffing the bass case (the closest thing to a flight case we packed) with t-shirts and CDs. The MG-1 was packed into a comically vintage looking suitcase (I mean, people owned those things for a lifetime, they’re obviously pretty protective) stuffed alternately with acoustic foam, my pedalboard, and the aforementioned t-shirts, both merchandise AND our own, clean (on the way out) then very dirty (on the way back) clothes. The suitcase was held closed with a series of camping grade ratchet straps (because we knew that it had to have easy access in case Big Brother needed to have a look.) We saved hundreds of dollars doing this, but I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t stressed out every time I checked that thing in for a flight.

Vintage Moog synth in suitcase with clothes

Vintage Moog synth in suitcase with clothes

That said, it made it. Every single time. So yeah, if you want to save some money, consider using a strange vintage suitcase packed full of clothes; it worked for me with a 35-year-old synth but please do not email me or Performer Magazine if you do this and it doesn’t work out. There were a couple of flights where everything had very clearly been re-arranged in the case, which I suppose makes sense because my pedalboard had re-cased pedals and I’m sure “red box with light and button” is pretty high up there on the “check this bag” list. So let’s call it a draw, shall we?

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Get a good power converter, get a road case or figure something else out and just throw caution to the wind, because you’re probably broke just from buying the nice power converter.

What do you think of this special guest article about packing your vintage synth for overseas touring? Let us know in the comments below or drop a line on the Performer Magazine Facebook page or on Twitter @Performermag. Read more from the special Synth Issue of Performer Magazine and be sure to follow guest author Roger Lussier on Twitter @iamtherog.