Do yourself a favor by welcoming technology into the logistics of your marching ensemble! Think of how many things you carry around from warmup area, to rehearsal spot, to show warmup site, and beyond. Wouldn’t it be easier to just leave the metronome and fifty feet of instrument cable behind? Let me answer that for you: Yes! With Bluetooth technology it is entirely possible and incredibly easy!
Take a look at The Bluetooth Audio Receiver on Amazon. This handy little tool turns any audio output device into a receiver for a Bluetooth signal. What that means is that you can plug this Bluetooth receiver into your group’s Long Ranger speaker (or any other type of speaker with a 1/4″ jack) and access it through your smartphone! Any Bluetooth receiver will do the job, but in my opinion – the cheaper the better (it’s going to be outside in the weather a lot). All you have to do is plug the receiver into your speaker and open your favorite metronome app (see the post about the best metronome apps here). Best thing is that you don’t need to carry a lot of equipment around now, you’ll already have your phone on you and you can just put the Bluetooth receiver in your pocket!
When you get your receiver you’ll first have to pair it with your phone. This is done on most receivers by holding down the main button until the indicator light flashes. Right after doing that you’ll have to push the “Locate Bluetooth Device” (or similar) in your smartphone’s Bluetooth settings and options. When the device appears on your phone you can click it and you’re all set. Now that your device is paired you can go ahead and plug it into the speaker that you’re using and test the volumes (you’ll probably want to buy a 1/8″ to 1/4″ jack adapter if you’re using a Long Ranger). You should probably turn the volume all the way up on your phone so that when you sound check the speaker you’ll never peak if the phone volume changes. Go ahead and load your metronome app (or music app for that matter) and give it a whirl!
Now that you’ve got the ball rolling you’ll want to consider a few things before you go too far. Firstly, keep in mind that ALL sounds will play through the speaker now, meaning that your ringtone, speakerphone, alarms, text message alerts, and all other tones will be heard by everyone. You definitely don’t want to be running reps of the show and be interrupted by your phone blowing up with text messages. So here’s the solution: download another app! There are several great apps that silence your phone based on conditions, the most in-depth one being Llama Location Profiles, but other Settings Profiles apps will work just fine. You may already even be using something like this if you’re silencing your phone at work but letting it ring while at home.
Settings Profiles apps allow you to change settings based on conditions. These apps are incredibly powerful, but all you’ll need to do right now is turn down all volumes except for media volumes when you’re paired with your specific Bluetooth receiver. The app will run in the background and when your receiver is powered on and paired your phone will automatically react with the proper settings. Now your drumline wont be interrupted by your mother calling three times during rehearsal wondering where you are!
Last thing to keep in mind is that Bluetooth technology has an effective range of about 30 feet. That means if you want to warmup your drumline at close range you’ll have no problems. If you ensemble with the pit and drumline together you should be fine. If you work with an indoor percussion group and you’re on the floor you’ll probably be OK, but if you’re in the stands you may run into a range problem. Outside for field groups you’ll run into issues with range for sure if you’re doing a full field rehearsal. Even with this fairly limited range it should still be worthwhile as a single staff member to transition into Bluetooth technology. If you’re doing fieldwork with a full band you’ll want someone on the field with the metronome anyway following the drumline, so you shouldn’t have to use your smartphone metronome in that instance anyway. If you’re totally into technology and want to go all out though, there is a solution to this range problem, although the difficulty increases dramatically. You could consider adding a Bluetooth Repeater to your powered cart in the pit, this will extend your range considerably, but is less reliable in this application; play that one by ear.
After all is said and done you’ll love being able to stand in front of your drumline or pit, casually take out your phone and run the Long Ranger behind the ensemble from wherever you are nearby. Better yet, if you are thinking ahead, you’ll consider doing this with your tablet and have your electronic sheet music and wireless metronome in the same place! What are you waiting for? Bluetooth receivers are only about $15 right now!