OK, I’ll admit it. I am a pack rat. I probably have at least two of everything I need for a performance. Is this really necessary? Probably not, but (and this is just me….) nothing rattles me before a performance or during one quite as much as equipment failures. So here’s my basic list. As I said in that previous post – learn from my mistakes, ha! By the way, these suggestions are just as valid for attending a local jam session too.
Of course, my guitar. Sometimes I bring along two but now that I do acoustic music almost exclusively I leave the electric at home. I know there are plenty of professional players who routinely bring along a couple guitars but I try to avoid that, although there are times it’s nice tow switch up for a different sound. I’m just too lazy, I guess.
My amp. Right now I’m using one of the new Carvin acoustic amps and it sounds pretty good and is not overly heavy or bulky. Some players prefer to go through a small PA system, which makes sense in a larger room and some systems like the Bose sound fantastic and aren’t too heavy. I will probably buy one of those at some point but for now my Carvin is just fine as it has three inputs (one of which is designed for either a low-Z or high-z mic) and enough power to fill any small to medium size room.
Accessories. Now here’s where things get a bit tricky because if you’re going to have a breakdown of any sort it will probably be with one it these items. A spare set of strings is a must but also bring a small set of pliers with which you can pull the bridge pins if they are stuck and also cut the excess string. I am religious about keeping fresh strings on my guitar and also being primarily a finger-style player I seldom break strings while playing. But you never know…
A spare capo is always in my case or gig bag. More than once I’ve left a capo behind at the gig and only discover this when I’m setting up for the next one. Arrgghh!!! A spare digital tuner is a good idea too. With the small clip-on type tuners from companies like Snark so inexpensive and easy to carry, it just makes sense. However, be sure to check the battery in that spare tuner if it’s been sitting in your case for a long time.
Speaking of batteries, this item is an absolute must. I use a Red Eye pre-amp that uses a standard 9v so at least one of those is with me at all times. Also, a small Allen wrench to open the back of the pre-amp to replace the battery if needed.
A bunch of different size and thickness flat picks reside in my guitar case although I don’t need them often. Good to have though, especially if a musician friend shows up and wants to sit in and I need to accompany a mandolin, banjo or another guitar.
Probably the items that have given me the most fits over the years are connecting cables. I need a fairly long one and also a short one to run from the per-amp to the Carvin. I swear, cables die all on their own and without warning, even fairly new ones. Don’t try to save a few bucks on cheap cables. I like the ones made by Monster Cables because they are durable and supposedly transmit the signal from my guitar to the amp most efficiently. Also, cheap cable have the disturbing tendency to pick up radio waves and other interference. I once played a gig with a cheap cable and every time a police car would drive by his radio transmissions would suddenly start coming out of my amp. It made for some interesting reactions from the audience but not exactly the kind I was looking for!
Various length extension power cords. I carry a few in my truck and a shorter one in my gig bag. Be sure to use fairly heavy duty ones as they too can transmit radio signals and the longer the cable, the more of a “power bleed” you will experience. Grounded cables are a must (the 3-prong type) but also bring along a couple 3-to-2 prong adaptors. Almost all outlets these days are the 3-prong grounded type (a must in new buildings) but living on Cape Cod where I may play in a structure that is very old and has not been updated – even though it’s supposed to be! – and those adaptors have saved me more than once. However, remember that those ungrounded plugs can lead to a shocking experience. Literally.
A guitar stand. I discovered a very cool folding guitar stool that has a built-in stand a few years ago and I always use it. Plus the guitar looks pretty cool nestled against the stool when I take a break. I’ve had many guitarists comment on it and they all wanted one. It’s essential to have a stand because leaning your guitar against a wall or leaving it flat on a chair is a recipe for disaster. By using my stool/stand I eliminated carrying one piece of gear, which was very nice.
If you’re going to need to read music or lead sheets you’ll need some kind of music stand. I use a heavy duty one when I have to rather than the flimsy folding type. You can also buy small ones that attach to the sides of mic stands, if you use a mic when you play. Here’s a big hint: always keep a bunch of clothes pins in your gig bag because if you play outside you don’t want to be chasing your wind-blown music down the street. If you use an IPad for your music as many players to these days, there are some cool mic stand holders for those, too.
Well, that’s all I can think of at this moment. My guess is that if I dug around in my guitar case or gig bag I’d find more stuff like current or old set lists, business cards, CDs. OK, way too much stuff! I told you I was a pack rat.
Peace & good music,