Playing a good show is sometimes about preparation.
If you play live but aren’t lucky (or rich) enough to have your own guitar tech, then you need to get organized. Getting your riffs and licks right is, of course, key - but preparation for every eventuality is also important. Here are 15 things you could consider stuffing in your gigbag…
1. Spare Strings
Yes, it’s obvious - but don’t think a three-string snap will never happen to you. We’ve seen it happen! Make sure you have plenty of spares, with more of the top strings. (If you snap your bottom E, you’re having a wild night.) Want Gibson strings
2. String Winder
If the worst does happen, don’t waste precious time having to change your wire manually mid-show. A string winder will keep you quick as possible.
3. Contact Cards
Old-school “technology,” maybe, but you won’t likely have time to speak with everyone in the audience or others at the venue who may want to know more about you. Include contact numbers, website/Twitter/Facebook address, band logo etc on your cards. They cost pennies and you can leave them in the foyer, at the bar, on tables…
People may not know who you are and won’t necessarily approach you to ask. Audience members are often shy: that’s why you are onstage and they are not. Contact cards, spread around, will let everyone know you’re a pro and want more bookings and more followers.
4. Spare Picks
Another no-brainer, but don’t get caught out. Companies making personalized picks (band logo, number, photo) are widely available and personalized picks also add as a contact card. You’ll be throwing them into your audience, Rick Nielsen-style, in no time! A simple solution is a mini-tin of picks that you can refill with whatever picks you currently favor.
Your regular setlist – whether at rehearsal or onstage – may not require a capo. But if you try a new song at rehearsal, or play at an open mic where another artist wants to play something with you, a capo can be a Godsend. Believe it, some other artists do prefer to sing/play everything in A#!
Again, you may get into an impromptu jam. Stuff a compact songbook of classics in your bag so you can help out others or get through a new number yourself if the jammin’ gets going.
Rockin’ the full-on Mark Knopfler headband may be a bit much for you, but venues can get hot and sticky. You don’t want to drop your pick at a crucial moment, so pack a couple to keep you playing hands sweat-free. A small flannel for between songs is also advised. Sweat is acidic and is bad for your guitar’s finish and its metal parts – look at the state of the late Rory Gallagher’s.
8. Portable Guitar Stand
Your showtime may be delayed and you’ll get bored of standing with your guitar round your neck. Portable stands are inexpensive and give you the chance to put your guitar down and work the room like a pro.
9. Guitar Multi-Tool
Again, for that last-minute set-up or a suddenly loose jack-socket a Multi-tool can save you vital minutes. Sure, you have one at home – take it with you.
10. Spare Batteries
If you have stompboxes, pack spare batteries. Even if your FX normally use a mains supply, smaller venues may not always be able to accommodate you. Don’t let your super-fuzz-flanged solo showcase suddenly be off-limits because you have no power supply.
11. Small Medical Bag
Nail-clippers are useful, even if you regularly trim diligently. Wet Wipes are good for a quick hand or facial refresh and, sad to say, for some venues that can be pretty grubby. No-one likes to grab a pre-show bite in a dirty dressing room but we all know it sometimes happens. Pack painkillers: if a headache strikes, it could ruin your show. And if you really suck, you can always hand out the painkillers to the audience?
12. Portable Tuner
A tuner is a gigbag must, of course. Better still, invest in Gibson’s Min-ETune™ system and never have to worry about being out of tune again. Read about Min-ETune
13. Guitar Care Kit
If you play Gibson, we’re sure you keep your instrument looking as lovely as possible. But a small Care Kit is always good to pack when you’re playing a show. Show your guitar some TLC, and you’ll play better.
Gibson’s Guitar Care Kit
includes the Gibson Low Abrasion Metal Cream, Gibson Premier Fretboard Conditioner, Gibson Pump Polish Finishing Cream, three Gibson Polishing Cloths and a 2” Black Nylon Guitar Strap — all in a compact bucket that doesn’t waste space.
14. Gaffer Tape
Every roadie swears by Gaffer Tape for when you need to secure equipment on a stage. Duct Tape is cheaper, but it won’t be applied and removed as cleanly. You won’t need much for a smaller show, but it’s always worth packing. If you are playing a venue new to you, you never know how your amps or pedals may have to be secured. (And if you do need a lot of Gaffer Tape, you must already be in a band where your guitar tech can sort this stuff out for you.)
15. Smartphone Apps
If all else is going “a bit south,” your smartphone can always help you. Tuners, chords, metronomes, drum machine apps are all available, as well as recording apps for when writing inspiration strikes at the most unlikely time. And when you want to review what the audience is hearing, record yourself.
The Gibson App
– for Android and iPhone – is free. Get it on your phone.
You may not need everything here, but they are all worth thinking about. They will help you focus on the most important thing – playing your music.
What’s in your gigbag? Any other recommendations for your fellow players?