April 21, 2016 by Don Russo
I write this blog to help other guitarists be prepared for situations that arise at gigs, but also in part as a confession of sorts. I’ve played many gigs and have been caught without many things. So, I’ve decided to make a checklist for “you”…that includes 10 things all guitar players need in order to be prepared for a gig.
This seems like a no-brainer, but oftentimes guitar players leave picks sitting on bars, by their bedside, in a pair of jeans, etc. Then, they get to the gig and realize they don’t have one. This happened to me once at a gig at Speakeasy. I ended up having a 3 hour practice of finger-style guitar. Don’t get me wrong, it was good practice, but not necessarily fun when I had a song I could really use a pick on. So, leave some picks in your guitar case, bag, or some place where you keep up with them. Jerry Sims gave me a nifty pick pouch that has served me well. The common thread that you will see throughout this blog is to HAVE BACKUP.
I have absolutely finished a gig playing without one of my strings. Again, it tests my ability to adjust chord shapes, melodies, etc, but it is certainly limiting. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is keep a extra packs of strings in my case or bag. Another tactic is to bring a back-up guitar. Try buying strings in bulk from your local dealer. That way, you have a ton of strings on hand.
Batteries are an absolute must. Your acoustic may die, you may need one for a pedal, your 9 Volt adapter may have a short in the wire, your bass player may need one, tuners, etc. All of these examples have happened to yours truly. I carry a couple of 9-volts with me at all times, just in case I need one.
If you think your cables will never go out, you are sadly mistaken. Even nice cables can go bad. Sometimes it’s not even your fault. An audience member could spill liquid onto a cable or step on one wrong. Always have a couple of backup cables. Don’t ever have just the amount you need. As soon as one would break, you’d have to modify your whole rig or not be able to play at all.
You should have some basic tools available: screwdriver, pliers, string cutter, Allen-wrenches, etc. You could even has a basic soldering iron kit if you know how to repair your own cables. This can save you on the above item #4. Sometimes, you may have to tighten a strap button, an input jack, or change strings. The bottom line is to have some basic tools available to help you out in these situations and KEEP THEM IN YOUR BAG OR CASE. If you borrow it from your gear to fix something at home, you better return it as soon as you are done. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself stuck in a situation at a gig.
There are several tunes that I play with a capo in my group and duo. I certainly can get by without it, as I feel confident transposing; however, this sometimes requires using more bar chords which can be tough on a long acoustic gig. Also, some songs just sound better with open chords. I would definitely recommend keeping a capo in you guitar case…especially your acoustic guitar case.
Confession time…I’ve been forced to be very innovative in the past to create straps when I forgot mine. One gig I used my belt. I took it off and cut a hole on either side of it to make a strap. At another gig, I used the shoulder strap from a luggage bag. I know, this sounds ridiculous, and I agree. I was, at the very least, resourceful. Nowadays, I keep a strap in each guitar case and an extra strap in my bag.
8. Extension Cable
You never know how close to a power outlet you will be and you never know if the place will have a cable. I’ve actually had to run out to CVS and buy an extension cable. It’s always good to have one handy.
9. Power Strip
Sometimes you may need to share power with your bandmate because he/she forgot a power strip or the person who hired you for the gig may have a projector, wireless mic, or some other device that requires power. In any case, it’s always better to have more options than you need.
10. Three to Two-Prong Adapter
Believe it or not, some old buildings still have two-prong outlets. I have learned this the hard way. This situation caused me yet another trip to the hardware store. Have a three to two prong adapter available just in case.
I’m sure there are some things missing from the list, but I know these will certainly help you avoid a tricky situation. Please, email us with any other ideas for blogs, or any items you think should be included on this list: firstname.lastname@example.org