February 09, 2018
There are few businesses that are less forgiving towards failure than the music industry. Every musician is drilled with a 'show must go on' mentality from the beginning, and that is because promoters and venues are notoriously unforgiving when the band can't deliver. While you can't prevent problems from cropping up, you can increase your readiness to solve them quickly and to avert disaster on the gig. But in order to do that you are going to need some basic tools and you want them very close at hand. So, what should you include in your kit of essential tools? Let's take a look at some stuff that can really make life easier in those tight spots when you're really under the gun and failure is not an option.
More specifically a headlamp flashlight. Always take a high-powered flashlight with fresh batteries to every gig. A headlamp flashlight will allow you to work quickly with both hands when time is of the essence. Stages are often dark places and equipment is labeled with very small print. Next time you are standing on your head trying to bypass a faulty rack unit you'll appreciate being able to see and use both hands to accomplish the task.
Audio Tech's Knife
Best intentions and planning aside, at some point you're going to need a utility knife to effect repairs. Take some time and look into the popular all-in-one utility knives that have some basic tools: Phillips and slot-head screwdrivers, long nose pliers, scissors, wire cutter, wire stripper (or notch the wire cutter by clamping down on a thick piano wire), etc. Don't just buy it and toss it in your bag. Instead take the time to familiarize with the different tools and how they actually work before you're on a gig. They tend to be less convenient than their full-size counterparts, so it is nice to know their capabilities beforehand.
Butane Soldering Pen (with solder)
Of course you shouldn't ever have to solder anything at a gig. But chances are you will end up using this life-saving tool again and again. The output jack on the bass or the guitar will be shorting out and need resoldering, or somebody's critical non-standard cable will break (and they didn't think to bring a backup). There are better soldering irons, but this type is convenient enough to have on hand at all times.
Electrical Tape and Gaffer’s Tape (white & black)
When you finish splicing wires it is always a good idea to seal the exposed leads to prevent shorts. Electrical tape is cheap insurance considering some shorts can even damage your equipment. Look for the kind that comes in its own waterproof plastic case and it will always be fresh when you need it. White gaffer’s tape is great for marking mixer channels, labeling rack inputs, even to wrap bold white bands around the mics that belong to the band so the house techs won't grab them by mistake and it will not leave a tape residue on your equipment. Black gaffer’s tape is essential for taping down wires and cables.
What other life-saving tools should you include? Be sure to catch Part 2 of this series and start putting your Audio Tech's Emergency Kit together today!
High Visibility Duct Tape
For areas that need high visibility indicators, use yellow or orange duct tape to place over the black gaffer’s tape that you used to secure cables and wires to the floor.
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