Guitar Players Jamming at Gig

Five Things You Must Bring to the Gig: Part 1

November 18, 2016 20 Comments

Guitar Players Jamming at Gig

Whether you are a professional musician, an aspiring student or someone who plays for fun, chances are that sooner or later you’ll want to find a gig. Perhaps you were invited to play a top venue or you were called to fill in for a pro band for the first time. Maybe you were asked to play for a friend’s wedding or lead worship for your congregation at church. Wherever you are invited to play there is always one thing that most gigs have in common: you’re expected to show up ready to play. Of course there is another thing far too many gigs have in common: unexpected challenges that could ruin your show. If you have ever found yourself in the embarrassing situation of being caught unprepared, you probably vowed you wouldn’t let it happen the next time! But you probably also know that eventually you’ll have to face the unknown. So what can we do as musicians to make sure we’re ready to handle whatever comes our way? Here are five things you must bring to every gig if you want to be successful.

Your Gear
Okay, I know this sounds ridiculously obvious, but forgotten gear might be the most common cause of gig disasters. You packed up for the gig and didn’t realize that you forgot something back at the rehearsal studio that you can’t live without. When it happens to one of the other players in the band it might make you angry until you remember you were the one that blew it the last time! Just to be sure nothing gets left behind, you want to carefully pack everything you need ahead of time (make a checklist if necessary) and put it all together in one pile separate from everything else in the room. Do it the day before or at the end of your last rehearsal when you can afford to really take your time and get it right. When you arrive to load in your equipment on the day of the show it will be easy to get everything in that pile and have confidence you didn’t miss something small but important. Is this a good time to consider if you can get through the rest of a song if your guitar breaks a string? Now you’re getting the idea! This writer keeps a separate set of equipment packed and set aside just for gigs to prevent leaving something in the studio. If you have the gear to do it, this might be a smart option. At the very least you need to show up with one complete set of gear. This extra step can really go a long way towards preventing delays at setup which could affect your show (or rattle you before a big performance). It also would be a good excuse to pick up a lightweight portable Carvin amplifier like the BX700 or the V3M as a backup!

An Emergency Bag
In the same way you want to bring all of your main equipment, you should also have a separate bag with backups for your most critical equipment and that which is most prone to breaking. Start with one reliable backup cable of each kind you use on stage (hint: “new cables” are not reliable *until* you test them). Since you can always substitute a longer cable for a shorter one, carry a nice long instrument cable, a microphone cable, a speaker cable, an AC power cable, and an extra extension cord. Rather than use dangerous “cheater plugs” to lift the ground on your amplifier to stop it from buzzing, keep an instrument cable marked with the ground disconnected on one end. If you have the solder skills, you can connect the ground in the cable with 100 ohm resistor and a 0.01uF capacitor. This will make the cable work like a ground lift switch. When you have a connection with a ground-loop issue (120 Hz hum), try this special ground-lifted cable to eliminate the ground loop without defeating your amplifier’s safety ground system! Note: this will not work for your guitar if the ground is disconnected in the cable, because the signal needs an alternate ground path. It may not work for many other cases also, but when it does you can go on with the show.

Toss in other show stopping essentials like: a spare mic, extra guitar and bass strings (and tools to change them fast), backup power adapters for effects and synthesizers that have proprietary power supplies, a small tool kit with a multi-tool or screwdrivers and wrenches etc., a soldering kit with a quality iron and solder, a bright flashlight with fresh batteries, a tuner (yes everyone in the band has one but you will want one right there with the strings in an emergency), extra tubes for those amps that need them, guitar picks, a nail file or fresh emery board, and a compact, well-stocked first aid kit. If you really want to amaze your friends include an AC outlet tester ($7 at the hardware store) so you can make sure the stage wiring is safe. Carvin Audio’s AC120S Power Conditioner can be a good investment to protect your equipment too. If your regular gear was checked and tested, this bag can probably backstop the whole band pretty effectively. Besides, the extra peace of mind will allow you to relax and focus on what’s important- playing at your very best from the downbeat.

Read part 2 of this article to learn three more things you should bring to every gig. What items do you always bring to your gigs? Tell us in the comments.



20 Responses

Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson

November 21, 2016

Lesson learned. I have run sound for a hundred weddings but several years ago I got to one 70 miles from my home where I had to run 4 wireless mic systems and realized I only had two XLR cables. Needless to say, I could not connect two out of four required receivers. Solution, I disconnected the pastor and groom when it came time for the duet and once the music selection was over, connected them back up. It has to be done quickly but it saved face. I now always take a hard wired mic as a wireless backup, several mic cables always in the trunk and I always install new batteries before any gig and a zip lock bag of short 1 ft XLR jumper cables. I have done so many weddings with different requirements and setups that I visually go through the setup in my mind while I load up to throw in any addition gear that is requested.

Rick
Rick

November 20, 2016

Among other things i bring to a gig are: duct tape, multi putpose tie wraps, active DI, ropes and electrical tape.

Dj Wolfman
Dj Wolfman

November 20, 2016

How true this form is be caught with out the right spare wires can make or break a gig .
Thanks for reminding me

G
G

November 20, 2016

I have never heard of the cable trick with the 100 ohm resistor and a 0.01uF capacitor. What voltage cap do you recommend. I’m assuming it’s a 1/4 watt resister.

James Balzarini
James Balzarini

November 20, 2016

Medical kit is one thing I wish I had one gig.
Just before going on I went to twist a cap
Off a soda bottle. They used to be aluminum. And I sliced the side of my finger.
I had to wrap it in a bar napkin and electrical
Tape.

Aeolianman
Aeolianman

November 20, 2016

I always carry a small flashlight and a pair of reading glasses

Jim Christaldi
Jim Christaldi

November 19, 2016

Ah, the reoccurring nightmare that I have dreamt many times over the last 40 Years of playing out. Though I have never done it, I’m always dreaming that I get to the gig and forgot some of my own personal gear. Often times it might be effects pedals, but even amplifiers and guitars have occurred in those dreams. I always wake up in a sweat, freaking out. Maybe that’s why I never do actually forget any of this stuff. Good article!

Phil
Phil

November 19, 2016

I understand the second comment about not lifting the ground on an unbalanced instrument cable, just ask anyone with a broken shield on their guitar cord. I have in the past used the 100 ohm/ .01 in parallel to lift audio ground from power supply ground to make a piece of gear quieter.
That being said, are you talking an XLR cable? That arrangement works great to quell local AM radio stations, but I don’t think thats what you had in mind.
Love your gear, I have lots of it and it’s practically bullet- proof.

Paul Meeks
Paul Meeks

November 19, 2016

Purchased a Carvin SX300 amp thinking it would be perfect for use in playing at small gatherings. Very disappointed- only one jack—a 2nd one could have been used for a mic. Sound doesn’t have the smooth deep bass I was looking for and the effects are extremely difficult to set.
I’m sure you make some good amplifiers, this is not one of them.

B G Burton
B G Burton

November 19, 2016

DI boxes are not expensive, and can resolve venue acoustic issues; as well as provide options for any band member with amp problems.

Bruce petrell
Bruce petrell

November 19, 2016

Bring:
*Business cards and promo paks
*Your musician reference book (with names phone numbers of qualified players in case a band mate flakes/has an accident) sure it’s an iPhone nowadays…

Mark Sharp
Mark Sharp

November 19, 2016

I play through a ’65 Deluxe Reverb and always bring a Silvertone Twin Twelve amp head for backup. If the DR has an issue, I can hook the Silvertone Head right into the existing DR Speaker.

Phil
Phil

November 19, 2016

Are the resistor-capacitor combo wired in series or parallel?

Dale Dickerson
Dale Dickerson

November 19, 2016

I can remember when the bag got left at home, I avoid this by using a bright orange bag ,and at a glance in the job trailer if I don’t see it the van dose not move.

Doug Robinson
Doug Robinson

November 19, 2016

I always bing a multimeter (volts, ohms, amps) to check stuff that the ac outlet tester can’t. Even the incredibly cheap (and incredibly inaccurate) ones that some stores practically (or actually) give away can be useful. I can’t remember ever needing to check current at a gig, but on occasion I’ve checked to see if, and how much, voltage is present. Sure, you can always lick the end of a 9 volt battery to see if it’s good, but I would’nt try this with a 12, 18, or 24 volt power supply or your band mates may end-up asking, “Why is Eddy lying face down on the stage with a wire coming out of his mouth?” I most often end up using the meter, set to the lowest ohms range, to check which cord is giving the problem. It’s really helpful if the leads have clamps on the ends that are big enough to securely hold onto a 1/4" plug. Otherwise I find I need three hands.

Aleck (Big Al) Janoulis
Aleck (Big Al) Janoulis

November 19, 2016

Be sure to bring a first aid kit to gigs. Over the 58 years I’ve been playing, it’s been used by band members as well as myself more times than you can imagine, especially if you’re in a high energy group.

Rick
Rick

November 19, 2016

Can you tell me more about: “A cable with 100 ohm resistor and a 0.01uF capacitor. This will make the cable work like a ground lift switch”… Can you post a picture or a diagram and how it works?

Thanks!
Rick

Hans Gasterland
Hans Gasterland

November 19, 2016

We play a lot of outdoor gigs. We have a ground fault interrupter that we plug the whole band into. We also carry several scraps of plywood of various thicknesses to level out the PA speaker tripods on uneven ground.

For club dates I carry the PA system and the lights in the car even if the club claims to have both. Sometimes it’s faster to just set up our own rather than figure out what’s at the club. Fortunately we are a small band with small gear!

John Abruzzo
John Abruzzo

November 19, 2016

Even though I have been gigging for over 50 years I still read articles like this. With the changing technology coming so rapidly I still might learn something. For younger players this is a must read.

Kevin Dotzler
Kevin Dotzler

November 19, 2016

Do you sell pre-made ground lift cables? Might be a good product to add to your line.

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