No matter how well you take care of your gear, anything can happen at a gig. As any professional roadie will tell you, it’s a full time job making sure that every performance goes off without a hitch. But for those of us who haven’t hit the big time yet, dealing with an equipment malfunction or mishap can be a real showstopper. A great insurance policy for any gig is coming prepared with backup gear.
Whether it’s caused by a freak accident, faulty power at the venue, rowdy audience members, or just plain bad luck, gigging exposes your gear to countless things that can go wrong. Any problem that occurs is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of your gear, as a power surge will equally affect an inexpensive or expensive amplifier (it’s best to bring a surge protector or better yet, a power conditioner along just in case). The same goes for clumsy band members or club patrons running into your gear - accidents happen! Having backups readily available for essential parts of your rig can help relieve a lot of stress and help you play your best, since you won’t be as worried about an equipment mishap putting a premature end to your show. Here are four items you should always bring a backup for.
Cables: Considering how (relatively) inexpensive, compact, light, and portable cables are, there really is no reason not to throw a few extra cables in your gig bag. Cables are used frequently and withstand a lot of abuse, including being tangled up and stepped on onstage. It definitely helps if you buy quality cables to begin with, but an extra set of basic instrument, speaker, and pedalboard patch cables are worth the added peace of mind.
Instrument: There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a guitar on bass onstage that don’t always have to do with a lack of maintenance or care. Solder joints can come loose out of the blue, batteries can die if you use an active instrument, and of course, strings can break. Rather than stop the show to restring your instrument or troubleshoot electronic issues, the better course of action is just to switch to your spare guitar or bass and jump back into the music without missing a beat.
Accessories: You know that friend who always asks if he can borrow a pick, strap, or other accessory and never gives it back? Don’t be that guy. Picks are notorious for getting lost and never found, and straps can break at the most inopportune times. Small items like screwdrivers, allen wrenches, and capos can go missing easily. If you are prone to losing things on dark stages, bring two and come prepared.
Amplifier: While there are plenty of musicians that gig without a backup amp, an extra amp can really be a lifesaver. In the instance where a tube goes bad or your favorite amp just decides to give up the ghost, having another amplification option is great. It doesn’t have to be the same model as your main amp- even smaller, portable options like a portable micro amp or preamp pedal that can go straight to the board can work in a pinch. As long as it puts out sound, you can keep the show going.
There’s an old saying from the Navy SEALS: two is one, one is none. Double up on your gear whenever you can, just like a professional repairman, technician, or any other tradesman would likely have more than one of each important tool of the trade. You might have a perfect gigging career and never need a backup, but the one time you do need one, you’ll be glad you lugged all that extra gear!
Do you bring any backup gear to gigs? If so, what? Let us know in the comments!
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