Four Gig Items You Should Always Have a Backup For

Four Gig Items You Should Always Have a Backup For

March 23, 2018 15 Comments

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.

 

Carvin Audio AC120S Power Conditioner

Carvin Audio AC120S Power Conditioner

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!



15 Responses

Paul L
Paul L

April 13, 2018

The extra amplifier problem has become much simpler with the recent spate of tiny, yet powerful, amps. The backup for my Legacy 3 is an Orange Micro Dark, which is smaller than a lunchbox, but puts out plenty of sound, unless you are in a stadium. And it is a hybrid, so tempermental power tubes aren’t an issue. Gaffer’s tape is also a must in my box of magic tricks. You can MacGyver a whole bunch of stuff with it.

Jerome Andrews
Jerome Andrews

April 02, 2018

I teach guitar for a living and do concerts with my students, as well as the occasional gig, so I have one of those rolling toolboxes that construction workers use filled with instrument cables, speaker cables, straps, picks, allen wrenches, straplocks, screwdrivers, footswitches, tuners, you name it, I’ve probably got it. Any time I’ve done a gig in the past 30 years or so and somebody didn’t have something they needed, I made sure I bought it and put it in my toolbox, because I figured if they need it, one day I’ll need it. And of course extra guitars, basses and amps are a given.

Bruce Robertson
Bruce Robertson

March 26, 2018

I always bring an extra bass amp, speaker cabinet, speaker cords, guitar cords, pics, strings, batteries,bass & over-the-counter headache medicine.

Kenny Johnson
Kenny Johnson

March 25, 2018

This is a great article. I’m pretty much prepared if there is a mishap on my part during a performance. Over the years I have gotten tired of bringing (2) guitars to a gig. But everything else I have. In my case I have several sets of string. I have at least (15) picks. In case the AC chord for my pedal malfunctions I have batteries. If I need to make an adjustment I have allen wrenches and other tools. When it comes to my amps I use a Carvin V3M or a Carvin SX300. My backup amp which I always bring is a Crate Powerblock head. For the SX300 all I have to do is pull the speaker cable, plug it into the Crate and I’m set. The V3M I use is the head version. So all I have to do is remove it, put the Crate in its place and continue.

Keith
Keith

March 24, 2018

It can be expensive and it always requires extra time and effort to have a backup for whatever you are using, but I have learned the hard way that not having that backup in a critical situation can create disappointment and stress over not completing the task and lost time and/or money. If the tool or piece of gear or equipment can fail, get misplaced, lost, or broken, I try to have a backup for it. The Navy SEALS saying is often true. Thanks for sharing the article and other comments.

Tony
Tony

March 23, 2018

I have to agree with Matthew. A good lamp and towel are essential to have. Same with the personal drinking water, if the venue will let you bring it in (some won’t). I’m also a big fan of having direct boxes on hand. What if your backup goes down? Having a D.I. box can save the night. For those of us who have active components in our guitars or wireless units, extra batteries. I would also recommend keeping an 8×10 tarp on hand for outside venues. You never know when the weather will turn on you nor what type of stage you’ll be on (if there even is one) so it’s nice to have something water repellant to cover your stuff with. Cheap, lightweight, you’re crazy to not have them with you.

Peter Casey
Peter Casey

March 23, 2018

All comments you made were true. I seem to break strings a lot so I actually have two backup guitars. They can be less expensive models than my main guitar , but they have helped me in many shows. Also, my Ampeg head blew out at the Long Beach arena. I had no backup. We had to stop playing and were so frustrated we just destroyed our equipment , the Who style just to give the audience a show.

matthew fierro
matthew fierro

March 23, 2018

Super Glue is a multi use life saver for guitar players [ I cut my finger tips reaching into my travel bag / shaving kit, on the morning of an important gig and there was an open razor down in there ! – I super glued the numerous cuts on my finger tips closed and saved the gig ! ]. Adhesive tape is great for securing trip hazards down on stage- or shielding the suns glare off of your pedal tuner at outdoor gigs. At least 1 [ or 2 ] mini L.E.D. Flash lights are crucial, must have items at gigs to see dark areas behind amp and effects racks, behind instrument amps and speaker cabs, etc…!!! A bottle for your own personal drinking water is good to have, often bar water is nasty ! At least 2 short Extension cables and even a quality multi plug can save the day. A small low profile hand towel [ black is good ] to wipe sweat off your guitar from the hot stage lights or on stage temps is really a good thing to have along.

Bernie Hynson
Bernie Hynson

March 23, 2018

I always prepared for a ‘job’ by: Bringing 2 to 3 guitars……One was tuned down a half step.
I used TOP quality effects pedals…..I duplicated the “MOST” important 1-2 “PUNCH” effects…….OVERDRIVE and DELAY……OUT OF THE 5-6 PEDAL CONFIGURATION…..I scaled down my guitar rig to (2) 1-12" amps….I mic’d one and tilted the 2nd across the stage NOT THROUGH THE MONITORS!!!!! If a amp blew….the monitor(s) were used…BTW, in over 30+ years of performing, approximately 30 to 50 shows a year…..I only had 1 amp ‘go down’ twice….Since then……I have purchased ‘3’ CARVIN amps….no problems!!!!!!! I use Gibson and Carvin guitars…THEE BEST!

William Favero
William Favero

March 23, 2018

I can’t imagine going to a gig without extra cables, straps, batteries, and strings. I even bring an extra power extension cord. However, the bars and roadhouses I work barely have room on and around stage for the bass and amp I’m using much less an extra. And there’s no way I’m leaving a bass or an amp in my car or truck while I’m inside playing. I trust no one today… (LOL) So, your advice is all sound and we do need to be reminded occasionally of the importance of backups. However, a few of the items could be impractical in real day to day gigging. Just my opinion of course,

William Reid
William Reid

March 23, 2018

As a keyboard player, extra gear can get extremely expensive especially for working musicians. However, technology in recent years has made it possible to afford to carry an extra basic piano. Having had the unfortunate experience of having a well maintained and protected keyboard fail at the most inopportune time has taught me to always use more than one keyboard as part of my main rig. If the multi-purpose keyboard fails, I always carry a basic piano as part of my set-up that will allow me to continue playing. The other thing I have learned is that all the warranties, insurance, and extra coverage are useless on the weekend when many musicians are working. I hope that equipment will never fail on New Years Eve.

Michael J Smith
Michael J Smith

March 23, 2018

I think you need an extra PA head. If your PA head goes down, the show is over. If your amp faults, you can always plug into the PA. I always carry an extra head. I have an extra Carvin Rx1200L. I keep it in a case in my van as a back up. Only 17 lbs and a great insurance policy.

Jim Kucha
Jim Kucha

March 23, 2018

All of the above! Also, extension cords and batteries. Don`t worry about it if you forget your slide, you can always grab someones Bic Lighter! I watch Mick Ronson use one….RIP Ronno

Phil L
Phil L

March 23, 2018

Cables are the life blood of any setup and the most susceptible to damage. Pack a long instrument cord. It’s easier to coil up the excess length than move equipment. Also, pack a DI box. If the rack fails, a direct feed to the board is a suitable substitute in a pinch. Don’t forget an for cable too.

Michael Magnuson
Michael Magnuson

March 23, 2018

I always bring 2 of everything. The one time I didn’t, my amp blew a HT fuse on stage….lights but no sound… Fortunately, my pedalboard sounded fibe through the PA…not the same, though, so I never repeated that mistake.

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