Gig bags come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate your instrument, in a format that is easy to carry and, if constructed well, offers real protection for your investment. Over the years the trend of new bags is toward tougher water-resistant materials, comfortable padded shoulder straps, and “lots and lots” of pockets to store stuff in. Overall they have made the life of a working musician easier.
With all that extra storage the question remains, “What do I really need put in those pockets?”
This list comprises the recommended essential basics that you should have in your gig bag.
Electronic tuner - A small digital with an easy to see display that is silent when tuning.
Strings – they break at the worst times and you don’t want to be caught without spares.
String winder – replace that broken string quickly and get on with the show.
Picks – you don’t have time to wonder if it hit someone in the eye while disappearing into the dark void, grab another and keep playing. Keep them close with blue tack or tape.
Cords – a backup cord is a quick fix for a bad one and have a backup for each type used.
Gaffers Tape – don’t bother with duct tape, it leaves messy residue. Gaffers tape has been used for so many things that this whole article could be about being saved by it.
Note: To save some space and weight, wrapping tape around your water bottle or a layering it on the sides of a zip locking bag saves you the bulk and the weight of a roll.
Fused Power strip– always carry protection, yeah that too, but this insures you have enough outlets when you get to the gig.
Ground Lift – no excuse not to have one, $2 to buy one isn’t shocking but no having one at that venue with ancient wiring will.
Batteries – 9 volts for effects, AA for condenser microphone, whatever you equipment eats make sure you can feed it.
Fuses - for anything and everything you are bringing that uses them.
Extra Strap – doesn’t have to be great just light, affordable and with you.
Bridge pins – small and easy to lose means, small and easy to pack.
Switch tips – take up no room and are easy to replace
Nail clippers and a nail file, your teeth are no substitute and people may be eating.
Small Towel – a lint free or worn towel incase the lighting guy is stuck in the ultra violet 70s.
Fine sharpie and paper – yes a pen will do but a sharpie writes on anything and paper is getting harder find in this electronic world. Bring a notebook. If you need to tear out a sheet for a song list or a note it’s there. If you have an inspired moment it leaves with you.
Flashlight – don’t go cheap here, a good quality pocket light may run you $25 but the batteries will last longer when not used and the switch will work when you need it. And you will need it.
Multi-tool and hex keys – a good multi tool is one that covers the bases and isn’t heavy. Make sure it has a wire cutter for those strings. Hex keys, if you need them you better bring them.
Anti-Inflammatories – ibuprofen, aspirin or Excedrin. Aches and pains just happen.
Business cards – you are a paid, even if it is in beer and fries making you a professional. Professionals carry business cards so that they can get more business.
Drum Key – yes the drummer probably has one but he doesn’t know where it or his cat is.
If you are wondering how to pack it all, take a good look at the list. Most of the recommendations take up little space. Organize small items in zip locking bags and label them with a sharpie. This keeps items easy to spot and easy to pack.
When you need them, you will find them. Oh and the drum key, having that saved you from the guilt of not being with the rest of the band while they are helping him find his cat.
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