Sometimes a little idea can make life a lot easier! Here are seven essential life hacks for guitarists which might save you some time and trouble down the road.
1. Are you getting tired of wrestling with a strap button that just keeps coming loose? Remove the strap button and take out the screw. Fill the hole with carpenter's wood glue. Then break off one end of a wooden toothpick and put it in the hole with the broken side down. Next, break off the other end flush with the surface and wipe away any glue squeeze-out. Screw the strap button back in place, being careful not to tighten it too much. Turn the screw gently and stop as soon as you feel you have to push harder to tighten further. Leave undisturbed for 24 hours if possible.
2. If your amplifier settings keep getting nudged in transport, try marking them with a white grease pencil. They'll be easy to set and you can check them at a glance to verify they're right.
3. You can save time at setup by making prewired harnesses for your gear. Use hook-and-loop ties to gather cables that run the same direction. You can mark the ends of each cable with colored vinyl tape for quick setup. A small piece of the same colored tape by the amplifier jack can designate where each cable goes.
4. Disaster strikes! You've broken or forgotten your tuner! Get a tuner app for your smart phone. Take your guitar someplace quiet and put the phone directly against the guitar body. The app will pick up the unamplified notes from the vibrating guitar body. Even if you can't hear the notes very well by ear, the directly coupled phone should detect them easily.
5. Make a ground-loop control kit for your PA. All your stage direct boxes should have ground lift switches to prevent ground loops (check out Carvin Audio's FDR60 direct box with ground lift). If the channel has 60Hz hum, use the switch on the direct box to lift the ground between the amp and the PA. If you don't have a suitable direct box, make a special instrument cable with the shield unsoldered at one end and snipped off. You can use this between the amp and the direct box to stop the hum without disabling the safety ground. Just be sure to mark the isolated end with some colored vinyl tape.
Carvin Audio's FDR60 direct box with ground lift
6. If you play on a tight schedule, get an old-fashioned red LED alarm clock with 2" numerals and put it on your pedalboard. They aren't common today but visiting a few thrift shops ought to yield a suitable version at low cost. Whether the stage is pitch black or well lit, everyone can see those big red numerals from across the stage easily. No more guesswork or reaching for your cell phone on stage!
Here's another useful tip for working bands on a schedule. You'll probably find most pop and rock songs average very close to 5 minutes long in a practical stage setting so plan your sets accordingly. But in case you have short time slots to fill at the end of your sets once in a while, pick up a few 'jingles' or television theme shorts that people like and recognize. Most people will respond very enthusiastically to the theme from "Friends" even if you only play once through and stop suddenly for comic relief. Have several available of different lengths to round out your sets on the hour and your audience will appreciate the humor.
What great musician's life hacks have you discovered? What new ideas can you come up with?
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