Show Saving Essentials That Will Fit In Your Gig Bag

Show Saving Essentials That Will Fit In Your Gig Bag

August 18, 2016 24 Comments

Musicians on stage 

For gigging guitarists and bassists, packing for a gig means more than just loading up your instrument, amplifier, pedals, and cables into the car. It means preparing for a plethora of “what if” scenarios that may bring your gig to a grinding halt.

However, there are often-forgotten essentials that should find their way into your gig bag sooner rather than later. The live music environment is unpredictable. Gear gets dropped, stepped on, and kicked, and may even just stop working for no reason at all, although, it may have something to do with the dropping and kicking. The venue may have an odd stage layout that isn’t at all like your rehearsal space. It doesn’t take much for an unexpected surprise to show up, so it pays to prepare for the worst with these essentials.

Power strip with surge protection and extension cords

Your gear is no good if you can’t power it on! Every venue is different, and some may have power outlets placed around the stage in a manner that is less than convenient. In these instances, a power strip with surge protection and extension cords are your best friends.

A power strip with surge protection not only offers additional onstage outlets to plug your equipment into, but also protects it from harmful power surges and spikes. They are also relatively inexpensive and should be considered cost effective gear insurance that can fit in your gig bag.

An extension cord is indispensable for reaching out of the way outlets or powering up pedal boards out front. You may want to bring two extension cords, a long one at 25-50 feet depending on the shows you do and a shorter one of 10-15 feet. The shorter one may be the one you use most, but you may need to run a long run to get on another breaker circuit at the house party.

This brings up the point about using outlets on different breakers. If they are all on the same breaker then your whole band and maybe the PA are running on the same 15 amp breaker. If the wire in the walls was perfect and very short to the main box, then that outlet could supply 1800 watts (120V x 15A) of continuous power. Most clubs and houses do not usually have the newest wiring and there may be long runs to the breaker box. The connections from the breaker to the outlets may also be old. This all reduces the power available. This may be fine for a 1000W PA, 200W bass amp and 100W guitar amp, but at the peaks of a larger system the AC voltage will sag. This means your power will be lower and the maximum power of your PA, bass amp and guitar amp will also be lower. Sometimes this can slowly damage speakers because the amplifiers will clip early due to the sagging AC voltage. So if you can use that longer extension cord to put another 15 amp breaker supplied outlet on your system your system will have more power and you can prevent these issues. This provides another 1800 watts for a total of 3600 watts of available power.

A basic tool kit

One of the benefits of electric guitars and basses is that they do not need specialized tools to be adjusted or repaired. Here are some essentials: both medium and small Phillips head and flathead screwdrivers, Allen keys, extra batteries, electrical tape, and a soldering iron.

To remove a pick guard or adjust your instrument’s intonation, a common Phillips head screw driver or Allen key does the job just fine.

A flat head screwdriver is useful to open certain effects pedal battery compartments or remove your guitar’s knobs.

An Allen key (or hex key) set is very useful to have, as these can be used to adjust string height at the bridge saddles, or make adjustments to the truss rod.

A soldering iron can be a lifesaver for more advanced repairs. Although not common, the soldered connections in a guitar may corrode over time and or come loose naturally. When your guitar’s wiring gives out, soldering the connections back into place is the only option outside of a very temporary, unreliable fix with electrical tape. Of course, this requires that you know how to solder, and if you don’t, it is worth learning. It is a very useful skill that will help you with a lifetime of guitar modifications and repairs, such as changing out capacitors or installing new pickups.

Extra 9 volt batteries and AA batteries are good to have, especially if you use effects pedals, an active instrument, or wireless unit that requires them. This is often a life saver at the gig, because they can last long enough to forget you should replace them.

A first aid kit

A small first aid kit is always a good thing to have around, even if you don’t have clumsy, accident prone band mates. Many venues, especially bars, may offer the recipe for disaster with glassware, spilled drinks, heavy speakers, and large crowds of people.

Extra picks, strings, and cables

Picks have a tendency to get lost under couch cushions and beds, never to be found again. The same goes at a gig. Bring more than you think you will need. That way you aren’t crawling around on the floor between songs looking for that one pick you brought- and dropped during your solo. Stash some in your bag and guitar case, that way they are not lost from only one place.

While bringing a backup guitar is ideal, extra strings are still a good option in case you break a string. The last set of strings can become the gig back up set. This may be more common for a bass player than a guitar player.

While high-quality cables like Carvin Audio’s C20P utilize heavy-duty, insulated connections, many lower quality cables will fail early and even the good cables can handle your drummers kick drum spikes or high hat pedal on them so many times. Having an extra set of instrument, speaker, and power cables keeps you covered.

A permanent marker

Not only are these needed to sign autographs for your adoring new fans, permanent markers are great for marking the mixer, set list adjustments or when someone forgets to make set lists.

What do you always bring to the gig? Let us know in the comments!



24 Responses

Roger Bergen
Roger Bergen

September 08, 2016

Bandages, emery board, nail clippers, snacks (nuts, granola bars, etc), gum, double female 1/4" connectors for extending speaker cables, Neutrik to 1/4" adaptors…

Ken D.
Ken D.

August 26, 2016

An electrical outlet tester is also very handy when gigging at a new place. Their small and only cost from $5 to 10 and can save you many headaches.

D. Smith
D. Smith

August 23, 2016

>Battery tester like McMillen Batt-O-Tester…quick way of finding if wireless items have weak batteries so you can replace them before your show starts.
>Simple multimeter to check for continuity of cables, line voltages, etc. Harbor Freight has cheap/free ones w/purchase.
>Painter’s (blue) tape for holding down set lists/music on stands.
>Extra XLR and speaker cables…may be able to bail yourself or another band member out.
>Small clip on fan to cool amp heads or yourself.

Neil Hayden
Neil Hayden

August 22, 2016

Swiss Army Knife – a big one with lots of cool blades, scissors, screw drivers and more – whatever you can afford – it will be the best time saver ever!

Mickey Settlemire
Mickey Settlemire

August 20, 2016

A flashlight can be indispensable, and a fan for those hot nights.

B Sullivan
B Sullivan

August 20, 2016

Capo, extra tuner, color assortment of electrical tape, sound hole pickup.

Karl
Karl

August 20, 2016

Duct tape, preferrably not black in color.

Steve Feder
Steve Feder

August 20, 2016

To a full band gig, backup airways includes:

extra power cables for amps/keys/etc (standard interchangeable)
—small (1 foot square) PA board (like a little Swiss Army Knife!)
--small aux amp (old Crate Power Block- no longer made)-it’s saved guitar/bass amps and PA functions before)
—extra (inexpensive) xmtr/rcvr wireless in-ears system (we use good ones, often no monitors on stage at all; this one is in case of failure…or in case one of the guys forgets to bring theirs. Yes, it’s happened!)
--extra fuses, patchcords, cables and batteries of every type we use (usually packed with the relevant great itself; fit instance, extra batteries fit the in-ear receivers are pieces with that gear)
—extra mic stand w/boom (old one that folks up really small)…rather than a hardware failure issue, this is usually “I forgot my mic stand”.
--extra tiny effects unit, or at least an extra OD pedal that’d get the guitar through the night, even run direct if need be
—Preamp pedal, to drive a too-low signal hard into, say, the spare power amp (aspare EQ pedal can work for this, if need be, as well, if it had a volume control that exceeds unity gain)
—Ebtek Hum Eliminator for lousy AC power, and a ground loop box that does the same for audio lines
--extra guitar, case stocked with the usual necessities (extra picks/strings etc.)
—-extra mic(s)

All of this didn’t take up much space,.And I have needed literally every one of these things at some point in the last 35 years of gigging. How do I know what I need to have for backup?
Um, don’t ask me how I know!

Result: I could lose the whole PA and still get through the night. We wouldn’t love it (we’d be down to one monitor mix, etc) but we’d get through it. Often the spares don’t even get brought in to the venue, if the vehicles are close and secure.

Even on acoustic solos or duos, where there’s usually very little gear, I bring a backup guitar for my acoustic-electric, often a solidbody with a piezo bridge feature (say, a Parker)…easy to bring, unlike another acoustic in a hard case, and I could get through the night on it, if need be. Even though I’ve never experienced the failure of an acoustic-electric on a gig, I did once see one dropped, and that was the end of the night for the guy, he was a solo with no backup.

Hope this helps!

Steve
Steve

August 19, 2016

Spare fuses for everything in the trailer. They don’t take much room and can be hard to buy at midnight.
A good guitar/bass direct box, or at least a simple passive direct box in case an amp takes a dump.
Spare wall warts ~500ma and ~125ma as I recall.
Fingernail clippers.
Small maglite.

Richard Sharpless
Richard Sharpless

August 19, 2016

With music, I give to others as I’m giving to myself.

Richard Sharpless
Richard Sharpless

August 19, 2016

I carry a Lexicon processor and an old Space Station pedal with a mic, cords, a Taylor mini- GS koa, a stand and they all fit into bags I can carry in one trip. If I provide the amp, it’s two trips.

Edmund Freitas
Edmund Freitas

August 18, 2016

All of trhe above and a few extra mics and cables can’t hurt!

B G Burton
B G Burton

August 18, 2016

How about a DI box – and some experience with actually using it, for both the player and the sound tech.

While all the items listed are essential “headache remedies”, and should be part of every gig bag contents, they’re all useless if (and when) an amp goes down.

Barry Yow
Barry Yow

August 18, 2016

Don’t forget a small flashlight . . . . . and if course Duct tape.

Rob
Rob

August 18, 2016

I bring everything Carvin listed and my trusty Colt Python just in case the promoter forgets to bring his checkbook. (or if the gig is “on the wrong side of the tracks”)

Bob
Bob

August 18, 2016

The most obvious: duct tape!
Also, you’ll need paper for those forgotten set lists.
An extra strap, just in case.
Extra mic clips. They break. In a pinch, see “duct tape”, above.
Extra microphones. I’ve know them to fail at very inconvenient times. The road is hard on equipment.
Strap buttons. Screws can come loose, especially on instruments which have been modified multiple times with strap-locking hardware. You’ll probably never need one, but they take up almost no space, so why not?

Scott Hausrath
Scott Hausrath

August 18, 2016

We drummers can get pretty hot onstage. A small oscillating fan, or a larger box fan, is a very welcome solution.

Brad
Brad

August 18, 2016

While I try to eat well throughout the day when I have a gig, I always bring energy bars to eat if I get hungry before we go on. I prefer that as opposed to trying to order food at the venue or roll the dice on something that may make me sick. At least I know I can get through the gig with a few Cliff Bars or Powerbars.

Paulie
Paulie

August 18, 2016

A medium-sized FLASHLIGHT is always in my case! It’s always a drag trying to check ohmage on someone else’s cab between bands if there’s a backline being used, don’t want to blow something up, etc…

ROBERT NILL
ROBERT NILL

August 18, 2016

You should pass on the full tool kit and just go with a good Leatherman-type multi-tool and a small mag-light-type flashlight, always essential for locating anything. A set of ring-mounted hex keys can help in keeping all your most used hex wrenches together and in easy reach, and a second guitar stand is a good item to have in reserve, as sometimes a stand gets damaged or misplaced. A back-up direct box is also nice to have on hand.

dennis malone
dennis malone

August 18, 2016

A multi-meter, or, at minimum, a continuity checker to check cables for shorts/continuity. Saved me at a gig when the PA blew its fuse. I checked the speaker cables and isolated the short.

Steve Campbell
Steve Campbell

August 18, 2016

Essentials for your gig bag, but they are not music related. BUT….if you don’t have them, you might find yourself running all around back stage asking everybody:
– aspirin
– finger nail clippers

Dennis Toomey
Dennis Toomey

August 18, 2016

Great list. I carry most of these items , but there were a couple I had not thought of.

Tim
Tim

August 18, 2016

You guys listed just about everything but a FLASHLIGHT. I always kept at least one in every guitar case, cord bag, rack case and one in my pocket. It is surprising how many times while setting up my gear before a show someone from fellow band members to sound techs needed to use one of them. You can never have enough of them handy and ready to use.

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