What You Need for Your First Gig?

In this article I will be explaining the items that are helpful to any guitarist that is about to start giving their first performances. This tool kit list will mean that you can deal with any mishap you find in your adventures as a gigging guitarist.

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So you have learned some chords, jammed with friends and are ready for your first gig. Aside from a guitar, lead and amplifier there are some essential items that guitarists will find handy as they start performing gigs.

My guitar gig bag contains a large array of items that are necessary to have in preparation for any gigging situation.

Inside my Guitar Gig Bag:

Tuner - essential for any musician. Any practice, rehearsal or lesson should start with making sure your instrument is in tune. Guitar tuners are inexpensive these days and are also helpful when needing to use alternate tunings. You can also get tuner apps on your phone!

Strings - don't let your first time on stage be ruined by a broken string. My personal string choices are:

Electric Guitars - D'Addario 10 - 46 gauge - these allow me to get a heavier tone than thinner strings and still allow me to bend the strings easily enough. The thicker the string the less chance you will have of breakage and the more volume and sustain they can also give.

Acoustic Guitars - DR 12 - 52 gauge - acoustic strings are always much thicker wire as they need to produce more volume and sustain. I like these strings because they hold their tone over many performances and break less than other brands I have tried.

Picks - find which guitar pick suits your playing. There are many different sizes, shapes, thickness and materials they are made from.

Leads - always have one spare lead with you. I have had three leads stop working at gigs in the last month.

Wire Cutters - helpful when restringing guitars.

Power Adapters - for powering guitar pedals you may use.

Slide - for playing some blues and variety in lead playing.

Powerboard and extension lead - make sure you will have enough to be powered up.

Kettle Leads - most amplifiers and speakers run off these cables .

Gaffa tape - holds up band banners, keeps down leads, tapes on broken guitar straps.

Screwdrivers - one flathead and one Philips head for quick repairs and tightening loose screws.

Microphone Leads - for acoustic guitar DI boxes or microphones.

Torch - stages are dark places when setting and packing up.

Capo - never know when a singer plays a song in a different key

Allen Keys - to change string height (action) or for locking tremolo guitars

Fuses - the simplest repair to an amplifier is changing a fuse. Hopefully if you find your amp in disrepair at a gig will just mean replacing a blown $2 fuse. Get the appropriate one for your amp.

Arming yourself with a kit of these tools will mean you are ready for any hurdles you may face at your first gig and in future. This is just the starting point of your musical journey and a brief introduction to the world of gigs and performances. 

About the Author:By Rhys Lett, owner of the Eastern Suburbs School of Music in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. We have more of these practical insights to music available to you on my website blog at www.essm.net.au we would be happy to help you further.

62 comments sorted by best / new / date

    bit64
    Also: -some aspirins.In case you get a headache. -a generator.In case of a blackout. -a magnifying glass.In case you drop some small screw. -a good book.In case you get bored. -a glass of water.In case of a hiccup. -some tissues.In case of a sneeze. -food supplies.In case of a long setlist.
    Ben Baczenas
    Although I agree with lots of stuff here, that's a ton of stuff for someone just starting out as they play their first gig(s).
    GEBUSCHRIST
    I can tell by the use of the word "leads" that the writer and myself are from different countries. In the US you can replace "leads" with "cords". Kettle leads can be replaced with 1/4" speaker cables.
    Zan595
    Until I noticed the language difference, I assumed he meant an actual 'torch'. Could be a rather metal way to light the stage up, actually.
    tehawesomness
    he used the word torch instead of flashlight, he's British I guess. I wondered what leads were. thanks for clarifying
    Vrstone87
    It is amazing that you picked up on that but failed to pick up on the bit in the About the Author at the end..."Melbourne, Australia"
    AlanHB
    I think the writer is referring to what is colloquially known in Australia as a "jug plug". http://www.swamp.net.au/images/productim... I would be very surprised if you used these as speaker cables.
    Slap-happy
    I've lived in Melbourne 8 years and never heard "jug plug" - kettle Leads or "IEC" is far more common.
    AlanHB
    I have lived and still lived in Australia, being born here and of Australian nationality. I've used the term "jug plug" before, it wasn't something I made up for the purposes of the comments on this page.
    Br0c00ler
    This sounds like you're preparing yourself for an apocalypse on stage. Who restrings their guitars during a show? "Hold on guys my string broke, lets stop mid-song for 5 mins so I can restring". Take just the things you need and spares of little stuff like picks or batteries, not your whole toolshed, and practice care with your equipment.
    esky15
    I've had a string break during a song. I switched to my other guitar and restrung it between sets.
    ledzep426
    Or just play without that string for the rest of the song like Jack White. He doesn't seem to flinch when he breaks one onstage and it happens often.
    theogonia777
    I'll have you know that some people actually require all of their strings to be intact to play their music, thank you very much.
    jordanwessling
    Actually Dave Mustaine did on the very first Metallica gig according to Lars. If you break an Important string and you don't have a back up guitar what choice do you have, like whats Metallica without the low E String?
    crazysam23_Atax
    People who are prepared bring extra strings. Seriously... FR users, fyi, bring 2 guitars. Secondary guitar doesn't have a FR. The main one does.
    Zaqq
    Not everyone owns 2 or more guitars.
    mjones1992
    If you gig on the regular, it's something to look into. I mean, it doesn't have to play like a hot knife through butter and sound like the breathe of god himself, but it's better than changing strings on stage, especially if it's a complicated guitar to change strings on.
    ryanbwags
    Don't forget 9v batteries. We always kept a pack in the band bag for gigs. Between 3 wireless systems and several pedals (my tuner pedal being one of them) we used them a bit.
    AlanHB
    I'd like to add that in a live situation a tuner pedal is far superior to a standard tuner.
    Kueller917
    I'd assume you should at least plan beforehand what key you'll be playing songs in to avoid surprise capo requirement. Still a nice tool to have.
    Jimjambanx
    Though most of these are good to have, half of the things you mentioned would be absolutely useless for a very first gig. Who the hell adjusts their truss rod in the middle of a gig?! Do that before hand, if this is your first gig you'd think that you'd check that. And if your amp blows a fuse on your first gig, you probably should be using a better amp.
    theogonia777
    After all, the writer did totally make it super clear that his intent of bringing things for adjusting the guitar during the set and certainly not for when they get to the venue and are setting things. And it is also a good thing that, apparently, fuses on good amps (since we all know that nobody would dare show up to their first gig without a 4 digit tube amp) don't ever blow. That is very good to know. And while we're at it, we might as well specifically mention that you shouldn't need to bring extra strings because if you change them beforehand they won't break. Same thing with cables. You shouldn't need extra cables if you're doing it right. And you know... picks. Don't think we really need those either. Same thing with the capo and slide. We also don't need Allen keys since we should tune and lock our Floyd Rose guitars before we leave home. For the same reason, we can leave our tuner home as well. We also don't need the wire cutters because we have already decided that our strings won't break and we don't need the screwdrivers since, because we are using quality stuff, nothing will ever come loose or need to be unscrewed. Yup, I guess half of the things he mentioned are useless. Also I would like to make a note that TS did, in fact, specifically mention that all of these things are 100% necessities that any and all guitarist will definitely 100% need. After all, why bring anything that you aren't 100% sure you'll 100% need? Being prepared for emergency situations is overrated and totally not rock 'n' roll anyway. Yup. I'm glad that we have all of that out in the open.
    Jimjambanx
    I have to disagree with you on the picks and tuner. Not all bands play in the same tuning for every song, and if your playing more than a few songs in a row, you need to be able to re-tune between some songs. And I think you should bring at least a few spare picks with you, picks aren't made of glue, and it gets pretty sweaty on stage, so picks slipping out of your hand are a big issue, having a few in your pocket or something can be a life saver. Other than that, the rest aren't necessary for a first gig.
    theogonia777
    I was mocking you because what you said was silly. I thought it was obvious.
    Jimjambanx
    So your saying that for your very first gig you should bring a allen key with the intent of adjusting your truss rod and a spare fuse in case you have a shit amp that blows on your very first gig? If this were long term, sure, but the writer made it clear that this is for your first gig, not playing a 2 hour show in a stadium whilst on tour. I've played a couple times and the only things that were necessary were my equipment, some picks and some power supplies.
    theogonia777
    You say that like the writer is saying that you are definitely going to be adjusting your truss rod. What if you get to the venue and your guitar is on a stand and gets knocked over and needs an emergency adjustment? The whole point of being prepared is for if things go wrong. Hopefully your fuse won't blow and your guitar won't get wonked up. But those kinds of things can and do happen, and so why should you not have all of the necessary items to deal with such situations should they arrive? Also... is it really that big of a deal to bring an Allen wrench or two and some spare fuses? I mean, that stuff takes up all of... almost no space whatsoever. It's not like an Allen wrench weighs 90 lbs or something like that. And in case you didn't know, the fuse on a non-shit amp can blow too, especially if your amp is old. And uh... a lot of people that are playing their first gig are probably not going to be using amps with 4 digit price tags (as I have previously mentioned). Really, you have absolutely no reason not to be (over)prepared for your first gig, or any for that matter.
    Jimjambanx
    Yeah there's certainly nothing wrong with bringing those things, and they will help for a worst case scenario, but the writer pretty much says that these things are essential for a first gig, which I just don't believe so. They are things that you should consider bringing if you're worried about your equipment getting messed up(which shouldn't happen because for a first gig you should ensure before hand all your equipment is in tip top shape) but in terms of essentials, your equipment, power supplies, some picks and a tuner is enough. If you plan on playing a lot more gigs afterwards however, you should bring those things.
    theogonia777
    "They are things that you should consider bringing if you're worried about your equipment getting messed up(which shouldn't happen because for a first gig you should ensure before hand all your equipment is in tip top shape)" The way you keep saying that, it sounds kind of like you're trying to say that if you make sure the equipment will be fine, nothing can go wrong. I mean, if you want on a camping trip for the first time, surely you would make sure that your first aid kit had everything you could possibly need. You wouldn't just say that, because you plan on being careful, that you don't need anything more than bandages and aspirin. You bring everything that you could need... just in case. And this stuff that the writer is suggesting is like a first aid kit for your guitar.
    crazysam23_Atax
    @jimjanbanx: But they kind of are essential, from the standpoint of...wanting everything to go well at your first gig. You don't want to be the guy who can't do his f*cking job and play guitar, because something happened to go wrong. If you can fix it at the venue (before you play), then isn't that better than sitting there going, "I dunno what to do now..."?
    theogonia777
    After all, the writer did totally make it super clear that his intent of bringing things for adjusting the guitar during the set and certainly not for when they get to the venue and are setting things. And it is also a good thing that, apparently, fuses on good amps (since we all know that nobody would dare show up to their first gig without a 4 digit tube amp) don't ever blow. That is very good to know. And while we're at it, we might as well specifically mention that you shouldn't need to bring extra strings because if you change them beforehand they won't break. Same thing with cables. You shouldn't need extra cables if you're doing it right. And you know... picks. Don't think we really need those either. Same thing with the capo and slide. We also don't need Allen keys since we should tune and lock our Floyd Rose guitars before we leave home. For the same reason, we can leave our tuner home as well. We also don't need the wire cutters because we have already decided that our strings won't break and we don't need the screwdrivers since, because we are using quality stuff, nothing will ever come loose or need to be unscrewed. Yup, I guess half of the things he mentioned are useless. Also I would like to make a note that TS did, in fact, specifically mention that all of these things are 100% necessities that any and all guitarist will definitely 100% need. After all, why bring anything that you aren't 100% sure you'll 100% need? Being prepared for emergency situations is overrated and totally not rock 'n' roll anyway. Yup. I'm glad that we have all of that out in the open.
    esky15
    I'd have to add. 9 volt batteries and/or an extra power supply. I've had one die on me before. I also always have a 2nd guitar, but obviously not everyone has multiple instruments.
    crazysam23_Atax
    "Power Adapters - for powering guitar pedals you may use." It's right there. You're the 2nd guy who failed to see this...
    esky15
    "Extra" I said. I've had one fail on me, and the pedal doesn't take an internal battery.
    theogonia777
    I have never heard of gaffer's tape as being called gaffa tape before, but I guess that is apparently what it is sometimes called. Anyway... Since you did not mention exactly what gaffer's tape is, I should mention it since it is very important to know why to use it. In film/video production, the gaffer is the person that is in charge of lighting. That being so, it shouldn't be a surprise that gaffer's tape is designed specifically for lighting equipment. For those that don't know about lighting, here are some of the demands that tape for such a task would need to be good for: -Lights use electricity. Lights also have wires. Therefore lighting requires tape that is resistant to electricity. -Lights get very, very hot. Therefore a tape that is very heat resistant (both the tape itself and the adhesive stuff) is needed to avoid melting or burning. -Lights can be heavy, but tape is not really used to tape heavy lights to the ceiling or anything like that. Still, wires need to be taped down, filters need to be taped on the front of lights (heat resistant metal filters; cardboard will cause a fire), and lots of other things. The tape doesn't need to be super heavy duty, but it needs to be heavier than Scotch tape. -Lighting is moved frequently. This means that the tape should be easily removable and should leave as little residue as possible since tape will be applied and reapplied to the surface many, many times over the life of the light/cable/etc. -Tape is needed in a huge variety of lengths, and so the tape must be easy to tear by hand to a specific length. -Everything in filming is usually black. Therefore gaffer's tape is black. Gaffer's tape is designed to meet all of these needs. However, because the stuff is pretty serious business, it is extremely expensive (just look up prices and you'll see what I mean). Therefore, particularly for a band that is starting out and probably pretty broke, I would suggest having duct tape or masking tape for all applications that don't specifically call for the necessities of gaffer's tape. Also when buying tape, particularly gaffer's tape, spend the extra few dollars and get legitimate industrial stuff. It may be expensive, but having shitty el cheapo gaffer's tape can result in the tape shitting out on you, which means that wires will pull up and lights will get pulled down, people will trip, things will catch on fire, etc. It may sound ridiculous, but all that stuff can and does happen.
    Pastafarian96
    Both the author and I are Australian and we call it 'gaffa' tape, we also call sunglasses, 'sunnies,' bottle shops, 'bottle-o's' and all manner of weird sh*t other names. It's because we are not as pedantic.
    theogonia777
    I wasn't being pedantic. I was just making a comment that I have never heard it called that before. Don't take things so personally.
    Fisheth24
    I'd like to mention DUct Tape too, just as it's always handy to have as you canb tape down setlists, lyrics and of course leads and pedals that happen to go walkabout on stage. Just a thought!
    ryanbwags
    That's what gaffa tape is for. in all fairness, good gaffa tape is about 4 times more expensive than the best duct tape.
    AlanHB
    Just as a heads up, some venues do not allow you to use duct tape as it can mark their floors (think nice wooden floors). Regardless gaffa tape is more suitable for taping down cables to the floor because it's a lot easier to remove, you can rip it easily to get the correct length, can stretch a little if the cables move and does not make horrible marks on the floor or cables.
    haifisch234
    At my first gig I didn't even have my own amp. And the band didn't have a bassist. That was weird.
    Sleaze Disease
    I always carry a toolbox with most of this stuff to every gig I play. In mine, I also have a pair of leather work gloves, baby powder (for sticky hands), and the most important thing: gum.
    festivalinhell
    As a stage tech i would like to clarify some terms. First off this is pretty great. Leads = Cables. It is gaffers or gaff tape not gaffa. I haven't the foggiest idea what a gaffa is but it most certain isn't a word.
    AlanHB
    Here you go mate; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaffer_tape Gaffer tape, gaffer's tape, gaffing tape, gaff tape or gaffa tape is a strong, tough, cotton cloth pressure-sensitive tape with strong adhesive properties. It is used in theatre, film and television productions as well as during live performances and any other kind of stage work.
    theogonia777
    It is a known fact that different terms aren't ever used for the same thing in different parts of the world, after all. Also I would assume that "gaffa" is the non-rhotic pronunciation of "gaffer". Not that hard to figure out.
    link no1
    For a first gig I would say this is way too much, unless your first gig is supporting some well known band. The only way I can see it being anything but a questionable venue on your first time is if you joined a pretty established band and with that, I would expect them to make sure you know what to bring (assuming they know it's your first time) On my first gig I just turned up with my amp, guitar, leads and a few picks. I was a bit under geared but it was a good learning experience regardless, and still about enough equipment for a first time.
    Zaxsk8
    Apart from all the electric stuff, all these things live in my guitar case. Strings, string winder/cutter, slide, capo, allen key, picks, tuner. They don't take up a lot of space and can come in handy even if your gig is just jamming with some friends in the park! I always figured this was what the extra pockets on gig bags and the central storage in a hard case were for?
    KG6_Steven
    In addition to the items listed in the article, my gig bag also contains spare tubes, batteries, handheld Tascam recorder, guitar strap, microphone, Velcro cable ties and some other items. Preparation is key.