Five Things Bands Should Always Bring to Gigs (But Somehow Forget)

Forget these items at your peril...

Five Things Bands Should Always Bring to Gigs (But Somehow Forget)
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There's a lot to think about before playing a gig. You've got material to learn, a performance to rehearse, never mind trying to get people to come and watch you play.

Those things aside, you need to make time in your pre-show preparations to double-check what's in you gig bag. Because, there are a handful of crucial items that musicians tend to leave out. They're often small, and may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But, if you find yourself needing them and not having them, you're fucked.

So here are five key items you should always bring to gigs. Leave them at home at your peril...

Tuners

I'm still amazed by the amount of people I've seen asking to borrow a tuning pedal at a gig because they've either left theirs at home, or don't own one in the first place.

When you're packing your gear before a gig, your tuner should be the first thing to go into your bag. Because, while that one solo might be lacking without your boost or wah, everything in your set will sound shit if your guitar is out of tune.

On a related note, the bassist and guitarists in your band need to have tuning pedals as part of their rig. Not clip on tuners, not pocket tuners, but pedals. Clip-on tuners get lost. Unplugging your instrument to use a pocket tuner takes up time in which you could be playing music. Tuning pedals are accurate, quick to use and kill the signal from your guitar when they're switched on so that the audience doesn't hear you tuning up. The pros use them for a reason, so pick one up if you haven't already.

Back-Up Guitars

Ever watched a local band gig where a guitarist has broken a string on stage? Remember how the band stood around sheepishly for ten minutes while he/she replaced the string? Notice how you've never seen that shit go down at a Metallica concert?

If you're serious about playing live music, you need to invest in a back-up guitar. In the course of your career, string breaks will happen, as will all number of guitar related malfunctions that are less easy to prepare for. And, while the guitarists in the audience will probably be sympathetic to any technical mishaps, Joe public will get impatient watching you perform instrument maintenance on stage.

I know that a second guitar is a major expense, but your back-up instrument doesn't have to be to of the same caliber as your main axe. It just has to be good enough to finish the gig.

So dust off the Squier Affinity Strat or Yamaha Pacifica that's languishing in your cupboard, change the strings and get it gig ready. You never know when it might come in handy.

A Tool Kit

One of the guitarists in my band always carries a tool kit with him to rehearsals and to gigs. In it, he has a set of Allen keys, screwdrivers and spanners, as well as duct tape and marker pens. He even carries a mini-soldering iron. We used to laugh at him for his ridiculous level of over preparedness.

Then, one day during sound check, a guitar stopped working. Turned out a loose wire on the jack socket was the culprit. It was a simple fix, and we had the guitar back to full working order within about 15 minutes.

Because our guitarist had all the tools we needed, we were able to diagnose and repair the problem with minimal fuss. If he'd not been carrying that kit with him though, we'd have been fucked.

Prepare for any eventuality and bring a selection of tools. It might seem excessive now, but it won't on the day you need them.

Business Cards

If your band doesn't have business cards, get some made. If you do have them, take them everywhere you go.

If someone comes up to you after a show and is interested in your music, you need to give them your details. Writing down a website address on a piece of paper looks unprofessional, takes time and requires you having a pen and paper handy. Tell them your contact information verbally and they'll probably have forgotten it by the time they've left the venue.

Business cards are essential because they help you cement a connection with prospective fans, as well as promoters/producers and zine writers that are interested in working with your band.

If someone likes what you do, you need to make it as easy as possible for him or her to find out more about you. So make sure you have business cards in abundance - you never know when you'll need one.

Merchandise

On a related note, CDs, badges, t-shirts and posters should always be high on your gig-packing itinerary.

If someone has just seen your show and is enthused about your band, then you're in an ideal position to sell them some swag.

As with business cards, this one is about making it easy for people. If a person wants to hear more of your music, having a CD on hand is far more effective than telling them they can find you on iTunes, Bandcamp etc. Having a table set up with posters, t-shirts and CDs also makes your band look much more professional. And that professionalism has a positive impact on your prospective fans.

Your live show is the best sales pitch possible, so follow that up with a sale.

By Alec Plowman

51 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    franciscanv
    Might send this to the bassist in my band, who genuinely forgot his bass....Glenn Fricker would've enjoyed that night.
    iwannabesedated
    This is why it's nice to be in a band where the guitarist owns all the gear. I show up with my pedalboard and i'm ready to go.
    heavybassist
    what about some earplugs? tinnitus is no joke
    huesudo2
    Yeah, some hearing protectors would be nice. I'm even tempted to buy ones just for street use - gotta love a city with constant train traffic.
    heavybassist
    you'll do a huge favor to your ears by using them, I use them for rehearsals and gigs, my tinnitus is mild by now, I don't want it to get worse
    travislausch
    BATTERIES Do you use pedals? Do you have active electronics in your instrument? Carry a good supply of 9V batteries! And spare cables
    Way Cool JR.
    If you're gigging regularly you should certainly be using a power supply for your pedals, not batteries. The only exception I can think of is if you're a busker with no access to an electrical outlet. IMO you shouldn't even rely on batteries at home on your pedals. They are a complete waste of money, a pain in the ass to replace on lots of pedals and especially on big pedalboards.
    travislausch
    Agreed with that, but as I mentioned, pedals aren't the only reason to have batteries around. Let's not forget how many of us play guitars or basses with active pickups that require 9V batteries. And if for some reason your power supply fails, at least you have batteries for a backup. I seriously can't think of a reason having some 9Vs around is a bad thing.
    russellfvckingcrowe
    Dude, I remember the night before I played my second live gig ever: My pedal died right in the middle of practice the night before. I was so happy it didn't die at the gig itself. I second your post
    ryanbwags
    My battery died in my tuner as we were taking the stage one night. I managed to finish changing it just as the emcee was done introducing us. Damn.
    Skrazor
    I know this isn't about guitar problems, but for or our last gig, I totally forgot about my mic stand (I was playing guitar and singing at that time) so we asked the other band to borrow theirs. Turns out, they also forgot about it (also guitarist/singer) and we all were about an hour away from our respective rehearsal rooms and homes. Luckily the promoter knew someone who knew someone. Would've been a pretty awkward gig otherwise.
    knægt
    My did almost the same thing once, where the venue provided full PA, but not mic stands, so we made an alternative one with a guitar stand, a shovel, and duct-tape.
    Skrazor
    I'm trying really hard to imagine that right now Oo
    Grif22
    Tape the mic to the side of the shovel near the top, perpendicular to the handle, tape the bottom of the shovel to the guitar stand so the stand acts as a tripod. I've had to make do with a Christmas tree stand and a curtain rod before
    GameSkate
    That looks like quite nice gig gimmick, with mic stands made of some random junk.
    Kyyper
    so why didn't your over-prepared friend just pop out his bullet strat instead of waiting 15 mins?
    huesudo2
    Sound check =/= the actual gig. Without the tool kit, they'd be down to just one guitar and no backup; and you know how Murphy's Law goes.
    bit64
    in case of active pickups, batteries.
    sombrero_mop
    Specify what batteries to get too. Lets just say that my bassist believed he could hook up his car battery to his bass. God help me.
    MrWeenie
    Spare powerboards, instrument cables and IEC cables are also really useful to have on hand. Someone will forget theirs.
    jaegerd
    If you don't have backup guitars, at least have strings! And guitar picks! I was in a band with twin lead guitars and it amazed me how many times the other guitarist would bum a guitar pick from me.
    weird_kid
    Power strips/extension cords are very important. All the gigs I've gone to we had one power strip provided by the venue to power all our pedal boards and amps.
    copperwreck
    +2 if I could to this comment. Your bass player will have forgotten that he needs 600W+ and shouldn't be on the same phase as you - but he's got a 60cm power lead. Both your guitar players will have brought three extra pedals. Your drummer will have his fan and the tambourine player will want to plug in his beer cooler.
    PoloSG68
    I'd say clip on/headstock tuners are actually pretty handy, especially if you've got to save space and don't have a pedalboard. Also, I've found one of the most important things I bring to gigs is a torch. When it gets dark at the end of a gig and the lights are down, fiddling around the back of an amp is so much easier when you can actually see what you're doing!
    The Tempest
    Tuning pedal is a little excessive imo. I've got a tuner in both my amps (practice and gigging). In any case, a good guitar shouldn't go out of tune mid-set.
    Metalisnotmusic
    1. Very few amps (except entry level ones) have built in tuners. The only amp I can think of that has one would be a Line 6. As far are gear good enough to gig with, I can't think of any. 2. Guitars go out of tune mid set all the time. Once you've heard a guy with a Floyd Rose go more than 3 songs without tuning, you really see the use of a tuner pedal.
    Xomar
    if you're playing a two song acoustic set, sure - you might not need a tuner. if you're playing more than a song or two and actually strum your guitar with some gusto, you're gonna wanna tune every other song. Also - my addition to this list: power strips! I can't tell you how many times I've had one outlet to work with...
    ogdv88
    I second that. I get that it's useful, but not a must. If you have a clipper tuner your good to go if you don't want to expend in a tuning pedal.
    ryanbwags
    A good tuning pedal will set you back less than $50 these days. That is not "expending" anything.
    Michael1_4
    The band I'm in we play about 5 drop tuned songs, usually right at the beginning of one of the sets so I always have two guitars with me--one with standard tuning, the other drop tuned. This way I always have a backup guitar. This way both guitars get used too. Also, I find the clip on tuners work fine. They take 2 seconds and you're all tuned up. I don't like a million pedals, just more to trip over.
    stereosmiles
    I was at a gig once where the guitarist rocked up and sheepishly asked if he could borrow a lead. Then he sheepishly asked if he could borrow a guitar strap. Then he sheepishly asked if he could borrow a plectrum. At least he was sheepish. Later on, I discovered everyone called him Woolly. True story.
    kwalker007
    An old laptop case from Goodwill or Salvation Army will hold almost everything mentioned above. I would add a spare AC plug for an amp, a couple lengths of speaker cable with colored tape to ID separately from instrument cables, a 3 to 1 ac adaptor, a cable tester ($25), electrical tape, and one spare amp head.