UG editorial team. A group of people who are passionate about guitar and music in general.
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...
TunersI'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 GuitarsEver 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 KitOne 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 CardsIf 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.
MerchandiseOn 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