For many musicians, an instrument is like a child. If you can hear your baby screaming, "No, daddy, don't leave me!" as you drop off your instrument at a repair shop, you obviously care for your instrument. And it's important to keep a good amount of tools in your house, and on the road with you, to make sure you don't run into minor problems that could keep you from performing at any given night. If an accident happens at home, it may not be so bad, but you don't want to bust a string without a spare set handy on the night of a gig.
So, for your education and reading pleasure, I am writing an article on what you, as a musician and guitarrist, should keep handy with you at all times to take better care of your amplifier, guitar, cables, and whatever else you happen to have lying around.
Firstly, I would not suggest using a real toolbox for transporting around. For one thing, if you accidentally bump it into your guitar (or someone's kneecap), it obviously won't go over too well. An accident is an accident, but you don't want that accident to caust you a major dent in your guitar, or your bass player's ability to stand.
Get a nice, sturdy backpack. You can probably find some at Wal-Mart, or Business Depot for not a lot of money. Make sure it has plenty of pockets. The more the better. You don't have to use them all, but you don't want to be cramming too many things into one spot. A backpack is also convenient to carry. You can carry your guitar, in its case, in your right hand, your amplifier in your left, and all the other stuff you need on your back.
What you have in your backpack may depend on your gear. The basics you should have are: Extra cables, strings, power cables, plenty of picks, and a string care kit. Keep string lubricant, cleaner, string clippers and a peg winder on hand. These will help make changing strings much faster if you're in a fix, or help clean up your strings if your hands were dirty at the last time playing. On the note of carrying extra cables, you should have a cable tester on hand, to test cables if they croak on you. Planet Waves and Morley both make good cable testers.
Continuing on in the list, make sure you also have a chromatic tuner, and a metronome. You could also have a two-in-one metronome tuner. One I would suggest is a Traynor TT2M. I own one myself, and it is very versatile, and its only 25 dollars or so. Keep spare batteries for the tuner.
Depending on your make of guitar, make sure you have the appropriate screwdrivers and hex keys to adjust intonation, action and your truss rod. If you have a detachable tremolo bar, keep that with you, because you never know when you might need it at a jam session. Keep guitar polish and a soft cloth for cleaning on hand, too. You just might need to shine up your guitar for a crowd, or you could have it dirty and need to impress someone. You wouldn't go on an important date without taking a shower, so you won't do a big gig without a shined up guitar.
If you're using a tube amplifier, make sure you have at least one spare preamp tube and one power amp tube. Keep them in a solid container, so that if your bag is dropped or stepped on, your tubes will survive. This has to be one of the most important things - a broken tube shouldn't keep your band from jamming or earning a few hundred dollars at a gig. If possible, bring two extra of each kind, or maybe even a whole extra set of tubes. You never know what could happen. Inspect your backup tubes regularly to make sure they're in playable shape. It's also good to have a solder gun on hand, so you can quickly connect loose wires in your amp, if that should ever happen. It's especially important to have one on an open back amp, where wires are more likely to be damaged.
When bringing effects along, make sure you have a few extra batteries for the effects. Always have a daisy chain/multiplepower sources for each effect. Even if you have a power source, it wouldn't hurt to bring along a battery or two, just to be safe.
Along the lines of your effects, I might suggest putting them in small felt bags to prevent chips and dings. They harm the resale value of the pedals, and are less fun to show off. You want them to keep looking new so that potential future buyers aren't put off. It won't hurt how the effects play, but people can be very shallow sometimes, so keep your boxes in nice condition.
So, we've covered the basics. Strings, cables, power cables (for your amp and pedals), batteries, tuner, metronome, spare tubes, screwdrivers, trem bar, and hex keys. Lastly, if you wish, throw in some sheet music that you've either written yourself, printed off, or is in a book you have to show your band mates. After all, it's a good idea to have something written out so you can show something to your band mates so they know what you've got in mind. That way, it can be easier for them to suggest musical ideas in addition to what you've already got written down.
Remember: a prepared musician is a good musician. I personally have two different bags for my music stuff. One is a small cardboard box that I keep in my bedroom with screwdrivers, spare mouthpieces and a ligature (I play saxophone), and the pickup covers from my Strat, as I removed them.
In my other bag, which is a sort of briefcase which my dad got from his work and then gave to me, I have my spare picks, strings, sanding pads for my saxophone reeds, and my sheet music. I keep the receipt from my guitar in its gig bag. Always remember to keep that on hand if something really bad happens so you can take it back to the shop.
A few other things you may consider taking along with you to gigs are: a flashlight for working in the dark, sandpaper (coarse and fine grit), extra screws, pick holders that attach to your guitar, an amplifier cover, and if you're a bassist, a pair of thin gloves (many bass players have told me its easier to play with gloves on). Whatever you're carrying, make sure that you're not carrying anything useless. A water bottle is a great idea to have with gigs, but carrying a banana for a quick snack? Not going to happen. Wrapped up fruit bars would be better. Make sure its transportable, and not prone to rotting or breaking. Maybe bring a few CD's for musical inspiration at your band rehearsal, or bring a few of your band's demo CD's to throw into the crowd at a gig. Anything to help make your job easier.
Thanks for reading my article, and I hope what I've written will help you in the future!
- Backup Guitar