As guitarists and bassists, we’re often moving our instruments around, getting ready for concerts or meeting up with other musicians to play. Be it gigs or rehearsals, jam sessions or composition sessions, here are a few essential items you should always have with you.
This is obviously one of the biggest things every guitar player needs. It might go without saying, but this is definitely not something you want to leave at home. Ever tried to play a show sitting in a folding chair or a bar stool because you forgot it? Here’s a cheap, no-nonsense one from budget brand Harley Benton that will do the job. Or splash out on a Richter suede strap.
These are the perfect way to protect your guitar. Certain ones, like those from Ernie Ball actually add a little depth between the strap opening and the guitar. This gives a bit of a different angle that I find much more comfortable to play, especially with guitars that have a small or rounded upper horn area, like a Les Paul. That could be good or bad depending on your preferences, but it’s something to keep in mind. Then there is the style like the DiMarzio Click-Locks, which integrate into your strapping system. On the more basic end some are circular that go over the strap button and have a rotation lock. All that matters is that you keep your investment protected. Dunlop also has the highly rated StrapLok.
It doesn’t need any explanation, but I like to keep a few different gauges on hand. Some players, like me, use a different gauge for electric and acoustic. You never know when a step in either direction will benefit your sound! Dunlop’s handy pick holder keep things organised, preventing you from having to root about in your pocket during a gig…
Strings always break at the most inconvenient times. Having a spare set on deck can be a lifesaver in the most dire moments. Sweat from playing, climate, and general wear and tear can quickly reduce string lifetime, so having fresh ones around can help give your sound a nice tone boost. We all know the leading brands here, from Harley Benton Value Strings through to excellent D’Addarios. My favourites are these:
We all know that capos raise the standard pitch of the guitar, which is useful for a number of reasons. If you have multiple guitar players in the band, using the capo on one of them can be a great complement to another guitar without one. A cool trick is that you don’t have to capo every string either. Just using it on a few of them while leaving the others open can open up a world of new chords and ideas.
You can seriously extend the life of your strings by using string cleaner. It can also make the guitar more fluid to play by getting the gunk off of the strings. It really helps you to get that much more life out of your strings if you wipe them down immediately after you play.
These are really useful. They’re easy to see in a dark environment, and they can help free up tone suck in your pedal chain by removing the floor tuner. Some even have practice tools, like a metronome. Get one.
This selection is debatable, but I can’t tell you how many times keeping my Tech21 British in my case has come in handy. Amps break and house backline can be bad. So being able to go direct into a recording interface or mixing desk and get great sounding amp tones with the twist of a few knobs is a solid backup plan.
A tech kit will save your life in a variety of situations. You’ll at least want it to include some wire cutters, allen wrenches, and screwdrivers to adjust your truss rod, bridge action, and intonation as needed. I keep tools like this in an SM58 microphone bag. It’s compact and fits nicely into the case.
Stages are full of tight, dark spaces. These days all of our phones have a flashlight, but I recommend getting a small one that is battery powered or rechargeable. LED is probably the best option because they provide the most illumination.
This is one of the last items most think to carry with them. The music business is all about networking, so why would you not make the best presentation possible? You’ll run across all kinds of people you’ll want to build relationships with. Other artists, venue owners, promoters, even fans. Make sure you have a formal and easy way to get them your contact information.
A lot of music gear requires batteries. Preamps and pedals most likely take 9V, but some acoustic guitar preamps use AAs. It’s at least worth it to have spares of whatever you need. And if you’re using them to power your pedals, remember to unplug from the input when not in use otherwise it will drain them. Then you’ll definitely need a spare!
Wiping down your strings, polishing the body, removing dust. Having a cleaning cloth will help to keep your guitar looking and feeling great. Microfiber is the best choice.
So, what’s in your gig bag? How many essentials do you always carry to gigs with you? Let us know in the comments below.