This guest post was brought to us by our friends at Andertons.
While you’ll always consider your own instruments and equipment when prepping for gig, the devil is often in the detail. You never know what you might need on-stage or during sound check – better to be over-prepared than under-prepared right? Here’s a list of handy bits that are worth having on you:
- Duct tape – gaffer tape will also suffice. Keep cables safely tied up or locked down, ensure your setlist stays put, silence hecklers – you get the idea.
- Tools – a screwdriver, a wire cutter and set of Allen keys will go a long way. If (and when) a fitting comes loose mid-set or a string snaps, you’ll be ready and waiting.
- Torch – we’ve all done our fair share of clambering around behind the backline trying to find plug sockets. Pick up a compact torch for less than a fiver and have it on-hand just in case.
- Pen and paper – what if the set changes last minute, or you need to convey a top-secret message to the mix engineer? You’d be amazed when a marker and notepad may come in handy.
- Earplugs – ear protection of some kind is always essential. Many in-ear monitors provide adequate protection, but if you don’t use them, simple foam earplugs make a huge difference – it’s not worth the risk!
- Spare plectrums – we’d say that this is a no-brainer, but we’ve all been caught short before. Stick a couple of plectrums in every pocket imaginable, as you may lose a few along the way.
- Spare strings & sticks – crucial for peace of mind, especially if you’re a hard hitter. Strings and sticks break all the time, but sod’s law dictates that it will happen during your first song!
- First aid – there’s no harm in taking a few extra precautions, though it may seem over the top. Plasters, painkillers, maybe a bandage or two – low-flying beer bottles are a genuine health hazard.
We’ve all had to get by with that old cable, but there’s always a risk that it’ll fail mid-song – sod’s law again. A set of reliable cables will go a long way (excuse the pun), especially if you’re a frequently gigging musician.
Cables come in all shapes and sizes; XLR, jack, MIDI and so on. But many manufacturers nowadays offer a number of variations, including coiled/curly, tweed, right-angled – you name it, we’ve got it. Make sure your cables are sturdy, suitable for your setup in terms of length and design, and always have a spare or two. We stock top-notch cables from the likes of Ernie Ball, Whirlwind, Fender and more, as well as decent affordable options from Stagg, Tourtech and our own brand.
Cases & Bags
While some instruments come with their own bag, sleeve or case, it doesn’t always happen – outside of the guitar world, it’s actually quite a rarity.
A decent carry case or bag is always going to be a sensible investment. Whether you’re a solo performer catching trains from town to town, or a full-time touring band, you’ll want to protect your instrument. Many manufacturers sell special cases for their own products, but for those that don’t, Gator, Hiscox, Mono and Tourtech (among others) offer all manner of protective bits and bobs – you won’t regret it!
If you’ve done your fair share of gigging, you’ll understand the important of being able to hear yourself on-stage. If you haven’t, take it from us – it’s crucial!
Now this may be stating the obvious, but it mustn’t be taken for granted. While you may crank up your amp or be submersed in your drum kit, it’s very easy for sound to get lost in a live situation – this can prove disastrous, especially for bands and ensembles.
Nowadays there are plenty of solutions to this. All decent venues provide some form of foldback monitoring, usually in the form of wedge speakers at the front of the stage. But as we stated earlier, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared; personal monitoring could be anything from your own wedge (see the Studiomaster Livesys5) to a set of in-ears, which provide detailed sound and hearing protection simultaneously.
Get Your Own PA System
Again, the vast majority of the places you’ll play – from pubs to professional venues – will have an in-house PA system. They come in all shapes and sizes, but you generally see the same sort of thing from place to place.
But that’s not to say you can’t acquire your own to cover yourself. This is especially useful if you’re a solo performer, a function act or of a niche style; you may not play conventional venues, you may perform off the beaten track from time to time, and so on. Being able to offer a full end-to-end performance, including your own tailored live sound, can be a huge selling point for a musical act.
If you fancy totally covering yourself, get ahead of the game – kit yourself out with your own PA system. Brands like JBL and Bose specialise in incredible compact/portable PA systems which offer easy setup and incredible sound with a tiny footprint. Brands like Alto and Yamaha offer full active PA systems, which require minimal effort to set up and pack down. Finally, you could go all-out with a power amp & passive speaker system (see QSC, Electro-Voice and more) – though these are often reserved for venues and larger setups. Check out our guide to PA systems for more info:
It’s an easy way to get yourself out there, explore new audiences outside your comfort zone, and maybe make a bit of extra cash along the way – busking. Many artists cut their teeth on local busking circuits (Ed Sheeran had a busking phase before the whole superstar thing!).
If you’re considering busking, you’ll need a relatively easy setup that requires minimal mains power (or preferably none at all). The Roland Street Cube and Boss Katana Air are both feature-packed battery-powered speakers that are great for guitars and other instruments, with the latter offering totally wireless connectivity – handy.
You might be after something a little more all-encompassing. As mentioned earlier, many manufacturers offer nifty portable PA systems that are great for busking and on-the-go performance. Check out Alto, LD Systems and Laney for great compact all-in-one speakers!
Compact Pedalboards & Switchers
Guitar pedals are a habit – whether they’re a good one or a bad one is up to you to decide. We certainly don’t plan on quitting any time soon. But while it’s great having a lengthy signal chain with all manner of whacky and wonderful effects, it’s not necessarily the most practical from a gigging perspective.
Having loads of pedals on stage can mean an awful lot of lost real estate and plenty of tap-dancing – there are two ways around this. First of all, consider shrinking your board – it sounds obvious and somewhat blasphemous, but you’d be amazed at how much of a difference it makes taking a couple of stompboxes out of the chain. Less changes to think about, less that could go wrong, it’s a fair bit lighter, and so on. Brands like Pedaltrain and Pedaldeck make excellent compact boards that’d work perfectly for a downsized gigging setup.
Alternatively, consider investing in a switcher. Switchers allow you to route your whole board through one master set of footswitches and controls. While this doesn’t necessarily downsize your rig, it helps an awful lot with on-stage switching. Imagine being able to instantly switch to your lead setting without having to stomp on 4 pedals at once! Check out Boss, Walrus Audio and Voodoo Lab for great switcher options.
You’ve probably come across a DI box both live and in the studio. Everybody uses them, and there’s a reason for that. But what does a DI box actually do?
In the simplest terms, a DI box (direct injection) takes an unbalanced signal and makes it balanced. Unbalanced signals are carried via a single signal, which is susceptible to background noise and loss of clarity. Balanced signals feature ground, live and return currents, meaning they shut out any nasty interference.
Having a DI box will allow you to plug your unbalanced instrument (guitar, bass, keyboard etc.) into any desk or input for a crystal clear sound. This puts you one step ahead of the venue or performing space, ensuring that – as always – you’re over-prepared rather than under-prepared. DI boxes start from as little as £30, depending on the one you got for – a super handy bit of kit that might just save the day!
Take total control of your live sound with a compact mixer. While the mix engineer at your local venue will accommodate your rig and monitoring needs, taking it a step further can be hugely beneficial, both for you and your audience.
A compact mixer can allow you to carefully tweak the levels of different parts of your setup, from volume to EQ to pan, as well as have a direct isolated output for personal monitoring. This is especially useful if your rig has multiple components, like a laptop, keyboard/synth and guitar; hear everything with crystal clarity on stage and personalise your mix so that it’s just the way you like it!
Rack-mount Your Rig!
There’s something to be said for a cranked valve half-stack with an array of shimmering st ompboxes – it sounds great, looks great and feels great. But as we mentioned earlier in the article, you’ve got to consider the practicality! Sounds super boring right?
With the advancement of technology in recent years, amp modelling has become increasingly accurate, affordable and compact. Brands like Kemper, Line 6 and Boss all produce top-quality tone hubs with everything built-in. Further still, many of these brands also offer rack-mountable version of their gear.
This leads us to our final tip: consider a rack-mounted guitar rig. Whether it’s a modelling amp, or a power amp with a tray of always-on preamp and overdrive pedals, rack-mounting is a great way of consolidating your tone, effects and utility (wireless systems, tuning etc.) into one handy box. This box, often not much bigger than your average guitar head, can then easily be connected to a guitar cabinet, DI box, mixing desk – you name it. Brands like Gator and Tourtech produce excellent pro-grade rack cases for you to fully customise your neat & tidy portable rig!