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Lessons from the Road: Be Prepared

Date:2020/2/14 15:28:14 Hits:

As I’m sure you know, “be prepared” is the global mantra of the Boy Scouts. “Always be prepared” should, in my opinion, also be the motto of every gigging musician.
Why? Because I’ve not only witnessed lack of planning and preparation instantly transform gigs from pleasure into pain, but I’ve also been guilty of it myself! And I’m not talking about not being able to play the songs in the set back to front either; I’m talking about failure due to seemingly inconsequential things, such as lack of flashlights, guitar stands, tools, tuner, spare cables, strings, and batteries — stuff that’s so obvious it often gets overlooked or forgotten. As my dear dad used to say, “Stating the obvious is often essential; otherwise it can sometimes cease to be obvious anymore!”

So, make a checklist of gig essentials and then actually abide by it. I’ve seen seasoned road warriors turn up to gigs without “obvious” items, such as a guitar strap, a tremolo arm, a Floyd Rose wrench, or an amp footswitch — and, believe it or not, even guitar picks! Because stuff happens, silly oversights are often the invariable collateral damage of said distractions. The result? A gig suddenly becomes a nightmare.

To avoid this, I not only have a pre-gig checklist, but I also have two “show survival” boxes and a bag that I double-check the night before. My checklist contains the following (your list will vary, depending on the instrument you play and your rig):


* Tuner
* Strings
* String winder
* Picks
* Batteries
* Spare cables (guitar – long and short, speaker, and power)
* Essential tools
* Whammy bars
* Flashlight
* Fuses
* Straps
* Power strip
* Extension cord
* Tape
* Guitar stand
* Amp channel switch pedal
* Stompboxes
* Pedal power supplies
* Nail clippers

1. Keep a spare guitar on the stage, in tune, and ready to rock. A broken string mid-song is never fun — especially if your axe has a floating whammy bar set-up as the remaining five strings will invariably go sharp because the whole bridge will move.

NOTE: A cautionary tale for bass players: I’ve not only heard bassists say “I’ve never broken a string…ever,” I played with one! He had three basses but would never bring a spare to a gig because he’d “never broken a string…ever”! Then, at a show in a biker bar, “never” happened – in the second song of the set. And, to add insult to injury, it was his A string that snapped and that’s a pretty pivotal one in a metal band! He got through the gig OK but it wasn’t great as some of his lines were understandably missing.

At the end of that fateful second song, the singer made fun of him , saying to the crowd: “This idiot has more basses but didn’t bring a back-up because he never breaks strings…well, he just did – if you wanna punch him after the show, you have our blessing!”

And guess what? Yep — one of the bikers punched him on the shoulder after the gig…not hard, but hard enough to give him a dead-arm. “Your singer said I could do that,” the biker said with a grin. “If that ever happens when you’re playing here again, it’ll be your nose that gets it!”

So, let this be a warning: if you’ve got a spare bass, take it — especially if you’ve got a quick-mouthed singer and you’re playing in a biker bar!!!

2. If you have a spare amp, then take that too — better safe than sorry. My spare amp — just in case my trusty Marshall JVM210H has an issue? A 100-watt BOSS Katana Head because it’s compact, light, affordable, cuts through a mix ?and rocks.

My simple theory is this: If I bring a spare, I probably won’t need it. But if I don’t have one, I invariably will! With all these “peace of mind” ducks in a row, you can minimize panic, misery, derision, and possible disaster. Your full focus can be on having fun and giving 110% on stage.

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