Obviously we need a guitar, patch-cords, picks, our amp, etc. But, have you ever established what your critical pieces of gear are, the items that you "need" and use consistently?
These are the items that totally "have" to be on every gig. And, although they can be different person to person there are a number of must haves... This short article breaks down a number of "essential items," required to keep on hand from gig to gig.
Guitar players love gear! There's always something new that we want, (maybe it isn't something we absolutely need, but we always want stuff). But, what is the essential gear that we actually need?
Easily one of the important pieces of gear for the guitarist are their effects and pedals. I know that whether I'm playing an acoustic gig, or a gig on electric with a full band, I never leave for a gig without my trusted effects gear.
For many guitarists a series of favorite pedals will contour their sound on every gig. For me, it's the foolproof way of making most amps I use sound pretty great. I don't use a crazy amount of gain – normally a slightly driven clean channel and maybe (sometimes). Most of my sound is based upon chorus and reverb's. That's why I rely mostly on multi-effects boards. I find I can always work from most of their presets and develop a nice collection of patches that work well. The new ZOOM G5 is a personal favorite. The fact that it has the built in foot pedal and the tube booster allow it to create some amazing sound.
I have occasionally found myself in situations where I'm to borrow an amp I was unaccustomed to. Rather than struggling with unfamiliar foot switches and trying to wrap my head around amp channels (I'd never used before), getting a decent tone from the amp and then sticking the ZOOM in front of it for all of my effects has never let me down.
In a show environment, having a quick solution to these kinds of problems is essential. If you're not at a level where it's practical to be performing with a full backup rig, the ZOOM G5 can be a reliable way to nailing a quick, decent tones, with a switching method that isn't going to mess with you onstage.
If you've played in a number of clubs, or out-door concerts at night time, I'd bet you've come across trying to get all your gear onstage during a super-quick changeover, and that's when having a good reliable pocket flashlight can be a total lifesaver. I've lost count of the number of times I've been hunting around for a power outlet or trying to patch leads in behind another band's gear in a dark corner of the stage. It might sound obvious, but I spend the same amount of time using it myself as I do lending it to other people. Get yourself a decent quality pocket flashlight – it will last you and it will save you! My go to flashlight is the Streamlight 66318 MicroStream C4 LED Pen Flashlight.
Tape... Yes, Tape... If you play a lot of gigs you'll go through this stuff like there's no tomorrow. The two types I always carry are Premium Grade Gaffer Tape By Gafferpower and a roll of standard 3M Painter's Tape.
Whatever the onstage crisis, there's a good chance tape will be able to provide a quick solution which lasts at least until the end of the show. The luminous stuff is also great for marking out the edge of a stage so you don't go toppling over it in the dark.It can also be used to mark areas back-stage for grabbing miscellaneous gear quickly and easily.
YOUR TRUSTED AXE - SET UP AND READY:
Now, I don't mean to imply that you'd ever forget your guitar when walking out the door to a show, but I'm guilty of going off to a gig with my guitar in poor shape. Blame it of being too busy and all that, but it's still bad practice.
The guitar that will be used on a show should be in as good working order and set up as best as possible. Don't take off to a gig with really old strings, (especially on a nylon string). And, don't leave with loose parts, (including jack inputs and strap buttons). Make sure your axe is in solid working order, the strings are fresh, the electronics work 100% and the parts are all tight.
Having a poorly set up guitar on a gig can be a night-mare. Literally an accident waiting to happen. And, when you arrive at the event venue, test everything twice. Double-check all of the gear and know that you are totally ready to go when the stage lights fire up.
Now, there's a lot of stuff I left out, like your amp and other items, and it's not like those aren't important, but most other things can get swapped out. There are a number of times when I've used another person's amp, or a "house-amp," that a club keeps on-stage. But, I will always need my own guitar to be comfortable, and it feels way better to have my own effects unit to get my best tones.
Over time, most players develop a quick mental check-list for their gear. It's dead-rare that I'd ever forget anything these days. But, I used to forget gear ...years ago. I also used to be sloppy about keeping my gear in top-shape. And, after many terrible lessons I've definitely changed my ways.
Your own personal list might not look exactly like mine, but it is vital that you establish a list of your own. Because without clear awareness of your "Gear That You Can't Do Without," you will very likely forget or neglect something, and it not only affects your show, but it affects you mentally. And, you simply don't perform as well as you're able to when things go wrong as opposed to when things go 100% smooth on stage.