Do an online search on ‘accessories for gigging guitarists,’ You may find yourself looking for hours at all of the results that come up. Sure, every guitar player should have a good set of items that support your playing, but do you need all of them?
Most likely not. The ones that you do need can depend entirely on your situation and environment. Some, like extra strings and stuff, is a no-brainer. But others you may not have a real use for if you’re the type that mainly sticks to playing at home.
If you’re a gigging musician, on the other hand, that’s a whole different scenario. If you’re fortunate enough to be gigging, the absolute last thing you want to do is be unprepared. Murphy’s Law does exist, and things can go wrong when you least expect it. Having the right set of accessories (some big and some small) can help make sure your gig goes off without a hitch.
The ‘right’ extra guitar
So you’re jamming along.everything is going great…the audience is into things and giving off a great vibe.
Then it happens. You break a string. Or, all of a sudden you start to get some weird grounding hum. Or, your guitar quits working altogether.
This is the prime reason for having a backup guitar. Now, to be sure, if your gigs demand multiple guitars, to begin with (that is, you have an electric – or several types for different tones, an acoustic, a 12-string, etc.), then it may be a bit much to have extras for all of them.
At a minimum, we’d recommend one solid backup electric (or, obviously, an acoustic if that’s what you primarily play). With a good electric, you can still pull off the majority of your set, even if you have to sacrifice varied sounds (single coils vs. humbuckers, for example) or play that acoustic song with an electric tone instead.
“Puberty was very vague. I literally locked myself in a room and played guitar.” Johnny Depp
The bottom line is that it will get you through until you have time to see what may have gone wrong, to begin with.
The ‘right’ guitar stand
Multiple guitars mean having a way to get to them if you need to quickly. This can mean just having them out to switch guitars for various songs, or having your backup ready to go at a minute’s notice.
Leaving your other guitars in their cases will make it hard to switch in a timely fashion, and having individual stands for each guitar can take up space on the stage (which can be very limited, to begin with at some venues). Our recommendation is to get a single stand that will comfortably accommodate as many guitars as you need to pull off a successful show.
The ‘right’ backup rig
If your preference is to use amps, then it may be safe to say that many players kind of fly by the seat of their pants in a live situation. Most do not have several amps, at least not ones that they would want to lug around to every gig as a backup. Some amp problems (such as a bad tube) can be taken care of if you keep a set of spares, but switching one out at a gig isn’t the right time to do something like that.
Fortunately, guitar players have a lot of options these days. You can get a small practise amp to have as your backup; it may not sound as good as your main rig, but it’ll be a heck of a lot better than losing your amp and not being able to play.
Another choice to strongly consider is the world of amp modelers. Numerous manufacturers make them these days, and the level of quality (tone-wise) has increased dramatically as technology has advanced. Some units may be stomp pedal sized packages that may simulate an amp, or you can get more expansive units that have both amp modeling and effects in them.
Maybe a modeling solution?
Modelers do take some getting used to if you have always used a real amp. Still, the benefits are undoubtedly real: sounds that approach using real amps, onboard effects, small form factor/package size, and cost (some of the models available today can produce amazing sounds for much less than you’d pay for a good amp).
Some players migrate to using modeling units exclusively and merely having another one as a complete fly rig/backup. But that’s a story for another time.
An assortment of spare instrument cables
Guitar cables can – and do – go wrong. You’ll do yourself a favor by having a few extra just in case they do fail.
One recommendation is to buy quality cables, to begin with. Yeah, this may cost you a bit more upfront, but you’re much more likely not to be having things go bad on you right at the wrong time. Your backups should be of the same quality as well.
It’s easy to cheap out on this – don’t do it! Personal experience has shown us that getting a bunch of no-name cables online at a great price doesn’t mean a lot if most of them die out with regular use. Get ones that have a reputation for being durable, and having some warranty is never a bad thing either.
The ‘right’ assortment of tools
Alright – you just broke a string. Because you are smart, you managed to pull out your backup guitar to make it through the set. Now you have a few minutes to get that string changed and have your number one guitar back in operation for the next set.
Until you realize that you don’t have the tools you need to get the job done.
This is just one example – a prepared guitarist will have an assortment of the tools needed to take care of just about any issue you may encounter. For example, if you’re an electric player who uses certain types of tremolo bridges, you have to have a good set of allen wrenches and a string cutter to get things moving again.
Let’s say you have a guitar (like a Strat) with a through-body design for the strings. What if a string snaps, but you can’t get to the hole in the back of the trem block because you leave the back spring cover on (yes – you should still be able to get to it through the holes in the guard, but they don’t always line up very well). In this case, having a small screwdriver can save the day.
Acoustic players aren’t immune here either – have you ever tried to get a bridge pin out by using your fingers? Not exactly the easiest thing to do, if not almost impossible. In this case, a pair of needle-nose pliers or an actual pin puller (yep – these do exist, and they are pretty cheap) will take care of things for you.
The ‘right’ power options
Everyone’s rigs are different, for sure. So it’s logical that what you would need to power your gear will be different as well.
Some may use multi-effects units that require separate AC power, therefore needing a power supply. Have you ever had one fail? We have, and it’s not fun by any stretch of the imagination. It’s always a good move to have one as a backup.
What if your guitar has some battery-powered preamp system (more common in acoustic guitars, but can be found in electric models as well)? If you don’t keep fresh batteries around and change them frequently, you may start to notice some weirdness going on during the gig. Your tone may begin to suffer, and you might lose things altogether if it goes dead. Batteries are cheap – change to a fresh one before every gig, and keep some spares around just in case.
The ‘right’ accessory bag
OK – so you’ve got what you need to cover almost every situation you can think of: extra strings, instrument cables, picks, tools, a tuner (if you don’t have one in your signal path already)…well, you get the idea. You’ve got to have something to carry this stuff around in, right?
General-purpose bags are a must-have in this case. Does it have to be an ‘accessory bag’ which is designed for this, but may carry a premium price? Nope. Countless guitarists have made do with camera bags, laptop bags you name it. The point is to have something that will let you safely carry your accessories and be able to organize them at the same time (that is, having different compartments for different things) reasonably.
Having all of the right guitar accessories as a gigging guitarist will keep you in the game no matter what situation you may encounter. It shows any potential client that you are professional and prepared, and that can be a huge deal if your line of work includes higher profile (and higher-paying) gigs like private events and weddings.
Most of the smaller things – like cables, power supplies/batteries, and tools – are pretty much must-haves that won’t break the bank. There is a point where you have to assess your risks when it comes to the bigger ticket items. For some semi-professional musicians, the cost and troubles of having a complete backup rig may be a bit much to deal with on a gig-by-gig basis.
In the end, you should have all the guitar accessories which you feel are needed to pull off the perfect gig without a hitch – each and every time.
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