The MacGyver Kit for Musicians

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Happy Saturday morning to you all!!! Since the weekend is upon us and most of us are undoubtedly mentally checking out for the next two days, I wanted to throw out a quick Montana geography lesson… you know just to keep you on your toes.

Billings is a town roughly 140 miles due East of Bozeman. There, that’s it your geography lesson for the day…

Currently, I am in the middle of a 3 show swing through Billings and a light bulb went off… If I forgot something back in Bozeman, I would have a four hour (280 mile) round trip to make if I had to go back for that lousy special proprietary power cable that I absolutely need…. Phew that hasn’t happened… yet…

So heeding the scout motto of “always be prepared” I have compiled a list of must have gig accessories, and just extra stuff that you will need in a pinch. Think of it as the Macgyver kit for gigs. Now granted, this isn’t a complete list, rather suggestions that may help you in a pinch, and ultimately, might actually save the gig.

First, I must explain the organization; I tried to organize this list with the concept of actual electronic signal flow in mind. I start with the actual power source, to the sound equipment, to the instrument, and then the musician. I hope this helps you survive the summer gigging season and if I forgot anything be sure to leave a comment it will most certainly help all of us out.

The MacGyver Gig List:

Power

  1. Extension Cord(s) – These seem like a no brainer, but I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to a gig and the power source is way over there and I need to play hundreds of feet in the other direction. Make sure to bring two different lengths a 10-15 foot and something a bit longer…100 feet should do.
  2. Edison Cables – These are the wonderful little universal power cables that have a trapezoid looking thing on one end and a standard three prong power adapter on the other. These cables power up mixers, speakers, and even amps… having two or three extra is never a bad idea.
  3. Power Strip – You always seem to need one more outlet… no matter what. So bring 6 extra. I highly advise bringing two extra power strips to any event… there is always that one extra thing that needs to be plugged in and it is awful nice to have room for it.
  4. 9v Power Supply – If you fancy yourself a pedal user (effects, tuning, or otherwise) having an extra 9v power supply is crucial. It’s possible that the one you use on a regular basis could go at any moment or your bandmate might need one in a pinch.
  5. Batteries – So you must have at least two extra 9 volt batteries and a couple extra watch batteries (CR2032). These take up nearly zero room and will absolutely save the day when in need. If your pickup goes out, first thing you do is change the battery if it has one, if your pedal goes out and you forgot your power supply (see above) pop a battery in, and of course the all important clip on tuner… those always seem to go out at the absolute worst times… hence the watch batteries.

Sound

  1. XLR Cables – Please even when you think you have enough XLR cables, get yourself one more. You can never have enough of these buggers laying around. Always make sure to have plenty at varying lengths.
  2. Instrument Cables – Just as necessary as the XLR cables. 1/4” instrument cables seem to fail much more frequently than XLR so maybe do yourself a favor and keep two in your rig.
  3. Microphone – Make sure to have an extra vocal mic always. You never know when you will need it, either to replace an existing vocal mic, or to emergency mic an instrument.
  4. Direct Box – Have an extra DI available in case one goes on the fritz. These are tiny and easy to bring along… also, they can prove absolutely precious in certain emergencies.
  5. iPod Cable – No we are not djs here, but if you take a break and fancy yourself playing some nice intermission music you better have a way to get your iPod or other sound source through your sound system… otherwise it will be pretty quiet during your break.
  6. iPod (or other break music source) – See above… if you are taking breaks in between your sets and forget your iPod it will be awful quiet.
  7. Gaff Tape – The most beautiful invention to keep tangled cords out of the way, keep the stage organized, and keep guests of the event that you are playing from tripping on cords. A wonderful tape that leaves no sticky residue… prefect for that 50 foot extension cord, or all of those mic cables you just had to run across a walkway.
  8. Mic Windscreens – Nothing can ruin a perfectly mic’ed situation like that low rumble of the wind. Do yourself a big favor, get a windscreen for each of your mics (if you use them) These will save you I promise… and they are squishy… they don’t take up hardly any room.
  9. Mic Clips – You never think you need these, but boy do they come in handy especially those little thread adapters as well. Bring two or three of these… unless you like the look of gaff taping a mic to a stand… yep… had to do that once.

Instrument and Accessories

  1. Guitar Goodies – Bring extras of all the following: Strings, Picks, Capo, Strap, Strap Button, Tuner, and anything else you deem necessary to play your instrument. You can never have enough extras of these items. These are the essentials, and why not have some extras for that just in case moment.
  2. Guitar Stand – Nothing worse that not having a place to put your instrument in between sets. Get one of those fold up stands they don’t take up too much room, and really are convenient when you get to take 5.
  3. Multi-Tool – If you have to cut the ends off freshly changed strings, or tighten a screw on a tuner, there is no sense in bringing the whole tool box… just a multi-tool that will do the trick right then and there.

Extras

  1. CDs – If you have got them, sell them. Don’t ever find yourself at a gig without cds to sell, people love taking a piece of the performance home with them. Not to mention, it is a chance to gain fans and get your music out there beyond just the performance.
  2. Business Cards – Don’t forget these, you could get another gig or even meet a fellow musician that wants to play or collaborate. These little buggers are essential for networking and meeting folks.
  3. Directions to the Gig – Yep… even with iPhones and GPS, you have to know where you are going, otherwise there will be no show at all. Take two seconds and print them out before you leave for the show, you will be very pleased when you arrive at the right place.
  4. Tarp – Sometimes mother nature doesn’t have the same plans for the show as we do, make sure to have a tarp or some sort of rain guard just in case… and if you live in Montana make sure to have two of these handy.

Remember, the show must go on. Make sure to bring some (maybe not all) these extras along so that your show can go off without a hitch and everyone from the guests to the musicians can have a great time.

Happy Summer Pickin’!!!

Cheers, Tony

ABOUT TONY

Tony Polecastro is a certified “guitar geek” who drinks three super sized coffees every day. When he’s not doing YouTube guitar reviews for the Acoustic Letter, he teaches guitar, dobro, and banjo to over 50 students locally and worldwide via Skype. You can get free tabs and video lessons for the Acoustic Letter demo songs on his website tonypolecastro.com