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Written by Bill on November 12, 2014 – 8:14 pm -

MacGyver 1I’ve always been one to try and live by the motto, “Always be prepared”.  Some of my close friends have been known to jokingly call me “MacGyver” when it comes to fixing things, or trying to make substitutions for something that’s missing, when completing the task at hand.

I carry that mantra with me when performing live and thought I’d share my essential top-ten items that I take with me, when performing my solo-acoustic shows. While these items are not in a specific order, I’ve found that keeping this inventory has saved my rear more than once!



Extra Strings – So you just put on a brand new set of strings yesterday?  Well…what if that high-E strings snaps on the first strum of the first tune? It happened to me! There’s nothing worse than having to play a whole night with five strings. Always try to keep a fresh set of strings in the storage compartment of your hardshell case or pocket of your gig bag. I even throw in a couple extra high-E strings along with a couple extra wound G-strings. I’ve found, over time, that either the nut slot or contact point of the string at the saddle can form small nicks or burrs that will cause the string to break when hit too hard.

Extra Bridge Pin – This one is definitely important. If you experience a string breaking while playing in a dark club, nine times out of ten, the bridge pin will pop out and sail across the room, into the dark unknown. Unless you have bat-like hearing and hear where it hits the ground, you’re out of luck. Here’s my secret – I take a small piece of black gaffers tape and tape an extra bridge pin to each guitar strap of all my acoustics. This has saved my ass countless times.

Extra Cables – You never know, your cable may short out or you may have a guest performer. You may have another member of your group forget to bring one. I use a stereo Y-cable for my main instrument cable from my instruments to my pedal board. Good luck finding a specialty cable like that hours before a show. I travel with two extra’s! It’s also a good idea to have a couple extra short patch cords if you use a pedal board with f/x pedals. If you sing, bring an extra XLR mic cable as well as an extra microphone.

Small Tool Kit – Ever find yourself doing surgery to your axe minutes before the show? Best to have a small tool kit with essential items such as: assorted small screwdrivers, a peg winder, string cutters, super glue, a nail file, pliers and whatever else is important to you in maintaining your guitar.

Gaff Tape – I’m talking about the almost $20 dollars a roll, good quality fabric stage tape, not silver duct tape.  Rather than carry a whole roll with you, try applying several long strips on each side of your guitar case.  That way, if you need a piece you can tear off what you need.  I’ve found this technique to be somewhat clandestine as most players don’t see black tape on a black case.  They think it’s on there to hold the case together!  Plus, if you choose to carry a roll of the ‘expensive stuff’ with you, all  the musicians you perform with will see you coming and want to be your best friend!  You’ll get tired of hearing, “Hey!  can I have some of your tape?”

9-Volt Batteries – If you have an internal preamp in your guitar or use f/x pedals, they need power. Keep a couple extra batteries in your case or gig bag. I find that even when buying new 9-volt batteries, they’re never quite at 9-volts. I test each one with a volt meter before installing. I also will take a black Sharpie and write the date and voltage level on them. I tend to get about 4-6 months out of one. Remember, If you leave the cable plugged into your guitar and f/x pedals, it’s sucking the battery life down. Always get in the habit of unplugging your cable when you’re not playing!

One of Those Telescopic, Magnetic, Thing-a-Ma-Bobs – I think the correct name is a Mechanics Magnetic Wand. It’s a telescopic rod that has a powerful magnet on the end. Mechanics use it to retrieve metal nuts and bolts that fall down into the hard to reach areas when working on car engines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped small screws, washers and nuts on dark floors or on between small cracks of a wooden stage and can’t find the pieces. Simply waving one of these across the floor is bound to help find the lost parts. This miracle-tool saved me one night when I was loading out after a gig. I pulled up my car in front of the club and after loading out, I dropped my car keys down a sewer grate! It was only about a foot deep but the magnetic wonder tool saved the day!

A Bicycle Chain and Lock – But your asking, “I’m not bringing my bike to the gig.” No…keep one on the handle of your guitar case. If you have to leave your instrument unattended, whether in a dressing room or on stage, lock it to something so no one can take it.

Business Cards/Promo Stuff – If you’re rocking the house most likely people will come up during the breaks and tell you how much they’re enjoying the evening. Be ready to promote yourself and hand out your card. I’ve recently started using a digital business card app on my phone that allows me to send my contact information directly to the person. This is also a great way to get email addresses for your database.

Freshen Up Kit – If your working hard onstage you’re bound to work up a sweat. I keep a fresh tee-shirt, small hand towel and a small travel deodorant in a gallon ziplock bag, in my gear case. You don’t want to scare people away after the show!

I’m sure each of us has our preferred list of items needed for gigs and I would be interested in hearing what items are important to you, when performing live. Feel free to contact me with your thoughts on the Contact page.

Peace, Love and Altered Tunings!


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