Gig Bag Essentials

For the working guitar player a gig bag full of essential items is a good idea for any challenging circumstance that may arise. Here is a list of essential items in no particular order. All items are important and could help to save the day on a gig or session.

  • 1- Strings. A couple extra sets for each type of guitar you are bringing to each performance.
  • 2- String winder and wire cutters. These will help speed up string changes. Always keep these packed close to your strings.
  • 3- Extra picks. You can purchase these by the gross and just keep them in your bag. Thumb picks are good to have for players that use their thumbnail in the event that your thumbnail breaks.
  • 4- Super Glue. A gig bag must for innumerable different types of repairs including fingernails and fingertips!
  • 5- Nail file. Perfect for jagged fingernail repairs or a small burr on a nut or saddle.
  • 6- 9 volt batteries. You cannot have enough of these on hand in case your power supply goes down on your pedal board or if a band member needs one. Some wireless units use AA type so a few of these are a good idea as well.
  • 7- Ground Lift. A simple ground lift adaptor can reduce hum from ground loops and reduce the risk of a shock from a vocal microphone. Also handy if you are playing in an old building with 2 prong outlets in the wall.
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  • 8- Gaffer Tape. Black gaffer tape can make a stage safe from excessive loose wires. Get in the habit of taping down all wires and cables so you can focus on playing. Gaffer tape can also be used to stabilize stands and secure charts. Another indispensable gig bag item.
  • 9- Power Strip. Great for staging areas that do not have many outlets. Be careful not to plug too many devices into the strip because it may be too much of a current draw and trip the “breaker” built into the strip. An extension cord can help locate the power strip where it is more accessible.
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  • 10- Tuner. If you do not have a tuner on your pedalboard it is a good idea to have one handy. Having one on your pedalboard that goes silent while tuning is great for re-tuning in between songs or sets.
  • 11- Fuses. Carrying extra fuses for your amp or any other piece of equipment are a great idea and they do not take up any room at all. Always replace your fuse with the exact current and voltage rating. Keep the spare fuses near the equipment. You can use a small piece of Gaffer tape to secure them in or on each unit so they are handy.
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  • 12- Aspirin. A band member with a headache cannot perform at their best. Cough drops are great to relieve singers in dry rooms.
  • 13- Band Aids. Another item that does not take up a lot of room and can benefit all band members.
  • 14- Gloves. Protect your hands on the load in and load out.
  • 15- Cables. One or two extra cables can be a life saver for your rig. One advantage of using George L’s cables is that they do not require soldering and can be repaired quickly with just wire cutters and a small screwdriver.
  • 16- Spare Guitar Strap. Just a cheap one for emergencies. I personally have had a guitar strap break and had to borrow one during the night. Luckily there was a musician that had one in his car.
  • 17- Flash Light. A small flash light (Maglite) is very useful for dimly lit stages or looking in the back of your amp or PA rack for that matter.
  • 18- Bridge Pins. A few spare bridge pins for your acoustic guitar is another great item to carry. If one breaks or goes missing during a string change on a gig, you will not be able to use that string!
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  • 19- Switch Tips. A spare switch tip just in case that one flies off your guitar during your performance. Have a few different ones for your guitars. It is better than switching on the switch’s metal shaft for the entire performance.
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  • 20- Tubes. Having a spare set of power tubes and one of each preamp tube is absolutely necessary. Leaving the tubes in the back of your combo amp instead of having them in your gig bag will help you change tubes faster if you need to. Another tip is to buy power tubes in matched quartets for an amp that uses a pair. Doing so makes the spare set matched to the pair so there is no need for onstage re-bias. You can buy octets for amps that use a quartet for the same result.
  • 21- Energy Bars. Many times you do not get to eat on a gig and a few energy bars can get you through.
  • 22- Pen, Pencil and Paper. Essential for making notes on charts or writing a lyric idea.
  • 23- Sharpie. Marks anything and is great for writing set lists.
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  • 24- Business Cards. Referrals are the name of the game so contact info is important.
  • 25- Tool Kit. Philips and Flathead screwdrivers, pliers, Allen wrenches (hex keys), Small wire cutters, string winder, DVM, and soldering iron/solder.
  • 26- Nail file & clippers. (Thanks to Roger Tremblay…I forgot this one Roger!!)
  • Credit: Stewart MacDonald, Sharpie, Littelfuse, Filmtools,Wikipedia.

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