Whether you are a professional or play for fun the key to getting the most out of music lies with what goes on between your ears. This can mean anything from how you approach practice, your stage presence, earning money as a working musician to what gear you buy and use.
First things first… I hardly ever use a lot of this stuff but as they say ‘if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’.
Every single one of these items is in here because I have needed it at one time or another. Usually I didn’t have it at the time and had to learn the hard way.
The point here is to give you some ideas of items you may want to think about getting and also some things that might get you out of trouble in the future. Don’t worry about the brand of any of the gear here there are many options out there. DISCLAIMER: I do have a Fusion Gig Bag artist deal and love the products and use them all the time.
What I like about my gig bag is that it is somewhere in between a hard case and a padded gig bag and has tons of pockets to organise my things. I had to put this in the hold of a plane once and the ample padding did a great job of protecting my bass. I wouldn’t want to do this all the time… Sometimes this bag has been allowed onto the plane and sometimes not (this seems to depend on the airline and how busy the flight is).
The gig bag does get heavy by putting all the essentials in but I’m able to carry it on my back from the car with my entire MarkBass rig in one trip. Or I can travel on public transport with everything I need in one bag.
1.Cables. This is one area I spend as much as I can on. Quality cables are not glamorous but they do ensure you make no crackling noises and that your tone is projected properly
2.MarkBass Bass Keeper. This is my all time favourite bass accessory. It is so incredibly simple and cheap but does such an important job. I love gear like this. This attaches with velcro or you can wrap it around a speaker handle.
3.Earplugs. This is probably the one thing I’d recommend above all else. I have tinnitus (full time ringing in my ears) from prolonged exposure to loud music in bands when I was younger. It’s never really taught to look after your ears as a musician. I think it should be taught before you play a note. I use ACS moulded earplugs with a 20 dB cut. You can get decent off the shelf plugs which are inexpensive.
4.Paper, pen, pencil (with rubber) and sharpener. I’m moving more to the iPad and ForScore these days but sometimes last minute charts are necessary. Essential if you are doing a theatre gig.
5.9V batteries. Before I knew how active circuitry actually worked on a bass I had a Warwick bass that went flat on me during a gig. It actually had a push pull knob on it but I really was clueless back then! Always carry these if you have an active bass or pedals that you run on batteries (although think about upgrading to wall power for your pedals).
6.Charger. For iPad and iPhone. Especially if I’m using my iPad for charts.
7.Inhaler. I hardly ever need this but learnt to always carry one when I played a gig in a house with pet dogs. As much as I love dogs they set my asthma off and being able to breathe properly on a gig is a definite basic requirement!
8.SansAmp. This is an example of something I hardly ever use but gives me peace of mind. If the DI provided on a gig doesn’t work or is sub standard (I’d hopefully find this out during soundcheck) or my amp’s DI goes down for some reason I can use this. I could also use this to go through the PA without an amp and just use a monitor. Potentially very useful…
9.Spare strings. It’s very rare for me (and I suspect many bass players) to break strings on a gig but it has happened to me so I keep an old set in the bag just in case.
10.Fuses. I had an amp once that needed a slow blow fuse and I think it had the wrong one in it and kept blowing. Fuses are very cheap and worth having a few on hand.
11.Businesscards. Because I’m old school.
12.Power extension. This powers my pedalboard and amp and ensures I don’t have to worry about anyone else providing me with sockets – which can quickly become rare commodities on gigs! TIP: buy a black one as it looks smarter on stage.
13.Reading light. Just in case I need to read some charts and the stage lighting is too dim.
14.Fold up music stand. I carry a fancy music stand in the boot of my car but this does the job if I don’t have that one.
15.Tuner. This has been in my bag for years but I actually use the TC Electronic PolyTune Clip. It attaches onto the headstock of the bass and is amazing.
16.Plectrums and mute. Expands the range of tones I can create on a gig or
17.Leatherman. Has wire cutters and some screwdrivers.
18.Microphone cable. To connect my DI (I use the one in the amp mostly) to the mixing desk.
19.Spare strap. This came in very handy recently on a gig where the guitarist forgot his. I have a fancier one with Dunlop Straploks installed in the bag that stays in my car (see below). This one is fine though.
20.Allen keys. For any truss road and bridge adjustments. Especially after flying with the bass or if the bass is exposed to different temperatures which can throw things out a little bit.
21.Clothes pegs. A gig at the end of Brighton Pier with charts on a music stand on a windy day taught me that clothes pegs can be a great idea.
Bonus : ‘Luxury’ items
These are the things that are hardly ever needed but come in handy every now and again. The bag stays in the boot of my car.
I use a Fusion Workstation DJ gig bag for all this stuff.
1.Comfort Strapp. This has Dunlop Straploks installed as do all my basses. So if I lose a strap this one replaces it.
2.Black and white shirt. I’ve turned up to a gig before wearing a black shirt when everyone else was in white shirts…
3.Soldering iron and solder. My StingRay once cut out. It was due to lose wiring. It’s worth learning how to solder actually. It’s relatively simple if you learn properly and something that can enable you to make quick repairs that, otherwise, would be well beyond you.
4.Wash bag/ medicine kit. Just in case there’s an unplanned overnight for the band. There’s always someone who might need a paracetamol if not you.
5.Germolene. I’ve never needed this but people I know swear by this if you have a blister or cut and need to get through the gig.
6.Gaffa tape. Standard issue for the discerning musician.
7.Manuscript paper. For more intricate charts if required.
8.Small Maglite. Smartphones have replaced the stage torch but a good torch is never a bad thing to have close by.
9.Spare leads. For amp and pedalboard. I also carry a spare speaker cable and instrument cable (not pictured and, by the way, a speaker cable is a specialised cable. Don’t use an instrument cable for this purpose).
What have I missed? Comment below.