Gig bag essentials

Anyone who has ever:

  • travelled with me
  • spent the day at the beach with me
  • attended a concert with me
  • gone to a sports event, professional or to watch my kids, with me
  • gone to a movie with me
  • or pretty much anything where I leave my house…

knows that I always carry a lot of baggage with me (luggage, that is; my emotional baggage is a whole other story). And they’ve mocked me, relentlessly. Until they need something: maybe a band-aid, Kleenex, sunscreen, scissors, a snack… No matter where I’m going or what I’m doing I like to be prepared for any eventuality. This is especially true when I have a gig.

Whether you’re playing at a local bar, a friend’s party, or even an open mic, it’s important to be prepared. Getting on stage in front of an audience can be nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about a guitar battery dying in the middle of a song, or a string breaking right before you go on. Have you ever arrived at the venue and realized it’s been a while since you trimmed your fingernails? It’s not going to prevent the show from going on, but it just doesn’t feel right and may affect your performance. And you always want to play your best, right?

Dark bar before gig

While tuning my bass right before a gig in Singapore, my strap button fell off and rolled away. I was already sweating – due to nerves and the fact that it was 35C and crazy humid (which meant my hair was super frizzy, another stressor with which some of you will sympathize). But when that strap button fell off, with my bass narrowly escaping crashing to the floor, I nearly passed out. We crawled around in the dark on the sticky, grimy bar floor and, thankfully, we found it! My awesome “roadies” (good friends and family), were able to put it back on with the tool kit we’d brought and I was able to jump on stage in time.

When you go to a gig or rehearsal there are many items you should take with you, but we’ll start off slowly with a few essentials. I’m laughed at when I show up with all my gear but you’ll want to be my best friend when you realize you don’t have a capo!

  1. Batteries
  2. Ear protection
  3. Nail clippers and first aid kit
  4. Paper and pen/sharpie
  5. Extra pics, strings, cables, tuner, capo
  6. Power bars – the electrical kind, not the eating kind (although those can be useful, too)
  7. Business cards, banner, promo items, merch
  8. Basic tool kit: string winder, wire/string cutters, screwdriver
  9. Towel – you’re under those hot stage lights and putting on a great show, so you’re gonna sweat!
  10. Roadie, or really good friend to help you with all your stuff!
Gig bag essentials checklist

Of course there are more useful items, and instrument specific lists, but we’ll get to those another time. For now, make sure you have everything in this list to every gig and rehearsal. Your band mates will love you, you’ll be less stressed, have more fun, perform at your best and look like a pro.