With all the gear and instruments we have to lug along on our shows, keeping it all in good shape is a constant battle. While maintaining our instruments, pedal boards, cables, power supply, strings, and jacks in good order can be quite a task, they spell the difference between a good show and a bad one. For example, you shouldn't wait for your guitar to start having playability problems before you check the intonation, clean the pots, etc.. Below, we list a few tips to help you keep your gear ready to rock.
Organize Your Pedals
You do not want to be the musician or band that steps onto the stage to be met with a cesspool of power adaptors, cables, and stompboxes. Do not be the musician that spends half an hour untangling your cables because you carry your pedals in a duffel bag or backup. Not only will this make you look unprofessional but it will also rob you of the time you could spend getting ready for the show. It is always advisable to find casing and size options suitable for your cables and pedals not only to make them last longer but to get you ready for more important aspects of the show like soundcheck -- or getting everything else set up!
Check And Double Check Cables
These are some of the most unglamorous components of your equipment yet arguably the most critical. A day or so before every show, try and check for any broken or unreliable cables and replace or repair them if you are good with a soldering iron. It is always a good idea to have a few extra cables in your show bag just in case what you have breaks down before or even during a show.
Replace Your Strings Regularly
At least once a month you need to get a new set of strings for your main ax. Getting new strings is one of the easiest things you can do before heading out for your gig that will significantly enhance your guitar’s sound. Old strings have nasty microorganisms and corrosive dirt that may distort your sound. With a new set of strings, you get a clear tone that your audience and band mates will love. Always have an extra set of clipper/string winder and strings in your gig bag just in case anything goes haywire.
Be Aware Of The Elements
Extreme dust, humidity, cold, and heat pose the greatest risk to your instruments on the road. When temperatures average less than 75 or higher than 80 degrees, you will need some form of climate control to prevent your gear from being damaged by the elements. You need to know your instruments including how they are affected by the elements. Wooden instruments such as cellos, violins, guitars, and pianos require more care than your brass horns or electric keyboards. This is because wood tends to contract in dry, cold conditions and expand in high humidity and heat. If it is freezing or sweltering you need to consider investing in a humidifier for your gig instruments. You can read more about this topic in our Combating Humidity And Temperature article.
Store And Unpack With Care
If possible, you should store in their original cases above ground level in the center of the room away from open vents and drafty doors. Release all tension strings on stringed instruments if you will be on the road for some time to avoid warping the neck or breaking strings. If you are going to store the pianos for an extended period, you need to wrap your bench, pedals, legs, and lid in thick padding. The longer the instruments have been in storage, the more careful you need to be when unpacking them. You do not need old veneer sticking to you piano pad when you need to get out onto the stage to perform.
Keeping your gear in working is the best thing you can do if you regularly gig. While some of the information above might not be new, it is important to remind yourself every so often of the importance of maintaining your gear.
Your Turn to Sound Off!
How do you prepare your gear before a show?