Preparing for Your Gig

You might not think it, but preparing for a gig is a logistical nightmare, especially if you are a solo artist.

For those in a band it should be a much simpler process with each member bringing their own gear and (in theory) being responsible for their individual equipment. Serious musicians are usually well organised and efficient at what they do but if you are talking about your average bunch of muso’s who get together every now and then to do a few gigs, then it don’t expect things to run smoothly unless someone takes charge.

You’ll notice with a lot of bands out there, there’s always one member of the group who’s got his head screwed on, organising things and making sure it all runs smoothly. Half the time the rest of the group don’t give a damn or are totally irresponsible anyway and couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery.

Drunk Band

It’s the same with everything in life, if you want to do something right, you’ve got to do it yourself.

If something goes wrong in the middle of a gig, expecting the guitarist to have brought spare fuses for the PA or the bassist to have a pair of pliers handy when everyone’s got stinking hangovers is just not going to happen. Someone’s got to take charge of the essentials.

Being a solo musician, you’ve got no choice anyway and if something happens to your equipment, you only have yourself to blame if you are not properly prepared.

The more equipment you’ve got, the more spares you’re going to need incase something goes wrong.

You might think when practicing at home or in the studio that everything’s fine and your leads and equipment are in good nick, but when you take everything down, transport it across the county, set it all up again and fire up the system, you’d be surprised at how many things go wrong at the other end. Often it is without warning and for no reason at all.

If you are out gigging and something goes wrong at ten o’ clock at night, you aren’t going to be able to go out and buy spare leads and equipment to solve the problem, so you need to have thought of every potential issue that might occur and be prepared for it when it happens.


Hard Work

Below is a list of stuff including spares and other helpful items that I take to my gigs. If you can afford it and have the space, you can keep much of it pre packed which will save you a lot of time but for me, doing a gig is still a ten hour round trip from start to finish. It’s a real mission and partly my own fault for taking so much equipment but it’s also down to the place in which I live.

For most gigs I take three guitars (two electrics and an acoustic) and a full P.A system. It’s not the biggest but it’s still pretty hefty for a solo artist. Some guys take smaller compact P.A’s to their gigs which will just about cover a small pub. These are perfect for acoustic gigs but unfortunately my set mimics a full band set up playing stuff like the Arctic Monkeys, Muse and Nirvana etc. so it has to pack a bit more of a punch.

I also live in town and on the first floor, so most of the time when I do a gig, I have to :

Restring three guitars, take down and pack my equipment, take it all downstairs, load the van, drive to the gig, unload the van, set it all up, park the van which could be miles away if you’re gigging in town, tune up and sound check, play for two to three hours, take it all down again, get the van, load the van, drive home, unload the van, take it all upstairs and then park the van which by the time you get home on a weekend at one or two in the morning, there are no parking spaces left for miles around, especially in Summer. Also, if I haven’t got another gig for a while, I’ve got to set it all up again the next day so I can use my studio throughout the week.

Getting friends to help out seriously reduces the time it takes to complete the process but you can’t rely on friends forever so be prepared for some seriously hard work and to do it on your own.

Make no mistake – it’s hard work and yeah, I could make my life a lot simpler by only taking one guitar but that would limit the songs I could play. Some songs need an electric, other songs need a down tuned electric and my acoustic is essential.

Both my electric guitars have double locking trems and you can’t spend ten minutes re-tuning them in the middle of your set every time you change songs. My playlist also differs every time I gig so I can’t just take one electric and re-tune in the break. So for me, if I want to play at my full potential, three guitars are a must.

Keeping It Simple – More Pay – Easy Life

I used to take just one acoustic to my gigs and stamp on the distortion to play heavier tracks in my set. It worked well but using an acoustic this way poses obvious limitations regarding feedback, volumes, soloing and fx, so after a year or so I started taking my electric. I then made some more tracks and found I needed two electrics to play them all. Life was much easier then but I’ve only got myself to blame for trying to take on to much.

Van Full of Equipment

You don’t want to be lugging shed loads of equipment around unless you really have to.

Remember – The more complex your set is, the more practicing you will need to do and the more equipment you will need to take. This will ultimately result in longer practicing hours and take much longer to complete the round trip for the gig. This reduces the amount you’ll be getting paid per hour for your time.

Some artists get away with playing two halves of 45 minutes and take just one guitar and a small P.A. I play for 2.5 to 3 hrs with 3 guitars and a full P.A, so guess who’s life is more difficult.

Keeping it simple is often better than trying to strain yourself by gigging with everything you’ve got. If you keep it simple you’ll have a much easier ride, although you might not find it so satisfying at the end of the night.

Gig Equipment List

This list is only a basic guide for you to work from but should contain most things a solo artist will need to get playing and a few other items that could help in an emergency. For a full band, just add each individual members’ gear and spares.

Straps + spare
Alan keys
Multi Screw driver + ends
Guitar stands
Mic stand
Spare mic holder
Speaker stands
Amp and Fx racks
Main speakers
Monitor lead
Mon power lead +spare
Mic lead + spare
4 Way Plug + Spare
Adaptor plug + spare
Main speaker leads + spare
RCA leads for cd + spare
Guitar lead + spare
2 x guitar fx to amp or mixer leads + spare
Ipod leads
¼ ‘ Mixer jacks to RCA leads + spare
4 RCA adapters
RCA to stereo jack 1/8′ lead
Microphones + spare
Pod live XT rack
XT power supply + spare
Mixer power supply + sp
Uni power supply + ends
iPod charged + case
iPod charger
iPod remote + receiver
Remote spare battery
10 m extension lead
Whammy bars
Van keys + spares
Back up cd player + tracks
Sweat cloth
Guitar cloth
Gig play list
List of all known songs
List of equipment settings
Demo cd’s
Business cards
Water bottle
Spare clothes
Cash + change for parking
Credit cards
Vehicle breakdown card
Spare electric and acoustic strings
Guitar spray
Spare 13 amp fuses
Spare plectrums
Capo’s x 2
String winder
Electricians tape
Pen knife
Ear phones
Throat spray or lozenges
Guitar slide


You can add extras like fags, medication, contact lenses, food etc. depending on your own individual needs and don’t forget beer for after the gig. As you can see I’ve got pain killers listed to keep recurring back pain under control if I hurt myself lugging equipment around. If you wear glasses or contacts, you need to realise that if you lose one or both, you may not be able to see anything and this could seriously affect they way you operate throughout the gig. Be prepared and don’t get caught out.

Weather Conditions

Spare clothing is really useful if you get soaked moving your equipment around in bad weather. Just because it’s hammering it down you can’t sit around waiting for the rain to stop, you still have to get there on time and do your job. In winter you can guarantee it’s going to be chucking it down every time you go out and do a gig.

If you haven’t got cases, you’ll need something to throw over the top of your stuff to protect your gear in wet weather.


I use an iPod and remote controls to play my home made accompaniment but also take a spare cd player in case it goes wrong. Spare remote batteries and connectors ensure that if anything suddenly stops working, I’ve got alternatives to back me up.

Chilli Peppers - Flea Naked

Flea forgot his slacks !

The simplest thing like forgetting your guitar strap can completely ruin your night and if you’ve traveled 40 miles to your gig you can’t exactly nip home and get it. Although a lot of these things seem blatantly obvious, it does help to list them and check you’ve got everything before you go. It will make your life a lot easier and could get you out of some sticky situations.

Other Posts of Interest

How to Get Gigs
From Home to Stage
Good Gigs – Bad Gigs

3 comments to Preparing For A Gig – What You Need To Take

  • Tom

    Hey – I’ve been gigging for years. All I’m using is am acoustic banjo a mic and a PA system. I want to play accompanying background with remote.

    How can I do that with an ipod (which i do not yet have)?

    Your comments will be greatly appreciated.



  • Hi Tom.

    I use an ipod with a Griffin Air Click. You just plug the ipod into your P.A with jack leads and adapters into the mixer.

    The air click plugs into the bottom of your ipod and runs of a small lithium CR2032 battery (I think) and the remote control is about the size of a lighter and can be hooked onto your back pocket.

    Once you’ve got used to the 5 control buttons on the remote, it is quite easy to operate and can be switched to use a frequency so no one else can tamper with it using another Air Click.

    It is effective but not recommended for precision triggering. Every now and then you’ll hit the ‘play’ and it won’t trigger first time, so if you are trying do complicated songs with timed intro points on a live set, it can be a gamble so best to use it for simple start, stop, forward operations.

    I use an ipod because I found that some mp3 players give out a tiny ‘click’ when forwarding through a song list. You can’t hear it normally, but at gig levels they are often unuseable. I use an ipod 5th generation which switches between tracks cleanly. There are a few remotes available for the ipod, I chose the air click as it is fairly cheap and simple with large buttons.

    I’d give it a 7/10. It does the job and is usefull, but not a ‘perfect’ triggering solution. There may be other more effective remotes on the market nowadays. Could do with updating mine actually.

    Hope that helps.


  • I have gigged for years and I think this article is great, with practical information. I have put together an eBook on performing and being in a band, if you’re interested check out my website.
    best in music,
    Les Wise

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