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12 Items All Working Guitar Players Need to Keep in Their Gig Bag or Survival Kit
If you play the guitar or bass in a band as a working musician, or even if you just play as a hobby, there are certain things that you need to have with you at all times to make sure you can get the job done. In addition to keeping these survival kit items with you that are a necessity for all musicians, as a guitar player you'll also want to have a dedicated kit that will include the things listed below.
If you don't have one already, get yourself a small bag, backpack or case, and stock up on all of these items to keep with you anytime you're playing music. You can purchase all of these items for under $100, which is really cheap considering how much good it will do you. You'll be able to rectify any problem, have a back-up in case of emergency, have the confidence of always being prepared, and be able to just focus on playing some great music.
This should be obvious. Guitar strings break often. Strings for your guitar are like gasoline for your car. If you run out, your vehicle is useless. You always want to have back-up to your back-ups and make sure you have more than enough to avoid any embarrassing string-less situations.
Guitar players and bass players use a few different kinds of cables that have several functions. You should always have an extra instrument cable, speaker cable, and patch cord in your survival kit in case of emergency. Cables are close to the top when it comes to items that go south on you at a gig, so you always want to have extras of anything that you would normally use.
Guitar picks are easy to lose. It's a good idea to pack away extras in your gig bag and survival kit for the times when you forget to put them in your pocket before leaving for a gig. Many guitar players like to get personalized picks to give away to friends and fans, in which case you usually buy in bulk, so you'll have plenty to keep on reserve in your gig bag.
Guitar straps are pretty durable and will last you a long time even if you play frequently. There will, however, be a time when your strap breaks, and quite often it's at an inopportune time. It's smart to keep at least one extra strap in your back-up kit for yourself, or perhaps to help out a band mate that has met with the misfortune of a strap fail in the middle of a gig (or a song).
5. Wire cutters
These will come in handy in several circumstances during your music career. They are an absolute must to have for changing strings, but there will be many other instances where you'll need to snip something.
6. Nail clippers
Well manicured nails play an important part in the life of a guitar player. Some musicians like to make sure their nails are kept closely trimmed so as not to interfere with their playing, while others like to shape their nails for their own unique finger-picking style. Bass players that play with their fingers need to maintain proper nail length in order to get the best tone out of the instrument. Nail clippers are also good for snipping guitar strings in a pinch when you can't locate your wire cutters. Make sure to invest in quality nail clippers, as the cheap ones will rust quickly or break easily.
7. Guitar polish
Sometimes you want your guitar to look good. If you're playing a gig where there will be people taking photos, or if you're being filmed while performing on stage, you'll want your axe to look its best. A quick spray of some quality polish and a good wipe down with a clean cloth will remove the fingerprints, dust, dirt, and bodily fluids that tend to accumulate on your instrument.
8. Clean cloth
As mentioned above, quite often you want your guitar to look pretty. A cloth goes hand-in-hand with the polish, but a cloth can be used for several other things as well, such as wiping up sweat off of your hands or forehead, cleaning a small spill, or wiping down a previously used microphone. Keep one in your guitar case, and an extra in your survival kit.
9. String winder
Changing guitar strings is a tedious task, especially at a gig. You'll want to make your job a bit easier by using a basic string winder. Chances are you carry one with you in your guitar case, but it's also good to have an extra one on hand in case your primary tool breaks or gets lost. They're inexpensive to obtain and handy to have with you in your travels. Some even come with a clipper included like the one pictured below.
For guitar players that like to use first position chords in several different keys, a capo is a great tool to have. Many singer/songwriters use capos to make it easier to handle both responsibilities of playing guitar and singing, while also optimizing their voice by playing a song in a comfortable key. Even if you have one in your case, or permanently attached to your guitar, it's good to have an extra on hand just in case it breaks, you lose it or if you use more than one guitar.
Not every guitar player uses a slide, and even if you do and lose it, there are some other items you can use instead. But if a slide is a big part of your playing, it's good to keep an extra one in your survival kit...just in case.
12. Super glue
Many guitar players will use this little trick if they're playing often or for extended periods of time. Without strong calluses on your fingers, guitar strings tend to dig into your fingers and can be quite painful, even to the point where it hurts too much to play. A little dab of super glue on the fingertips can alleviate this problem as it creates a hard surface that shields the skin from string penetration. (Make sure it's dry before placing your hand on the guitar.)
You'll find many other uses for glue in your musical travels as things break quite often, and a readily available tube of adhesive will do the trick to fix your problem.