Touring Tidbits

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So you know all those little things that you wish you thought of to bring on tour?  Well I’ve made a list of “Touring Tidbits” to help you out.  These are not the obvious things like guitars, socks, underwear – these are things that once you’re out traveling and something stops working – you will look around for how to fix it and these are those things.

Pencil  

Really?  I’m going to start with a friggin’ pencil?  

Yes.

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Just a regular pencil.

As someone who tours a lot with an acoustic guitar and is pretty hard on gear, I’ve learned to be able to fix a lot of things in a pinch.  Have you ever had the endpin jack/strap button for your acoustic pickup fall out?  Or maybe it came loose.  Or maybe the acoustic pickup has stopped working.

A pencil will help you out quite a bit because you can jam a pencil into the output jack when you’re trying to put it back in the hole.

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Perfect size.

What?  Did that make any sense at all?  

Let’s say you have the strings off and are trying to put the endpin jack back in place – you take a pencil and, from the outside, line it up with the jack inside the body of the guitar and you will be able to easily guide it into place.  Without that pencil you might be there a long while trying to line it up inside the guitar and if you’re like me – my arm only fits so far inside the guitar.1See also needle nose pliers and Allen wrench  

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This is just on a resonator guitar, I didn’t feel like intentionally dissembling my acoustic just to take a picture.  You can see what I’m doing here, right?

It should be noted that I don’t use this pencil for writing and I don’t sharpen it.  It’s just in my small toolkit.  

Another use of the pencil is if you are playing through tube amps, if something is sounding funky and not in a good way you can use a pencil and tap the tubes (with the eraser end of course!) to see if any of them have become micro-phonic.  

Pencil.

You with me?  

Extra bridge pins

Sometimes when you break an acoustic string or hell, when you’re changing strings – one of the bridge pins might fall under the table and roll away into that storm drain or under a refrigerator.  These things DO happen.  

I have lost bridge pins and had to scrounge to find it and make something work but since I have bought small bag of extra bridge pins – I haven’t lost a single one.  It’s like insurance.  Idiot insurance.  

Extra packs of strings

Now this one also seems obvious but I’m going to tell you – I played nearly 2 months straight in Europe on tour and I brought 20 packs of strings with me and it wasn’t enough 2Two hour long sets equals lots of sweat on the strings. I typically get 2 days out of a set of strings and when you have to buy strings on tour – you can’t be picky and you can’t get a great deal.  Two packs of acoustic strings cost me more than $30 in Germany.  Same strings in Southern California, $6.99.  Things like that add up quick.  

Yeah, you might be touring in the states and there’s a Guitar Center or Sam Ash seemingly everywhere but it’s way easier to not have to think about or have to plan to get to a music store while they are open or arrange the schedule to get to a store.  It’s fun to stop at music stores on tour, it’s a pain in the ass to have to find a store because you need something.  

Batteries

How many times have you been at a show and a guy is on stage with a dead battery in his acoustic?  I’ve seen it way more times than I care to recall.  I carry not just 9 volts but also the little 2032 batteries that go in my Snark/Peterson tuner and some of the watch batteries that power the sound hole Fishman pickup.  Whatever you have that requires batteries – have an extra.  Those little watch batteries can be really difficult to find while traveling.

Pro Tip: When I change out the 9 volt inside my acoustic, I take a sharpie and write the date on it so if I’m ever wondering, “when did I last change my battery?” it’s right there reminding me.

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This is my travel tool kit.  Two different small screwdrivers.  Pencil.  Drum key.(because drummers are always forgetting these) 2032 Batteries for Snark. Watch batteries for Fishman Rare Earth pickup. Extra cork for Fishman Rare Earth. Hex wrenches for tele bridge. Bigger screwdriver with changeable head.  Lots of extra bridge pins.  Radius gauges.  The white things in the middle are self adhesive tie down things for inside an acoustic guitar to hold the wires secure.  Extra strap buttons.  String winder.  Little multi tool (with corkscrew!) that has a tiny flashlight attachment. Green handled cutters/pliers.

String winder cutter / clippers

Of course you have a string winder, everyone has a string winder.  I’m just mentioning it so I can pair it up with the clippers.  I prefer to use needle nose pliers that are also wire cutters.  I have a small pair with a green handle and my reasoning is because I don’t like to carry extra tools.  The needle nose can cut the string ends as well as work as pliers to tighten a loose endpin jack or volume knob.  Again, seems simple once you know it, it’s like “Of course I do that.”  

Do I have to mention a screwdriver?  Get one of the models that flips around and switches out to both flathead and phillips and carry one screwdriver.  No need for the whole Stanley family to come along.  

Small bag

A microphone bag will do or something similar.  I still use a Crown Royal bag for some things.  I have never had Crown Royal but I have at least 4 of their bags. I prefer the bags that come with Shure microphones.  It’s a convenient size and the screwdriver won’t poke through the sides.  

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Everything above fits in this small bag that came with a Shure microphone.

Allen Wrench

No, you don’t have to carry around the big Swiss Army Allen Wrench brick – just find the ones that you need and take those.  I usually take one that adjusts the truss rod in each of my guitars and a small one that adjusts the bridge on my telecaster.  East coast to west coast – your neck is going to need some loving.  Might be a quarter turn on the truss but it could be the difference between all strings sizzling on the fretboard and all strings ringing out loud and clear.  3You’ve never adjusted the truss rod?  Hmmm.  That’s interesting.  Sounds like another post

Pro Level Tip:  Another thing that the small Allen wrench is good for is when tightening the endpin jack on your acoustic.  Have you ever noticed that there are two small holes in the jack?  That is so you can stick something like an Allen wrench inside there and hold it still while tightening the nut.  

Microphone

Did I not mention bringing your own microphone on tour?  How is this at the bottom of the list?  I probably should’ve started with this.  

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This is a Shure Beta 58.  My name clearly on it to deter theft.

If you are a singer you must have your own microphone.  

It’s that simple.  Unless you feel like getting sick and being at the whim of every club to sing through whatever crap the band before you sang through and spit all over and coughed on and – EWWWW!  Just get your own damn microphone and don’t let anyone else use it.  There is no argument against this. I get it, we’re all poor and stuff is expensive.  Go to eBay and buy one used and clean it when you get it.  And then label it with your name, or engrave the side of it.  Put a strip of orange tape on the middle of it with your name on it.  Make it obvious that it is yours so you don’t leave it behind and when you do – usually the sound guy will say “Hey, isn’t this yours?”

It does not have to be super fancy, in fact it’s almost better if it isn’t but you also don’t want to be singing through a $20 Realistic Mic.  A Shure SM58 will do the trick.  There’s other things out there that may be better or fits your voice but if you’re traveling and plugging into different systems night after night – keep it simple, no mics that require phantom power!  Cardioid or supercardioid, Audix, Shure, Beta 58. Simple.  Less hassle for the sound person the better.  If you show up with a condenser that requires phantom power – it may be a great mic but 11 times out of 10 the sound person knows what that room sounds like and how to make a Shure 58 sound good in there.  It’s adding an unknown variable that is unnecessary.  

Pro Tip:  Always remember to tell the sound person that you have your own mic and give them the option of plugging it in for you – that way if it makes the big POP noise through their system, it was them that did it.  At the very least check with them before you swap it out.  

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Mic clip and the little strange adapter for the weird mic stands.

Pro Tip #2: Bring your own mic clip AND mic clip adapter.  What?  Why?  Well, we’ve all done a show where we had to duct tape a microphone to a mic stand because there’s no mic clip available, so there’s that and sometimes (especially in Germany) they use mic stands that have a different thread attachment than everywhere else.  These often come with the mic clips – keep them and be happy you have it with you.

 

Expert Level

Soldering Iron

Yes, I have needed a soldering iron on tour.  

When, in the heat of the moment, I launched my telecaster at some festival – some things came loose inside and I was very thankful to have a soldering iron around to resolder the broken connections.  I have also resoldered broken cables and patch cords on tour.

One time the input jack on a bass came loose from someone tightening it by hand, thus spinning the wires inside until one snapped – we had to open it up and duct tape a wire in place because we didn’t have a soldering iron or a back up bass.  

If you’re not comfortable with a soldering iron you probably won’t be comfortable with one on tour but having one and the basic knowledge of how to use one can really save your hide.

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“Hey Bobbo, do you really have to put your name on everything?”  “Well if I don’t want it to go missing I do.”

Spare sound hole pickup

I usually bring one of the really inexpensive Dean Markley sound hole pickups with me just in case something happens to my pickup and I need to fix it fast.  

In a strange twist, I have never needed the Dean Markley for my own guitar but when we had 4 guitars stolen on our tour in the fall of 2016 – we were loaned an acoustic guitar for Ben to use and it didn’t have a pickup and so the Dean Markley got used then.

 

Feedback buster

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Most everyone knows what these are but just in case, here is a Feedback Buster.  I think they’re $8.99 on Amazon.

You know the black rubbery thing that goes in the sound hole of your acoustic that keeps it from feeding back?  Yeah, get one.  Throw it in your case and use it when you need to and take it out when you don’t.  Easy fix for acoustic guitar feedback.  

Drugs

I now bring Sudafed on the road with me.  You never know when you might get hit with some kind of allergy attack or sniffly stuffy head type of thing.  You do your best to stay healthy but things happen.  

Kettle Leads

I like this term.  It’s a power cord here in the states, in the UK they call them “kettle leads”. 4as in to plug in the kettle for tea  All our stuff has them, the 3 prong plug that plugs into your amp, the pedalboard power, the bass amp, the PA head, the monitors – bring extras.  I love the fact that most everything is the same power cord.  It’s like the standardization of railroad tracks for modern life. 5Proprietary power supplies are the invention of robber barons, industrialist tycoons and possibly the Vanderbilts!

As a general rule, if I have something on tour – I try to either have a spare or a way to fix it.  

Oh and Floss Sticks

Yeah, I keep some in my guitar case because…you should floss.  I don’t need a reason!  Food in teeth, eating before the gig…just get some and thank me later.

Notes:   [ + ]

1. See also needle nose pliers and Allen wrench
2. Two hour long sets equals lots of sweat on the strings. I typically get 2 days out of a set of strings
3. You’ve never adjusted the truss rod?  Hmmm.  That’s interesting.  Sounds like another post
4. as in to plug in the kettle for tea
5. Proprietary power supplies are the invention of robber barons, industrialist tycoons and possibly the Vanderbilts!