10 Things - Essentials Gadgets/Tools for Guitarists
This months' installment is all about those essential little things that we, as guitarists, need at the most inappropriate time. Usually at or on the gig, after say a string breaks or an amp breaks down, while the crowd gets antsy and you grow sweaty on the brow and your hands get clammy. This list, although crucial, isn't the "ultimate" in lists, as some of you out there have different needs. We'd like to hear what some of those additional needs might be. We'll update the list and expand beyond these initial 10, as we all know, you never know what you need, until you don't have it when you need it. No extra 9-volt battery for your active guitar? ...wanna bet you don't forget that, next gig?? Okay, so here we go
#10 - 9-volt Batteries, as just mentioned. Name your brand. Some of us are Duracell freaks others might be Energizer, no matter how you slice it, EFX pedals, Tuners, Active systems in Guitars - need batteries. There is one new thought in this regard for pedals. Sanyo just came out with Pedal Juice (http://us.sanyo.com/Pedal-Juice). It is quite the compliment to any pedal board and for those of you (like me) that have a tendency to forget things like 9-volt batteries, this can be a life saver. Rechargeable, clean and easy - well worth the investment. (Battery - $3 and up / Pedal Juice $150)
#9 - Flashlight - Dropped the screw to your backplate while replacing the aforementioned 9-volt battery? Best way to find it on a dark stage is with a pocket-sized flashlight. There are a plethora of these out there. Maglite is probably the most popular - small, built like a rock but there are plenty of affordable options. LED flashlights are also becoming more popular. Inova makes a great one, as does SureFire. (Maglite starts around $30 - Surefire $130+)
#8 - Extra Strings - are you kidding me? Do you have to even mention a set or three of back up strings? We're guitar players for chrimmey-sake. We'd never forget guitar strings....would we? Of course we would. In fact, I worked for a guitar string company and on several occasions, after breaking a string, I had to actually tie the broken string back onto my guitar because I embarrassingly had to admit, that I didn't have a back up set. (Depending upon where you buy them - Acoustic $6 to 12 / Electric $4 to $10)
#7 - Tuner - this is a great category for several reasons. There are so many to choose from and they all have different feature sets, different price points, some you install on the instrument, some are table-top, some you plug your guitar into - on and on. The best part about tuners normally is that they are affordable and fun to figure out which one works for you. I can honestly say I have 8 tuners in my possession and at one point or another I've used each of them on gigs to figure out if any of them "were the one." The only way to figure this out is to use them. Nothing beats being on stage and tuning up - a tuner will prove itself one way or another if you go out of tune on stage and need to correct that issue quickly and quietly. Here's a few of our favorites:
- Boss TU-2 - This is truly one of the classic tuners that has been around for 20 years or so - $119
- Planet Waves Chromatic Pedal Tuner - one of the new kids on the block but this pedal is built like a tank as is affordable - $89
- Korg PB-02 Pedal Tuner - Solid, effective a little pricey but worth the price - $150
- Intelli IMT-900 Chromatic Clip-on Tuner - Easy to use, backlit screen and way affordable - $20
- Planet Waves headstock tuner - Red-to-Green screen makes this a fool proof tuner - $25
- Intellitouch PT-10 Clip on Tuner - compact, easy to read - $30
- Peterson Strobo-Clip - Incredibly accurate, strobe quality and works great - $70
#6 - Capo - Not unlike the Tuner category - capos are a wonderful gadget, tool, toy, widget - call it what you will - there are 50 variations on this item from numerous manufacturers and different schools of thought and application and some players just can't get enough of them. You've got your cheap elastic band type of capo and you if you are so inclined, you can pay $25, $30 or even $45 for a capo should you desire. Capo's come in many different flavors for this very reason. It will have everything to do with your needs as a guitarist. Here are a few of the more popular ones out there:
- Kyser - Long been the leader of the pack, this spring-loaded capo works for 6-string, 12 string, easy for live performance and very affordable $15 to $25
- G7th Capo - state of the art, high-end and possibly the most expensive in its category - $45
- Bird of Paradise Capo (not shown) - a little on the gadget side but very functional - $15 to $40
- Planet Waves NS Capo - Lightweight, adjustable and unlike many of the others out there - $15 to $20
#5 - Guitar Multi-Tool - this can be a great asset, especially when you can't find a screwdriver or an allen wrench or wire cutters or pliers or some gadget to fish the knob of your strat from out of a heater grate next to the stage….but I digress. Multi-tools are called the "Swiss Army Knives" for guitarists for a reason. They cover a lot of bases and all-in-one. Here are a few of the most popular:
- Farley's JP Journeyman (not shown) - Cutter, Bridge Pin Puller, Screwdriver, and Allen keys - compact and tough - $25
- Guizmo - Lightweight, tough, screwdrivers, Cutters, and all the basics you were hoping for -$20
- Roadie Rench - sans the cutters you might want, it gives you all the wrenches and screwdrivers you'll ever need
- Planet Waves Pro-Winder - sans the screwdrivers and wrenches, Pegwinder, Cutter and bridge pin puller all in one
#4 - Pick Holder - well to be truly rock and roll, this would normally be Duct tape. Cut a 6" piece of tape - attach it to your mic stand, put some picks on it and you're ready to go. That is, until your drummer presses the picks into the tape so hard that when you drop a pick mid-song and grab a pick from your mic stand, instead of getting a pick, you have a hank of tape in your hand, with 8 picks hanging from it. Funny…….why, yes, functional and a solution to the problem, no. But we'll deal with the drummer later, what you need is this:
#3a - Grounded Plug Adapter - granted this might be one of the most unlikely items in your gig bag, but it can come in real handy at the beach gig or when you plug into a backyard BBQ outlet, that isn't grounded and your amp is humming louder than the BBQ hostess' muu muu! This is just one of those "you have to think about" items - sometimes you need it, sometimes you don't.Plus you only have so much room in your gig bag for "stuff".
#3b - Fuses - We're putting these two together as they kind of fall into the same "needs" category. If you don't have an amp or a PA, then you may have no need to pack a case of miscellaneous fuses. But for any of us who tote around all sorts of Fuse-based products having them when you need them is all too important. Make sure you know what kinds of fuses you require (slo-blo, volts, amps, etc) and then carry them with you wherever you go.
#2 - Bottle Opener - This is one of those "are you kiddin' me" type of tools, as well. Not everyone requires the ability to randomly open pop-up beverages at performances, rehearsals or other music-oriented events. I learned this past summer, that this can make you a valuable asset should you be so inclined. We won't list the various iterations of bottle openers that one can procure with the exception of one - as this is what saved the backyard BBQ I was referring to - it has a bottle opener built into the bottom of the sandal itself. Very cool option, provided that there aren't a lot of dogs around the yard!!
#1 - Cables - Whether you're talking patch cables, mic cables, a cable for your iPod or simply a guitar cable, it's always great to have a back up. Unfortunately, when it comes to cables (and guitarists for that matter) many of us look for ways to save on our gear. But frankly when it comes to our "sound," cables should be the last place to scrimp. There are dozens of cable companies out there many with very affordable cables and some right down to "cheap." It's certainly your call as to where you want to spend your money but many of the more mid-priced to expensive cables come up with Lifetime Guarantee's to assure you that you get your money's worth out of these products. Shop wisely and you'll only have to purchase these once. But get a back up- there's nothing like having one when you need one:
- Monster Cables - clearly a leader in this field, offering a broad array of types; price point is on the high side but they do offer a lifetime warranty
- Planet Waves Cables - broad selection along with many features from kill switches to pedal board kits. Prices are more moderate to high end.
- Pro Co Lifelines - More moderately priced but these are your basic cables, ready to go - 20 year warranty