One of the problems with being on the road is the effect that constant touring and gigging has on your gear. Nothing survives unscathed. Just this past 2 weeks I’ve had to change 2 of the saddles on my number one Suhr, do a ‘road fix’ tape job on the same guitar and do another ‘road fix’ temporary repair on a lose strap pin on the Gibson.
The problem is that I think road use, and by that I mean gigging and travelling, equates to 4 or 5 times the wear and tear of regular home or studio use.
Besides the obvious strings here are just some of the things that have broken whilst I’ve been on the road:
- Saddles – due to the heat and sweat on stage 2 of the saddles on my Suhr rusted and wore to the point they were breaking strings.
- Strap pins – gigging the Gibson everyday has lead to the neck strap pin failing…gaffer tape to the rescue.
- Cables – everything from 1 inch patch cables to 30 foot speakons eventually dies on tour.
- Amps – the heat in one venue caused the valve retention pins in my V30 to bend mid gig so the amp cut in and out, and a few year previous my TSL100 fell of the back of our van and developed a problem with its output transformer overheating.
- Mixers – channel after channel dies in the heat and humidity of sweaty venues.
- PA Speakers – rattles, parts breaking off and speakers just giving up altogether.
- Wireless – I thought my guitar wireless had died mid gig, so I switch to a cable for the rest of the night. Turned out it was just interference form the venue.
- the list goes on.
‘Road fix’ on ‘Joyce’ my number one Suhr.
The tape that goes around the outer edge of the front pick had worn away due to some heavy, funky playing and had caused a really sharp edge that the high e string would sometimes get stuck on.
Solution = gaffer tape.
‘Road fix’ on Eddie my number 2.
Constant gigging has made the neck strap pin come lose, so until I can get to a store to buy a new one to fix it properly… gaffer tape! Its not pretty but it’ll get through the nights gig.
The Road Warriors Tool Kit
I’ve found that being able to perform on the spot repairs to gear is invaluable, even if its just a temporary fix to get you through the gig. Companies like Fender do a guitar toolkit but all you really need are a few tools:
- Leatherman multitool – easily the most useful and most used tool I own. you can do everything from tightening screws and stripping wires to cutting down a tree! You could pretty much get buy with just this one tool. BUY ONE, you won’t regret it.
- Set of mini screwdrivers – a lot of guitar and audio gear uses really small screws that are hard to get to, like intonation screws on a guitar bridge, so mini screwdrivers are a must.
- Gaffer tape – gaffer can fix almost anything. You have no idea how useful this stuff is.
- Switch cleaner – scratchy pots, dirty switches, noisy jack sockets…all can be fixed with switch cleaner.
With just the above you could probably do 90% of the day to day repair work on the road.
Plan A, B, C……F
Its inevitably that things break and stop working under heavy day to day use. Thats why its important to have a back up plan. I have a primary backup and sometimes secondary backup, depending on budget, for the following:
- Guitar – I always have a spare guitar to hand on stage. Its much easier to just grab another guitar if something like a broken string were to happen to the number one than to try and fix it mid gig.
- Amp – I try to always have another means of getting my sound to FoH if the main rig I’m using were to fail. Sometimes if its a fly gig my back up consists of an iPad running Positive Grid’s Bias FX and an iRig HD interface!
- Strings – I carry as many strings with me on the road as possible. Strings break and corrode under sweaty gig conditions so regular changes are a must.
- Valves and fuses – If I’m using my own valve amp I tend to take a pair set of matched tubes/valves and a multi-meter with me. This means that if a valve where to fail I can swap it out and re-bias the amp.
I guess the way I approach extended gigging on the road is…
IF IT CAN BREAK, IT WILL!
Always have a plan B ready for when things go wrong, and try to carry a backup for everything you can.