Every once in a while, we like to share little random tips we've come up with over the years. Some can help you keep track of your stuff, others can save your bacon on a gig. For your enjoyment, and hopefully edification, here is a classic collection, originally written by Bob (with some updates/additions by Mark.)
- Easily Document Battery and String Changes, Settings, and More.
I love the little Avery 05422 (1/2" x 1 3/4") removable self-adhesive labels (or the Staples generic equivalent). I jot dates for batteries (9v 4/2/13) and string change dates and stick them on preamps and other electronic devices, the backs of e-bass headstocks, string packages kept in my upright bass gig bag, reference settings on amps, preamps, and pedals, etc. They peel off easily and don't leave marks or residue IME. Been using them for years, pick up a pack, they rock. (Non-musical bonus tip: stick one to your credit card and jot down the current rebate categories so you use the right card for that extra cash-back.)
- Keep Track of Power Supplies/"Wall Warts"
Similar to the above, whenever I get a new piece of gear that has a "wall wart" power supply, I immediately get out my silver paint marker (it's like a "Sharpie(TM)" but with silver paint ink) and write the name of the unit directly on the power supply. I must have dozens of these AC/DC adapters floating around in various gig bags and closets, and if I didn't mark them, I'd go crazy trying to match them up when needed.
- Double Check Your Gig Bag
It can always be a good idea to recheck the contents of your gig bag, especially if it's been a while since your last performance. It sucks to discover that your forgot to put something back that you borrowed for another use. For a list of gig bag contents and philosophy of what should be in there, see our FAQ on What to Bring to a Gig.
- Instrument Health Check
My "preflight gig check," after unpacking my bass post-transit, is: look at the bridge to be sure it is centered and a perfect 90 degrees, since it can get bumped; check the pickup, wire, and jack (depending on the bass and pickup I'm using) for proper positioning and stability; be sure the endpin is out a the right height and tight (I'm short so it's not always retracted during travel) listen for physical buzzes or vibrations that might be annoying and/or amplified
- Prepare for Gear Contingencies and Poorly Prepared Engineers
I never assume that the sound engineer at a gig will actually have all the gear that every sound engineer should have at a gig. I like to carry a basic DI box (or use a preamp or amp with a good built-in DI) and my own XLR cable, in case the engineer forgets to bring enough of his own. Nice to have backup plan B in the bag.
- Talk With Your Band (Ahead of Time) About Volume
Stage volume is key. So many times I've seen bands with (at least) one player whose onstage volume is too loud. Either the drummer is hitting too hard, or the guitarist or bassist has their amp cranked up to unnecessary levels. The problem is that there's so much volume coming from the stage, that the FOH (Front-Of-House) engineer can only try to even up the level of the other instruments to compensate for all of that "uncontrolled" sound from the offending amp/instrument. At this point, the sound engineer has completely lost control. If you have a bad mix now (and you most certainly will) it is your fault.
- Minimize Your Gear
This may sound weird coming from a guy who owns a music store - one where we sell all manner of sound "toys" to improve/modify/amplify your sound. But the old adage of "KISS" (Keep It Simple, Stupid) can be really a smart way to go when it comes to live performance. Yes, when you are at home in your music room, you may get an AMAZING sound by setting up a high-fidelity large-diaphragm mic and mixing it with your multi-pickup system, blended through a multi-channel preamp and other tone-shaping gear, into a bi-amp amp rig to get maximum sonic separation. But in a live performance, on a tight, hollow stage, with (sometimes) less-than-capable sound engineers, weird acoustics, and everyone else in your band creating a dense wall of sound, all the subtlety of that complicated setup is very likely to get "lost in the sauce." The less gear you have, the fewer things are likely to fail or cause excess complication. It's also less stuff to bring with you, fewer cords to count on, fewer batteries to check or power plugs to plan for. Get a GOOD sound that fits into the mix, and focus on your playing - you'll be much happier (and much less stressed out!)