My name is Félix and I am a gear-a-holic.
I, like most guitar players, can never have too many guitars/amps/pedals. It’s a well known thing. Just ask any guitar player. Fortunately, I don’t handle the finances in my household, so the urge to procure even more is kept in check by outside scrutiny, and forces me to think long and hard about getting new stuff, rather than act on impulse. It’s all good. Thanks, H!
And while other players are less restrained, the purpose of this current blog is not to denigrate the desire to collect. Rather, I would like to talk about making reasonable choices of what to bring to a show, when there can be so much to choose from when you have a mini-music store in your basement.
This idea stemmed from some recent shows when, in some cases, I went out too light, and in others, a lot of gear should have been left at home. So I made some notes that I thought I’d share with any players interested.
- Transportation: the vehicle you are using to get to a show may only allow so much. A Vespa vs. a SmartCar vs. a van, for instance. Or even transit. Not a big deal, but worth saying.
- The room: it’s simple—small room, small amp, big room—bigger amp, or small amp through PA.
- Set-up time/sound check: the more gear you set up, the more complexities work themselves into it, and the greater chances something technical will go wrong. Just connecting everything up may gobble up all your pre-show time too, time better used reviewing songs, or even chatting with friends who took the time to come out to support you. You don’t want to be stressed out worrying about a late start before hitting the stage. For instance, I have a two-amp setup that sounds awesome when working well, but it takes nearly 45 minutes to put in place, and balancing it requires at least one run-through to balance with itself and the band. Don’t fall in the trap of thinking you HAVE to use the gear because you bought it and spent so much time putting the system together. Its time will come.
- Same applies to guitars; you don’t need to show off your entire collection. Remember that unless you have a tech tuning them for you before very song, they are likely to need a tweak before the song, which stalls the performance. In some cases, if you are playing some songs in different tunings, a dedicated guitar for that can make sense, but if you can retuned faster than switching, stick to the one. Set breaks can be an opportune time to switch as well. Learn to play your material on any of your instruments and in standard tuning, no just the open ones for specific songs.
Keep in mind that for most non-musicians, who generally compose you audience, they neither understand or care about your new rare-bird 1950-something with the PAF humbuckers and the Bigsby vibrato. That’s guitar geek talk for a select group. Regular folk just want to hear and see you having fun and share that feeling.
As Fred Thériault, Senior Vice-President for Long and McQuade told me wisely many years ago, when I worked for Yorkville Sound, “People listen with their eyes.” He did not mean that derogatorily for the audience. It spoke a truth about people’s expectations that I still need to remind myself of from time to time.