I have always been accused of being over prepared. I carry around a plastic hanging folder box with huge handle that is packed full of spare parts, supplies and tools. I used to get made fun of until one Sunday my volume pedal was squeaking and I had to carry the band with ambient swells through a few different elements. I broke out my trusty dry bike chain lube and sprayed some in the joints and the squeak was gone. Be prepared or be frustrated and distracted. Here are some of the tools and accessories I always have on me. It keeps me confident and worry free going into rehearsals and Sunday morning services.
(NOTE: These are all items I use organically. I am not endorsed by these companies and I am not getting paid to promote their products. They are just great products.)
1. Straight & Phillips Screwdrivers
These are a no brainer. From loose tuners to bridge adjustments it is always necessary to carry some screwdrivers. I have 3 of each in various sizes and lengths. I even picked up some right angle screw drivers from Home Depot for a few bucks to get at those pesky Tune-O-Matic saddle screws and on tele’s with Bigsby tailpieces where it is hard to get at the intonation adjustments.
2. Cheap Tuner
I have been caught numerous times without one and it isn’t fun. Everyone is probably thinking, well I have one on my pedalboard. What is the big deal? Well when you break a string in your first set or during practice and want to go back stage to tune up it is nice to have a cheap handheld tuner on hand. I usually keep a Korg CA2 or something similar in my bag along with a spare patch cable to plug into my guitar for more accurate tuning. The spare patch cable also serves as a backup if something goes wrong on my board.
This is also handy if you are like me and leave my gear at church from time to time and just take my guitar home to practice and re-string. I have been caught without a tuner quite often in this situation. The other option is to use the TC Electronic Polytune iPhone App. I really like this app but it can be difficult on electric guitars without an amplifier or in noisy backstage situations.
3. Wire Cutters
No explanation here. Try to re-string your guitar without wire cutters sometime. You will see what I mean.
4. Sharpies (Silver & Black)
From writing set lists out to marking notes/configurations on gaphers tape having a few of these on hand is always super handy.
5. Gaphers Tape
Because tripping on-stage while your pastor is praying is never any fun. Plus gaffers tape keeps everything neat and tidy for us OCD folks. It can also be used to attach your strap to your guitar if a strap button strips or breaks.
6. Steel Wool
While not a must have, steel wool is really handy to have on hand for string changes. I usually run some light steel wool over my frets to clean off any oxidation or corrosion before re-stringing my guitar. Keeps everything feeling new and super smooth. Remember if you do this to rub lightly as the steel wool can take off some of the fret and some of the fretboard if you press to hard.
7. Nut/Bridge Lubricant
Michael Pope introduced me to this when we did his rig rundown, and I started using it on my Chris Shiflett Tele with Bigsby. If in a pinch or on a budget you can always use a pencil and rub it into the grooves of the nut and saddles. These lubricants usually last a bit longer and provide more friction resistance. A must have for Bigsby/Trem players who want easier tuning and tuning stability. Mr. Pope uses Big Bends Nut Sauce and I use Planet Waves Lubrikit.
Another redneck alternative is greaseless dry bike chain grease. This is super slick and long lasting. I have used it to lubricate volume pedal components and it works great. Just spray some in a small dish and use a cotton Q-tip to dab it into the saddles and nut slots.
8. Finger Ease
Strings are annoying to change and for most guitarists coated strings leave something to be desired in the overall clarity and tone. The solution, make your regular strings last longer. You all probably know by now that oils and dirt from your hands are what cause corrosion and break down in your strings. Finger ease is a great way to keep them clean while also adding some slick lubricant that minimizes fret talk, string noise and finger fatigue. For $5 give it a try. The other option is to just wipe your strings down with a clean towel after playing.
9. Guitar Cleaner & Polish
I am super picky about having a clean guitar. In fact I used to clean my guitars after every use. Since getting married and having a kid I clean them a lot less but still am picky about the cleaner and polish I use. I have tried everything. Gibson, Martin, Planet Waves, Fender etc. They all leave a good shine and good resistance to oil and dirt. The problem is they are a pain in the you know what to use. They all require tons of buffing to clean the guitar off and I have found that they do not do a great job of breaking down the sweat and dirt so you end up just spreading it all around until you buff hard enough for it to come off. No fun.
Shortly after I started playing guitar I stumbled upon Dunlop 65 Cleaner/Polish Spray. This stuff is now the only stuff I use. It goes on easy, breaks down the dirt, grime and sweat from days of playing, and then is easily removed with a few circular buffing motions. It leaves a grime resistant barrier and shine that is just like the other ones, only your arm doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall off. It also does not leave a white residue on cracks and plastics.
The other thing I use is Dunlop 65 Body Gloss Cream of Carnauba Wax. I use this about once per year depending on how much I play. Similar to waxing a car this ads a super glossy shine to your guitar and an extra layer of protection from the elements. I use this on both Nitro and Poly finishes and on chrome and nickel hardware. Beware if you use this on Gold and do not quickly remove the wax it will start to eat away at the gold plating. I also don’t use it on black or satin hardware because it leaves a white residue behind. I have had the best results by removing the strings and as much hardware and trim as possible, buffing the guitar then going back over everything with the Cleaner/Polish spray and a polish cloth. Oh and by the way it comes in a kit with the cleaner/polish spray.
Seriously this is the only stuff I trust and use. Period. I am not endorsed and they are not paying us for advertisement. This is just a great product line. Their fretboard cleaner and conditioner is also great stuff!
10. Spare Strings & Guitar Picks
If you don’t want to spend the money to buy a spare pack of strings, you should probably spend less on your guitar. Seriously. Your strings will break or you will have to change them before your online order comes in. I get them in packs of 10 from D’Addario for just under $40 from Sweetwater. Ernie Ball has similar packages and prices as well. Changing your cheap strings more often is more important than buying more expensive strings.
11. StringRay Tool (For Bigsby Players)
This is another cool tool that I am just starting to use. If you have ever changed strings on a Bigsby you have felt this pain. The string balls where they attach to the pins on the Bigsby always slip off taking up more time, causing frustration and sometimes damaged fresh strings.
This tool clips over the pins once you have the balls set and prevents them from slipping off the pins. For $11 it is a no brainer and a huge time saver.
Whether it is a backpack, a craftsman toolbox or a cheap hanging folder case like I have, keeping your tools and accessories organized and easy to find is a must have for guys that are playing every week. I hope this gives you some good practical tips that you can use. Blessings in your ministries dudes and lady dudes.