Author: Travis Schilling

The Working Bassist Tool Kit

As Spring is on the horizon I find myself going through my yearly routine of checking my gig bag to make sure I have all of the things I will need to get through the upcoming festival season. I thought it would be a good idea to use this as my first blog, and share with you some of the things that I feel are important for the working bassist to have with them at all times.

Spare Bass

It is so important for a working bassist to have an extra bass within arms reach at all times. Unforeseeable circumstances occur all the time and it is important that you are ready incase your pre-amp goes on the fritz, or you encounter a loose solder connection. If you play 4 string have an extra 4 string, if you play 5 string have an extra 5. If you can afford it buy a direct copy of your current bass, this will ensure that you feel at home if the time comes to use it. For those of us on a budget this may not be an option, but you can use a less expensive instrument as long as it has a good set up and is performance ready. Consider finding a bass that has the same neck profile, string spacing and feel as your main bass.

Cables

My general rule of thumb is to always have 3 of every needed cable with me at all times. Depending on if you use pedals or not this rule can take up much space, but you will never be without if something does happen. Here is a list of the cables I carry at all times.

  • 4 Instrument cables (10-20 feet in length) this gives me 2 per side of my pedal chain.
  • 1 XLR cable (15-20 feet in length), you will never know when you may need to go direct into the soundboard.
  • 6 Patch cables for pedals. If you don’t use pedals you don’t need to worry about this, but at the same time I have saved a couple guitar players butts by having some with me at all times.
  • 1 Short extension cord or power strip. 5 foot should be fine, enough said!
  • 2 9volt power supply. Again if you are a pedal user it may be a good idea to have an extra one of these on hand.
  • Cell phone charger. Hey what if your car breaks down on the way home from a gig? Better to be able to call for help and not worry about your battery life.

Strings

I always have a fresh set of strings on hand. I don’t remember the last time I actually broke one, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Generally I carry 2 sets, one set of un-opened and the previous used set from my last string change.

Batteries

I carry at least one 4 pack of 9 volt batteries with me at all times. These come in handy when my onboard pre-amp needs a refresher or if my 9 volt cable for my pedals is faulty.

Direct box

My amps almost always have an onboard XLR out built in to them, but if my head goes I always want a way that I can send my signal to the soundboard.

Tools

These are for quick fixes and adjustments. I always have the following on hand.

  • Philips head screw drivers. Sizes specific to current gear I am using.
  • Allen wrenches. Sizes specific to current gear.
  • Wire cutters. For string changes.

If you are also savvy with electronics you could carry a solder gun and solder.

Paper and Pencils

I don’t know how many times I have been asked by band leaders if I know a specific song during a gig. Many times we will take request and have to do a quick chart during a set break. Make sure you are prepared for this situation, band leaders and audience members will very much appreciate it. It is a good idea to have the following.

  • Standard Notebook. Great for set list or simple chord charts.
  • Manuscript Notebook. Perfect if you need to transcribe a very specific bass line.
  • Pencils. Mechanical is best for me as then I don’t need to carry a sharpener with me.

There are many sites and companies that provide solid bags that you can use for gigging. I really enjoy the GruvGear products, but if you are on a budget I would like to suggest simply making a stop at your local thrift stores.