Sometimes I tour with roadies/technicians who look after all the gear for the band. Sometimes I do a local gig where I am responsible for bringing all my own gear. I thought I’d write a breakdown of the two different scenarios. It’s mostly relevant to keyboard players, but there may be some crossover for other musicians. If you’re interested, read on, and I hope you enjoy!
What I Pack For A Local Gig
Keyboards – Nord Stage 88 + whatever extra synths might be required for the job. Any keyboard that I am transporting needs to be properly flight-cased, or in a protective case/pelican.
Stands – I use a “table” style stand (Kwik Lok or similar) with attachable arms for a second keyboard.
Seat – an x-frame piano stool that folds down for transport.
Power – bring at least two power strips, and if possible an outdoor/garden extension cable that winds up onto itself.
Cables – Jack to jack cables as needed, plus about four spares. Any patch cables needed, plus spares. Midi cables, plus at least two spares.
Foot pedals – sustain pedal plus one spare. Any switch pedal/rotor pedals/volume pedals etc.
Carpet – I sometimes bring my own carpet (like a “drum carpet”) in case the flooring is unsuitable for taping down pedals.
Gaffer tape – never leave the house without gaffer tape.
Sharpie – never leave the house without a Sharpie.
Electrical tape – I use this to tape up cable coils at the end of the night. Nothing worse than getting home and unpacking a viper’s nest of cables onto your living room floor the next morning.
Paper & Pens – Manuscript paper, song charts, pen/pencil for making notes.
Music Stand – I have a heavy duty music stand (kwik lok or similar) that folds down, and doesn’t get bent like the flimsier models.
Clipboard – useful for keeping charts on the music stand, or for mailing list at end of the night.
Merch – don’t forget your merch if you have any to sell.
Clip–on lights – I have some clip on lights (Mighty Bright or similar) which come in handy for either reading charts, or seeing where your foot pedals are.
Pelican case – I use pelican cases for transporting heavy gear. They do a “gun case” that is great for 73 note keyboards (although travelling internationally with what looks like a gun case can be problematic).
Leads bag – I have used a “Plano” soft-sided, hard-bottom tool bag for leads for many many years, and it has been very reliable.
Powered speaker – some kind of powered wedge speaker is useful for smaller venues where you might not get great monitoring options.
Effects – as a keyboard player, I don’t use too many effects pedals, but increasingly I try to use effects boxes that can take midi program changes, so that I can link them up to my main keys program change, and minimise the tap-dancing on the floor. I like to put my Nord Stage through an FMR Audio Really Nice Preamp, just to give the piano a little extra bite; and I generally will put the whole submix through an FMR Audio Really Nice Compressor to control any peaks that may occur – it also helps to blend sounds together (very useful when you don’t have a dedicated FOH engineer). I use a cheap and cheerful Alesis Nanoverb if I want to add any reverb to specific keys patches. The reason I like the Nanoverb is mainly its size and price!
Line mixer – depending on the number of inputs I need, I might bring a small line mixer to the gig, either a Mackie or one of the 1u rack mixers like an Alesis etc. Sometimes this isn’t necessary, as I’ll only be using one keyboard, especially for a more straightforward singer/songwriter gig.
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What Gear I Take On Tour
Pretty much all of the above, with a few changes/exceptions/additions:
Cases – I wouldn’t take the soft-sided tool bag on tour. Everything needs to go in either a Pelican or a hard flight case. Sometimes the tour backline technicians will build a dedicated “keys trunk” which will fit all of my keyboards into one large flight case, and I would leave most of my own cases either at home or in the band’s lock-up storage (usually at the rehearsal room we have been using prior to the tour).
Cables – Again, to avoid confusion, I would work out previous to the first tour date, which of my cables will be used on tour, and what cables the techs want to use for the tour. Some techs like to hand-make all of their own cables during rehearsal, so that the whole stage has a consistent quality of cable.
Laptops – A lot of my touring gigs will involve laptops. I don’t recommend using your personal laptop on stage, as once it’s part of the gig, it should really be “frozen” and not used for anything else. If you are taking your laptop offstage every night and downloading updates / new apps etc., then you are introducing more variables to the playback setup, and therefore more opportunities for mid-gig failures. In a perfect world, the tour production will purchase two laptops that are used exclusively for the show, and once the show is programmed and up and running, you should turn off the wifi and “freeze” both playback laptops’ systems for the duration of the tour. Don’t download any updates to the OS or the software until the tour is done!
MP3 Recorder – This can be very useful on tour. I usually give the FOH an mp3 recorder to record each show, just a stereo mix off the board is fine. I generally don’t end up listening to most of the recordings, but if anything weird happens, you can always reference back to a previous show to find out what might have changed. (Don’t advertise the fact that you are recording the shows, as people might get the wrong idea and think you are scrutinising their work. It’s purely for reference.)
Keyboards – I might take extra keyboards on a larger-scale tour, as there will be road crew to help you set it up and break it down each night. If I am using all midi-gear, then I make sure that me and the keyboard tech have a midi dump of all the settings as they were at the end of rehearsals. As we come to the end of each leg of the tour, it’s useful to do another midi dump of everything, as the sounds generally get tweaked from show to show (hopefully improving the sounds). Some keyboard techs will take a midi dump every day, but sometimes there isn’t time for that.
Paintbrush – On larger tours I like to have a paintbrush with me for brushing down the keys, as keyboards get surprisingly dusty sitting around a venue all day; especially during festival season, where some festival stages can get really dirty from whatever gets blown onto the stage.
In-Ear Monitors – I currently (2013) use JHAudio in-ear monitors for production tours. I have had my ears tested and fitted a few times in the last ten years. The only problem I have had with in-ear monitors was when I was wearing the “soft-mould” style IEMs, I used to get frequent ear-infections. Since using the harder-mould models, that’s less of a problem; but I sill use a dab of tea-tree oil on a cotton bud to clean my ears when I’m in the middle of a long tour, just to stave off any potential infections (thanks to Ana Matronic for that tip!).
Ok. That’s about all I can think of. Hope it was useful to any other keyboard players out there. Drop me a line if you have any comments or questions!