There are many more things to consider when preparing for a show aside from remembering the songs. The sets I find myself playing these days are more part specific than improvised and freewheeling. I often have to re-create or imply the tones and emotion that is present on the albums we are playing songs from.
By the last two rehearsals before a show I have my sounds sorted and it’s time to start taking notes. I like to document my entire signal chain and settings. It makes set-up/tear down quick and easy on stage and you have a permanent record for future gigs. First thing I do when I’m solid on my sounds is open up a program like Paint and draw the order that the effects are to be placed on the pedal board. I also color code all my cables. This makes it easier to trouble shoot onstage.
There is nothing worse than fishing through a sea of cables trying to confirm your signal path. It’s not a matter if something goes wrong, it’s when. If I can trace everything I can find it. I want to see what color the cable is coming out of the tape delay into the reverb. This also speeds up set-up on stage. Anyone who has played in NYC knows getting on and off stage is an Olympic event. I’m still waiting for a medal.
Guitar: Fender Stratocaster
Amp: Carr Hammerhead
Effects: Peterson tuner-> Fulltone booster -> Keeley compressor -> Ernie Ball volume pedal -> Prescription Electronics fuzz -> Fulltone tremelo -> Fulltone tape echo -> Valve Train spring reverb
What complicates things is the fact that the delay and reverb are large boxes that don’t fit on a pedal board. A little quirk of mine is I like to have the tape delay and spring reverb in front of me so I can twist the knobs as I’m playing.
For this particular show I also had a pro tools rig and keyboard that I was using to play Mellotron and various other samples. The guitar and Pro Tools rig had to be set up around me. I was in a little bubble so to speak, making it hard for the artist (Abby) to swat at me when I made inappropriate comments. You would be surprised how handy that is!!!!!
Because of the nature of the gig and it’s complexity, it was important to have a clear path laid out prior to getting to the venue.
By sound check every placement had been planned and I printed a copy of the setup diagram for the gig. I take inventory after I get off stage. It’s a good plan to have a routine. I like the same routine whether it’s just me or I have assistants. This can reduce the likelihood of leaving something behind. My routine usually goes like this:
All really fragile items go in cases first!!!! That usually means guitars 1st, macbook 2nd, tape echo/reverb 3rd, mbox 4th, pedal board 5th, amp 6th, etc. All cables get wrapped individually using cable ties.
The point is to remove as many opportunities for things to go wrong as you can. You can get on and off stage in a timely manner with a fairly large rig if you have a master plan. It will also make the experience more enjoyable. You will think about the music more and not be consumed with chaos.