Pappa’s Got a Brand New Bag
What is in your gig bag?
Recently I acquired a new gig bag from Mono for my roaming NYC session guitarist lifestyle. Upon this new purchase, I decided it was time to re-assess what was “bag worthy”. When I first got the Mono Vertigo bag, I was concerned that the storage pocket was too small. After some usage and pondering I realized how much better this design was compared to other bags! I could easily fit my most important items in there with no struggle. Notice I said “most important”.
Inside the pocket, there is a second mesh pocket to further separate a few important items for fast accessibility.
When I began getting a lot of work as a session guitarist years ago, I bought a bag from Levys. It was quite nice, including a big pocket on the outside with a flap. The flap didn’t zip shut though, instead it had straps. It seemed appealing as I could stuff it over capacity (dumb). I found out over time things would fall out and it didn’t always protect against snow and rain. It didn’t pay to overstuff.
It’s impossible to fit multiple pedals in the Vertigo along with extra shirts, leftovers, 2 bottles of water and a songbook. That’s a GOOD thing!! Turns out, it’s a better idea to just bring another bag (they even make a bag that attaches to the Vertigo for more storage). I often just strap on (don’t go there!!) my Pedaltrain Nano pedalboard. It’s the perfect accompaniment for a session guitarist .
I’m much more aware of my bag inventory with the Vertigo design.
The Man With The Bag
Gig bag space is almost as valuable as real estate in Manhattan. There is little room and deciding what gets to inhabit such limited space is an issue.
We all know the obvious stuff that should be in our bag: capo, picks, slide, cables, backup strings, business cards and promo CD’s. There may be a few that you didn’t even consider. Here is what’s in my Mono Vertigo bag.
There are a number of situations I can think of on a gig where you may need a flashlight. Finding a power outlet on a dark stage can be a session guitarist nightmare. Or you may drop your pick and can’t find it.
Most of what I do is on the iPad these days, but there are times I need to make specific notes on paper or a chart. In these cases I like to have a pen AND a pencil. Contrary to popular belief they are not the same tool.
It’s hard to transport pencils without the tips breaking. I personally can’t stand those refillable pencils even though they are more transportable. I’m a fan of the Good Ol’ Number 2. To help prevent pencil destruction, I use a pencil box I bought at Staples. I guess they are not in super high demand these days as the only options were in the kids’ section. Perhaps not the ideal box for that cool session guitarist image, but it protects the pencil. Don’t forget a mini sharpener too! Your tip may not break now, but it will wear down from usage.
I also place my sharpies and pens in there. It prevent lids from coming off in the bag and getting ink all over the place.
There are many ways in which you may scratch yourself on a gig (Hopefully, NOT from clawing at the door in an escape from disgruntled fans). On a gig, your hands are going to be all over the floor setting gear up. Dirt and open wounds do knot make for a happy couple. Also, music is a people business. That means at some point, as a session guitarist, you’re going to be shaking hands. I hope your mom breifed you enough in childhood that I don’t need to explain the importance of covering up any scratches. In the event you need a talking-to , I can have my mom call you. For many years in my life, she has been the leading germ expert of the family, haha.
That leads me to this: You’re going to be touching all kinds of stuff at gigs. One scenario may be that there is no soap in the bathroom, which is plenty the case in nightclubs. Eeew!! After touching all that filthy stuff, you’re going to want to clean your hands before you eat that post-performance pizza slice or taco.
You may be on the road traveling and not have easy access to your toiletry bag before a set, soundcheck or radio interview. That doesn’t mean you should reek of the Doritos you ate a half hour ago. You want to continue to get work as a session guitarist, right? I keep a little bottle of Listerine in my bag.
I keep a small bottle of hand lotion in my bag. The winter gets dry and makes your skin susceptible to cracking. This can be a drag for guitarists. When my hands start to feel really dry, I always have some lotion available. “It rubs the lotion on it’s skin or…” Gotta dig into your film memory to place that line.
Some of the contents I discussed can be a little messy if the cap comes unscrewed. There is nothing pleasurable about reaching in your gig bag pocket and finding a puddle of hand lotion mixed with mouthwash. Rookie session guitarist mistake!! To help prevent a spill, I place all contents that could possibly leak into a zip lock freezer bag. It adds just a little more piece of mind. It also helps to further organize the bag.
I have another bag made from cloth that holds a charger for an iPad and iPhone. I bought extra chargers that I never take out of my bag. They’re there only for emergencies. Sometimes you end up on a gig and your phone dies or iPad battery is almost empty. This can be really stressful if you’re reading charts from your iPad.
To further sub-organize my session guitarist gig bag toolkit, I have a little pouch I purchased from Levys about a decade ago. It’s just big enough to hold my slide and capos (yes I always have 2 capos, one for backup). You know how those things get misplaced. Also, in case the artist I’m performing with forgot their capo, I’ve got it covered cause I’m cool like dat, cool like dat.
With one grab I have my accessories for the set. Session guitarist quickdraw!
Post it notes
You may find yourself in a rehearsal or soundcheck and need to make a note for someone. Perhaps a delay setting for the Soundman or items needed from the stage manager. There are plenty of times when technology like texts and emails aren’t accessible.
Having a small pad of post gives you the option to mark things down in a jiffy. I personally like to pick the most obnoxious colors, just to be a jerk. Everybody loves when the session guitarist is a jerk (no they don’t).
I hope this gives you some food for thought when packing up your bag for the next run of shows or recordings.
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