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Uncle Bob's Guitar Lessons
Lesson 10 - Playing Live
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A Few Notes About Playing Live

Here are a few thoughts that I have about playing live...

Always Bring a Spare Guitar

I wrote the following on the forums section of this web site, but it's worth repeating here as well:

Here's a piece of advice that can save a church service or a performance, but always try to bring a spare guitar. I know that sounds like a lot, and buying a backup guitar is not always affordable, but it's worth it when something breaks.

I used to play live at a lot of places, and it always amazed me that I would show up with around four guitars, while most of the other guitarists on the playbill would only have one. The truth is, though, that at the time I only owned one guitar; I would borrow the other three guitars from friends. That being said, however, if I broke a string I would just change guitars, while the other bands' performances would grind to a halt.

Here's a true story, I caught Shaded Red in concert opening up for Plumb. The guitar player for Shaded Red broke a string, and wasn't going to be able to play until he changed strings. The guitar player for Plumb saw this, and since he had about a dozen guitars with him, he walked out on stage and handed the other guitar player one of his. During the next Shaded Red song, he changed strings on the bad guitar, and then after the song was over he walked back onstage and swapped out guitars again. (Basically, the guitar player for Plumb saved the show for Shaded Red.)

I also caught Glisten in concert once, and one of the guitars actually shorted out onstage. (It's a long story, but no one got hurt.) Anyway, the guitarist for Glisten was able to just change guitars, since he had more than one guitar with him as well.

Recently I was playing acoustic guitar for a concert at a church and I broke a string near the end of the performance. Since I play a lot of single-note and lead patterns, a broken string would have been disastrous. Once again, though, I had borrowed a friend's acoustic and had it sitting backstage, so I was able to switch guitars and finish the performance.

In any case, if you can manage it, try to bring a backup guitar when you're playing live; even if you have to borrow it. If more than one guitarist is performing, they should each have their own spare. It's like insurance, you hope to never have to use it, but it's nice to know that it's there.

So the rule to remember here is: always try to bring a spare guitar, even if you have to borrow one.

Check your Gear Before You Go

I know that we're all usually in a rush before playing live, whether it's playing at church or at a performance. The trouble with this is that we tend to overlook many of the things that we count on, like the gear that we haul around form place to place.

For acoustic guitars there isn't as much equipment to worry about: extra strings, tuner, guitar strap, spare batteries for guitar electronics, etc. But I admit, I've shown up to more than one performance without a strap, which has always been cause for amusement on the part of the guys I perform with.

For electric guitars there's a great deal more to worry about: power cords, several batteries, cables, straps, effects, equipment racks, amps, etc. This is where the temptation to cut corners and not check your gear really starts to kick in. I've seen several guitar players forget the little things, like enough batteries for all their stomp boxes. Personally, I prefer to use power adapters instead of batteries, but then I have to make sure that I bring all the power adapters that I need, and I need to make sure that I bring the correct ones. (I showed up to play at a church with the wrong power adapter once, and I used no effects that day because of it... )


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