Updated: Mar 8
Playing the guitar is such a fantastic experience. It’s so relieving to be on stage or in your designated practice space and just wail on your instrument. However, one of the difficulties of being a guitar player is deciding what gear is needed for live performances. We often get trapped in thinking that we must have the biggest and loudest rig for shows, accompanied by a pedalboard equipped with 30+ pedals. Don’t get me wrong, there is something extremely satisfying about plugging in to a half stack with a beastly tube amp head and playing loud enough to shake the windows. But in most cases, this does not produce a desired sound that a crowd at a show is eager to hear. So what is the solution? It’s quite simple, just simplify your rig!
What exactly is the benefit of simplifying your live performance rig? Well, let’s put it this way, after you’ve gained experience playing show after show with a monster oversized and overly complex rig, you realize that your back starts to hurt from loading and unloading all of that gear and it becomes less desirable to keep carrying all of the unnecessary stuff along to each gig. It makes much more sense to lose the extra stuff that you don’t need and keep it simple!
So what is the first step to simplifying your rig? That’s an easy one! All you have to do is separate the equipment that you actually use for live shows from the extra stuff. The first place to check for unused items is your pedalboard. We have an obsession with collecting pedals that are often unnecessary and are, in many cases, unusable for anything other than creating weird sounds. Lose the phasers, octave pedals, pitch shifters, etc. and clear some space. Maybe you’ll even be able to switch to a smaller board that is lighter to carry! Another idea is to ditch the use of bulky individual pedals and go with an effects processor. While it may take some time to find the tones you want, the new processors are loaded with usable tones for live music and are much easier to haul than a bulky pedalboard. In some cases, you could even use your processor as your amp by running directly into the sound system! This eliminates the need for even bringing an amp!
The second step to simplifying your rig is downsizing your amp. In most live scenarios your amp will be mic’d by the sound guy, so there really is no need for anything bigger than a 2x12. My main rig currently includes nothing more than the super light and super versatile Boss Katana 100 MK11 with the GAFC footswitch and 3 other pedals. I’ve found that this helps reduce load in time without sacrificing any tone or volume. It’s really a no brainer!!
The third step to simplifying your rig is ORGANIZATION!!! Yes, I emphasized that with all caps for a reason. Lack of organization for live gigs is so frustrating and time consuming. When you are unorganized, it seems like it takes a lifetime to set up your rig! If it takes you an hour to set up your rig and you are only playing for 30 minutes, then it may be time to look at the organization of your rig. Some simple organizing tips are listed below:
Make sure that you have everything you need packed and ready before the show. I know, it’s simple, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen players get to shows without instrument cables, patch cables, or even power supplies.
Get a tote bag for all of your cables, power supplies, guitar stands, extra strings, etc. This one is the most important. By getting a little gym bag for carrying this stuff, you will make less trips to the van, be able to set up faster, and know where all of the extra little things are that you may normally forget!
Get rid of any gear that you no longer use or need. If you have a whole bunch of gear sitting around that isn’t getting any love, then sell it! Having too much gear doesn’t make you a better guitar player. Remember, we are guitar players, not guitar collectors.
I hope that this article has helped you understand some of the many ways to simplify your live performance rig! I invite you to leave any ideas that you have on the topic in the comment section. It’s always nice to hear new ideas from other guitar players!!