How to prepare for the show

I get often asked how I prepare for an Airbag show. How do I set up the pedals and amp? How do I keep the guitar tuned throughout a performance? Many of you have probably a lot more stage experience than I but I’ll try to share some tips and “rituals” that work for me.

When we rehearse for a show we usually start off by agreeing on the setlist and then we run through the songs to get a sense of the feel and flow of it all. This is a chance for me to try different pedals, sounds and guitars. I mainly stick to the setup I used on the recorded versions but as time goes by you want to adjust to the overall sound of the band. Perhaps we’ve decided to change the mood in a song or the setlist is leaning towards an overall heavier sound.

A small intimate club usually calls for warm mellow sounds and I tend to get somewhat overly bluesy with the Telecaster. Bigger venues and outdoor gigs usually demands a slightly heavier tone with more aggressive settings on the gain pedals, EMG pickups and sometimes even a Les Paul.

Things to pack:
– Spare tuner for backstage.
– Enough spare cables of different lengths.
– Spare patch cables for the pedal board.
– Plenty of spare 9V batteries.
– Spare power adaptors and it’s also wise to bring a couple of pads as well. Smaller clubs and festival shows never have enough outlets. Also make sure that you bring the right plugs for earth if you travel abroad.
– Plenty of spare strings. You never know when you need to restring and it can be wise to make sure you’ve covered the clumsy rhythm guitarist as well.
– Always keep a box with the basic tools: screw drivers of different shapes and sizes (make sure they cover all your needs), Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife (scissors, cutter etc), gaffer tape, string winder and Allen Wrench kit (remember the small gauge for the bridge saddles). If you’re touring for long periods at a time you may also want to bring a soldering iron, tin, spare battery pads for your vintage pedals, a couple of pedal switches etc.

I also pack a couple of spare pedals in case some on the board stops working or if I’m simply in mood for something different. A spare overdrive, distortion and delay should cover the very basics. I choose to bring these as spares rather than to clutter the board.

Setting up
Looking at the stage I’m always to the drummer’s right. Not having to bicker over who’s where saves a lot of time and you get to keep to your self concentrating on the rigging. I start out by looking around in my corner. What’s the best place for the amp? Will the pedal board fit in front of the monitor?

As you know I have a fairly basic setup. One amp stack, a pedal board and usually no more than two guitars. I like to keep the amp at arm’s length but that’s usually not a problem as we’re no stadium band… yet. I also like to have the cabinet slightly off the ground. I’m using a customized stand that’s about 50cm high. On a big stage it’s really not a problem but on a smaller stage you probably have the amp 1,5-3m away and the sound goes right between your legs. I play loud and use the amp as a monitor so by raising it slightly I get the sound right where I want it. The pedal board is placed between me and my front monitor.

A great tip for smaller venues is to angle your speaker cab slightly off axis from the mixing desk. This is important because one thing is for sure – no sound engineer can stand loud guitars and he’ll turn you down in the PA. If he’s positioned right on axis all he’ll hear is a knife cutting straight into his head so be sure to avoid this. I’ve had sound assistants coming up to me in the middle of a song screaming in my ear that I need to turn it down. Naturally I can’t go into detail right then and there about the importance of volume to get smooth tones from my beloved Big Muff so I gently tell him to fuck off and I’ll angle the amp even more (or pretend to tweak the controls).

The most important thing you can do and ALWAYS need to do is to make sure that the power outlets you’ll be using are properly grounded. If you have the slightest doubt you should trace the wire to the source or ask the sound engineer for help. NEVER plug your amp or pedal power into a socket that’s not grounded. This can seriously harm you equipment and worst case kill you. If you travel abroad you must check the voltage and that you have matching ground plugs. Don’t be stupid and cut off any excess plugs but get the right conversion. You may want to live the rock n roll legend but being electrocuted on stage isn’t cool!

Once settled the first thing I do is to switch on the amp and let it heat as much as possible in bypass mode. A cold amp sounds flat and dark and you may end up spending the whole soundcheck tweaking your pedals only having to readjust them once the amp is warm. It’s also very important that the speaker cable is connected to the cab and head. This is easy to forget during a stressful rigging but not doing so it can seriously harm your amp and burn the transformers.

The pedal board needs extra attention. Be sure to check every patch cable and jacks. Pedal boards tend to get a lot of beating during a flight so even if everything looks OK there might be some bad connections. Check all the adaptors and power jacks as well. You don’t want to experience the horrific minutes when you hastily have to go trough every bit of wire in the middle of a show. It’s happened to me and it was pure hell. Smaller clubs might be cramped and it’s important that you try to avoid mixing instrument cables with power cables that run across the stage. Try also not to use the same power circuit as the light rigs. This may cause a lot of buzzing and hissing.

Tuning up
Keeping the guitar tuned throughout a show may be a challenge. Most of us don’t have the luxury of Phil Taylor so we have to care for the guitars ourselves. Nothing does more damage to your guitar than the flight’s storage room. What happens is that the guitar will be exposed to extreme temperature changes from -50C to possibly well over 30C when the stage lights are lit – and this often during just a few hours. This may result in a neck completely out of shape and the guitar will be impossible to keep tuned. DON’T solve this by adjusting the truss rod on the spot. This can do more harm than good. Wait until you are home in a controlled environment or simply let your guitar doctor look at it. ALWAYS bring your guitar with you into the flight (at least your favoured one) and try always to bring at least two guitars in case something happens.

Assuming that you manage to restring and intonate properly (see this in depth feature for tips) it’s really not much more you can do than to make sure you have a tuner on your board. Once the guitars are out of their cases I stretch the strings and tune up then let them settle for awhile. A couple of minutes before the show starts I do the same exercise – pull the strings, wiggle the trem arm and tune up. I rarely need to tune more than 2-3 during a 90min show.

Find your tone
Once the amp is warm and the guitar is tuned it’s time for testing your tones. I usually start with settings the amp and pedals exactly as they were on last rehearsal. I know how they sound in our studio and that’s a good reference for the needed adjustments. Keep calm and don’t freak out if everything sound like shit. That’s normal. Every room, stage and venue will sound different so you will need to make adjustments. Start off with a clean bypassed signal and set the amp as desired. DON’T adjust the pedals until the amp sounds just how you want it. I usually go end up with something like this:

bass 50%, treble 50-60%, mids 40%, presence 60% and the master at about 1/3 of the channel volume (I’m using a linked input setup with the normal slightly higher than the bright).

I rarely bring my Reeves tube amp when we travel abroad. It’s a hassle and also very expensive to travel with too much luggage. This means that I have to use something else. The nightmare would be a Marshall solid state (it has happened) but I usually get what I want. You can’t expect the venue to carry vintage Hiwatts or Sound Citys but usually they have a JCM800, Fender Twin or Bassman, Mesa or similar. The best thing you can do is to be prepared. Check in advance what they can offer and don’t be afraid to ask. Promoters are usually very helpful and eager to fulfill every need. If it’s a festival you need to book the amp in advance and if something goes wrong then simply ask one of the other bands if you can borrow one of their amps. If you don’t have much experience with different amps then simply bring your guitar to your local guitar store and spend an afternoon trying a bunch. I always ask for a Mesa/Boogie 50w Rectifier. Most venues carry these and they’re quite similar to a Hiwatt or Reeves. Next best thing would be a Fender Twin or Bassman.

My experience is that a deep stage has a boomy sound so you might need to lower the bass on the amp and perhaps on some of the pedals. A wide stage tends to sound more open but your tones might appear thin so you may need to adjust the bass and mids accordingly. However, be careful with the settings. Remember that he amp is miced and fed through the PA so what you hear 3-4m away from the amp might be the resonance from the stage and not what’s actually coming from the amp. A good way to deal with this is to make sure you have a proper monitoring in front of you. Most monitors are usually beaten to death and sound thin and harsh. They’re mainly used for vocals but don’t be afraid to ask for some EQ to get the sounds you want.

A great Hendrix/Gilmour trick is to match the volume from the amp and the monitor and use this for controlling sustain and feedback. Find the spot where you’ll be standing for most of the show and communicate with the sound engineer until you have the desired effect. It’s to check the balance during a song with the other instruments. The idea is that by taking a step back or forward you’ll be able to get just a hair of feedback that you can use for that rich silky smooth sustain. Sometimes you have to force it but when it works all you need to do is to slightly lean towards to monitor and you can feel the guitar starting to come alive. This of course requires that you’re a master at controlling the volume and signal with a volume pedal, guitar volume and your hands.

By now you should be pretty close to what you want. Sometimes you have all the time in the world but on a festival or a warm up gig you might get 10-15mins and it can be a challenge to remember everything you need to do. Try not to stress or compromise. It helps to make prioritized checklist – see below. Once you get this exercise into your blood it makes the whole experience that much easier and enjoyable. And remember… Stay calm if something happens during a show. Don’t shake your head or roll your eyes if you make a mistake and don’t freak out if something breaks down. Remember that you have fans in the audience and if you manage gracefully they’ll say “man, that guitarist is awesome!” Rather than “oh man, you should have seen his face when the guitar went dead…”.

– Things to pack – see list above.
– Research in advance the stage measurements and setup.
– Take the guitar with you on to the plane.
– Arrange your amp and pedal board and angle the speaker cab slightly off axis from the mixing desk
– Switch on the amp to warm it up. Remember to check the ground and that the speaker cable is connected BEFORE you switch it on.
– Check every pedal, patch cable, jack, power source and plug and try to use a different power circuit than the light rig.
– Set the amp first and then the pedals. Remember to let the amp warm up first.
– Tune up for the sound check and again before your show starts.
– Keep a pack of strings with you at all times.

Some guitarists are constantly tweaking their amp and pedals during a show. I do it all the time and I’d rather do that than to clutter my board with too many pedals with different settings. Also, the sound up on the stage tends to change when more people enter the venue or get closer to the stage. You might also want du adjust your tones accordingly to the overall sound and mood of the band. Perhaps the drummer is pushing the songs towards a heavier tone or perhaps the audience inspires to a lot of improvisation and you want to add a bit more delay and modulation.

Be careful though and remember that your ears get tired. Don’t get tempted to increase the treble or volume just because you can’t hear properly. It’s the sound coming out of the PA that’s important. I’m lucky to have a manager that knows my tones and how important they are to me and he’ll signal when something isn’t right. I’m also not afraid to communicate with the sound engineer during a show to get the proper monitoring.

Good luck with the show!

40 thoughts on “How to prepare for the show”

  1. Hey Bjorn,

    Was the Kepex Processor used for the tremolo effects on Money or was it the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli.
    I’m getting no answers and I need to know so I can add the effect onto but I need proof that it was used.I know its listed here on this site but I need to be certain that it was used.

    Could you help me?

    1. Sorry for my late reply. The Kepex claim comes from an older interview and I think it was referred to in Guitarist Magazine (January 1995) or Guitar World Magazine (1993). Maybe Premier Guitar (2012). I need to verify that but I think it was an interview with Alan Parsons. He did not use the Hi-Fli.

  2. Hello, Bjorn!

    Thank you for a very good and useful article!

    Can you please tell me what gauge of string David is using on his Jedson/Fender lap steel guitars for “High Hopes” and “One of these days”? Also can you please tell me what gauge of string David is using on his telecaster fo Drop D tuning for “Run like hell”? I didn’t find this type of information on internet and the book The Black Strat 4th edition.

    Thank you for your reply!;)

    1. All electric guitars are strung with GHS Boomers (custom set 0.10-0.48 for Strats and 0.10,5-0.50 for the Les Paul), Ernie Ball Earthwound Light’s on the acoustics and D’Addario EHR360 half rounds on electric lap slides.

  3. Bjorn can you help me? I play at a very nice church with great people but the sound guys aren’t trained and they have everything sounding like garbage. I get complaints that I’m not loud enough from the audience but the sound guys complain that I’m too loud. All I do is play fill ins and improvise solos. It’s pointless if you can’t hear me. Any advice?

    1. Hi Brad! Hard to tell without having heard the acoustics in the hall but try to point your amp away from the sound desk so that it’s not hitting the sound guy straight in his face. You might also want to turn down your amp and allow the sound guy to use more of your guitar in the PA mix and front monitors – if you have any.

      Also, increase your mids. Both on the amp and pedals. If your pedals lack mid range, then consider replacing them or use an EQ or booster that can boost the mids. Pedals like the Tube Driver and Muffs, has scooped mid range. I’m often pairing those with a TopTone Shine Boost, which boosts the upper mids and adds a nice presence. The Xotic EP Booster is similar.

      1. Ok. I already turned the amp away like you have recommended. His excuse is that im too loud on one side of the stage and not loud enough to on the other side. Yeah I’ve got a shine boost. But even turned down, mine makes it too loud. All the way turned down its still a huge boost. Does yours do that?

        1. With the volume all the way down, it should be unity with the amp but you might perceive it as louder with the mids switch engaged. The sound guy should be able to use your stage volume and pan it to the side of the PA that he needs. You can also place the amp to your left or right, pointing into across the stage. That way you can use the amp as a monitor and the sound guy should be able to feed a balanced mix in the PA.

          1. Ahh I didn’t think of that. Thank you! And thank you for your time and help. These guys don’t know what they are doing. I suggested the panning my signal to another monitor but he apparently can’t do that. They aren’t trained they are “learning as they go” and it is hurting the band which really sounds good. They don’t believe in getting a good stage mix. But anyways I’m going to approach some of them with your ideas and see. Thanks again man!

  4. Bjorn, what do you think about the pedalboard cables? I use two 1 meter cables for a loop and cables from the guitar to the pedalboard and from pedalboard to the amp. If I was to set my pedalboard next to the monitor, I would surely have to use much more cables… So I just put it right by my amp. How can you have your pedalboard by a monitor and still not lose sound by having too long wires?

    [I use buffers. Check out this feature for an some tips and tricks. – Bjorn]

  5. Yes, perhaps I was a bit too hard on Fender, and Gibson. I didn’t mean to distespect them, because they do still turn out some fine instruments,( No thanks to Eric Holder!), I guess feeling the vibration of the strings throughout the entire instrument for the first time, when acoustically playing a handcrafted instrument the first time, has spoiled me. Thanks for your GREAT reply, your friend, Keith

    [Well, I don’t think you were disrespectful :) Just wanted to share my view. Not everyone has the oportunity to own a handcrafted instrument but regardless of what one choose, it’s always a good idea to have some basic knowledge that will help you get the most of your guitar. Being able to tell good from bad and perhaps different ways of performing minor mods and upgrades can turn even the cheapest guitar into a real gem. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  6. I hate leaving more than one post in a single Zen time, but I was reading some old posts from the time the Phil Taylor book came out, and the CS DG Strat was announced, and it got me thinking about the Rodriguez again, so I wanted to give an update, and give a detailed description for those who would like to own a very personalized Black Strat, for about 2/3 the cost of a, (this is purely an opinion!) Piece of crap production guitar! Personally, I think that maybe 1 out of every 20-50 Fender’s, Gibson’s, etc., that have been built in the last 20 years are worth anywhere near what they charge for them. I was shopping for a no expense spared guitar back in 1996, or ’97, and decided to look at a Les Paul Ebony Custom, the 3 PAF model, and was really disappointed at the poor craftmanship of every aspect of the guitar. I’m just guessing, but at the time, I think it was close to $3,00.00US. The binding looked like a wrigglely three or four lines that someone with a shaky hand had drawn, and the finish wasn’t even close to the “70’s version that got me interested in it. Gibson was the first to let the quality sklip, but Fender’s higher priced CS, and Vintage USA re-issue stuff has climbed to astronomically high prices, and their quality control has also gone to the dogs. ( In that shopping story, I ended up buying the greatest guitar I’ve yet to play, A ’71 natural Walnut finshed ES 335 TD,(Thin Design, the neck was very slender.) in absolute mint condition, with orig. H S case, for $900.00! And they DO NOT MAKE GUITARS LIKE THAT ANYMORE, PERIOD!!!. Last year, as I was doing a web based early Pink Floyd show, with tons of factoids between songs, called “The Tea Set”, I decided to play again. I went out and purdhased a $250.00 Squire Thin Line tele, that played as well as any of the USA’s, (actually better!), and took it to Tom Rodriguez, of Rodriguez guitars, LOOK HIM UP ON THE WEB! he did some fretwork, and replaced the pots, Cap, wire, sheilding, and jack, with NOS feder stuff, and now I have a $400,00 Tele, that sounds, and plays as well as ANY $1500,00 CS Tele. The Fralins went in shortly thereafter. That leads to now, I Had Tom of Rodriguez guitars, a 30 year friend, as is Lindy Fralin, of Fralin Pickups, undoubtably the best Fender pickup winder in the world, well, basically had them get together, using specs I copped from Gilmourish, and from the fact that the original black Strat pups were wound by Fralin recently, as follows, Neck-Middle, 8000 winds, Bridge, 8400 winds. Tom has made me a ’69 Alder, vintage contour body, late ’60’s big head neck, maple, with capped maple fingerboard, out of 120 year old piano wood, (I think it’s stable now!). I picked out a beautiful Alder block for the body, and the rest of the guitar is as follows. Callaham Vintage S bridge, with the middle sized Bar, which is a bit longer than the 5 1/4 DG uses. Handcut solid Black pickguard from a thick 1 ply blank, same thickness as stock 3 ply. Gotoh tuners with the notch, and hole for excellent stay in tune ability, Brushed stainless four bolt neck plate, engraved with a dedication to DG, Working with Lindy, using his Vintage Hots, ( stock ’60’s Fender in every way.),in neck, and mid, and working on a nrew design for the bridge, that is pure fender, but output of the SSL. I’m starting with the wiring totally stock, and adding the mini toggle if I think I need it, and many will give me shit, because I’m not having the guitar paited black, (I didn’t want to hide the beautiful grain in the Alder.), so it is a translucent, electric minty Green> electric blue>dark blue>Black, with as I said, Black pickguard, and stock, parchment pup covers, knobs, switch cap. Starting with the stock, steel plate behind the pickguard, that many seem to not know about, and lastly, off center,(closer to the top, inlaid ebony dot, fretmarkers.) It wont look much different, but the ebony will be more matte than the plastic dots that usually are in the neck! Oh yeah, the nut. I chose many thousands of years old, fossilized Rhinoserous Ivory. Now, every bit of this guitar, is made to MY specifications, I do quality checks along the way, I pick the schematic, wood, hardware, total design, pickups, and all for about $3000.00. Being a local Richmond, Va. Musician automatically brings it down to closer to $2000.00, but if the guitar cost $5000.00, considering what Gibson, and Fender Charge for wood cut by CNC machines, and auto-sanded, painted by robots, and “assrembled by hand”, I’d still prefer a totally handcrafted instrument, made by ONE pair of hands, he uses no help, and his classicals, are selling for as much as $12,000.00. If a man can make a concert quality Classical, that Masters rave about, I think he can one up any production electric builder. If you don’t want one of Tom’s guitars, fine, I’m not getting anything for this praise, but the satisfaction that in 3 weeks, I’ll have a guitar Gilmour would love to own, and liked the pickups enough to trust the original Black Strat’s pups to be wound perfectly by Lindy Fralin. Do yourselves a favor. If you can afford one, check out Tom, Lindy, or another qualified Luthier, and get something REALLY personal, that will last you the rest of your life, and will only grow in value with age. I hope this isn’t too long to be published, because I think that it’s important for all Gilmourish fanatics, like myself, should know that there are less expensive, and better quality instruments availible, than spending $4000.00 for a Fender DG, and an extra $800.00 for the scratches? That’s a fucking joke to me.
    Peace, Hope this gets through, and many read it, if not, that’s cool too! Thanks for the forum Bjorn, Your friend, Keith Clarke, “The Tea set”

    [Thanks for yet another lengthy post, Keith! You’re getting awfully close to advertising for free LOL! Anyway, I agree with most of your points here but I feel the need to balance a little. First of all, the playability of an instrument can be divided in two – the actual quality and assembly and your very personal experience. The quality of the parts and assembly is easy to detect, although it require some experience. Cheap components, bad wood selection, sloppy assembly etc will have a dramatic impact on the quality. This is perhaps more common among cheaper instruments, but it occurs quite often among the higher price ranges as well. Whether or not you enjoy the feel, contour, playability etc, is your experience and subjective experience. Given that the guitar is of an acceptable quality, no one can tell you if your guitar is crap or not and although one always can (and should) argue opinions, one should also respect each other’s choice :)
    I don’t really agree that Fender, Gibson etc made better guitars in the golden era, the 50s and 60s. It’s perhaps true to some extent but Fender especially, were very inconsistent in selecting wood, winding pickups etc back in the days. The consistancy is much better today and the custom shop guitars are usually of a very high standard. However, there are always black sheeps within the stock. There are many reasons for that – most of it comes from production but one shouldn’t neglect the fact that shipping and storing in other climates also has an affect. Also, the fact that instruments are violated by tons of potential customers while hanging in a store, is also substantial. My point is, there are many reasons why one guitar may have a less quality than a seemingly identical other – regardless brand.
    Smaller companies and luthiers has a very different way of manufacturing and caring for their instruments. They make most of the parts them selves and have close relationships with their suppliers. They can also follow through shipments to their customers. This small scale production is very transparent and quality issues can be devastating for the business. Although there are lots of enthusiasm within the bigger companies, they are driven by their owners – share holders. Smaller companies are also depending on surviving but they are usually runned by people with a whole different philosophy… perhaps the same philosophy Leo Fender had when he started out in the late 40s.
    I’ve always tried to stress the fact that there are cheaper and just as good alternatives to the more expensive, well known models. Personally, I swear by Japanese Fenders. As you point out, you can also find Mexican and Squiers that are amazing and a couple of upgrades makes them a tough competition for the US counterpart.
    This became a lenghty post as well :) In essence I agree with most of your points although my experience tells me that there are good and bad on both sides. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  7. Hey Bjorn, This is a real question, but mostly one of symantics. On settings for Meddle, you refer to the Binson Echorec mode as: Repeat. What would that translate to for modern digital delays, (like a DD-20)? Feedback is generally the number of repeats, but never having seen an echoerec up close, I’m not sure what Repeat mode could really mean. I had mentioned once before that in echoes, the litlle arpeggio with all the delay, right before going back to the reprise, has a very distinct delay, or is more than one track, I just cant get my delay sounds right, so I thought I’d see if a clarification of the “Repeat mode” miight help.
    Thanks in advance if you have an answer for me, Keith

    [I’ve never tried a Binson my self, so I can’t really tell how it sounds but repeat would be equivalent to a standard delay – tape mode on the DD20 I guess. See more about the Binson here. – Bjorn]

  8. Hi Bjorn,

    I’m looking for a cheaper, but reliable spare for my T-Rex Replica. If I decided for an analog unit instead of the TC Flashback with its analog modes, what would be your advice: MXR Carbon Copy, EHX Memory Boy or EHX Memory Toy? And how reliable are analog delay pedals compared to digital ones?


    [They’re just as reliable. Of the ones you mention I’d go for the Carbon. – Bjorn]

  9. hey Bjorn,
    I came across the website very recently while searching for articles to handle the noise in analogue pedals…and I am hooked on to the articles ever since…great effort great website and even greater dedication and study…never seen nything like this before…

    and yeah wonderful article!…i do find myself doing most of the things you mentioned here on stage/prior to shows…however the sweet spot thing in between the amp and monitors is something i had experienced (those shows when you feel the sound and ur rig is jst incredible! :P) but never tried on purpose…thanx for the tip and pretty sure I’ll be trying it the next time at a soundcheck!

    Cheers and keep up the good work!… \m/

    [Thanks Jatin! Glad you enjoy the site :) – Bjorn]

  10. Hi Bjorn,

    Posting after a very long time eh!!! Well, i saw the news about the explosion in Norway!! So just wanted to check up…all is good with i hope.

    Take care,
    Anmol singh

    [Thanks for your thoughts and concern Anmol. It’s a huge shock for us all but thankfully I and all my family and friends are fine. – Bjorn]

  11. Big fan of the site.It my first time posting. Great post and overall site .Lots ofgood things on hear.And this post well be a big use to me as a player.

    But my question, if or when you and airbag become biger then now,
    which DG rig wud you whant to use 06,71,DSOTM/WYWH,
    or any other.

    I’d go for Animals rig ,gest for the sheer powerful sound.


    [Thanks for your kind words Bailey! Glad you enjoy my site. My rig isn’t a duplicate of any of David’s but it’s inspired of course. I’ve used tons of different stuff over the years but prefer to keep it simple. One amp, a couple of guitars and a modest pedal board. I love pedals like the Big Muff, Mistress, Tube Driver etc but I also use a lot of other stuff as well for Airbag like Boss DS1, Line 6 Pods and different non-Gilmour effects. But that being said Animals has always been my favourite Gilmour tone and era. – Bjorn]

  12. Hi Bjorn,
    is everything ok with you? TV only talks about Oslo.
    Greetings from Poland

    [Thanks for your thoughts and concern Kamil. I and my family and friends are fine but this is a huge shock for us all. – Bjorn]

  13. Great article Bjorn,
    out of curiosity, if you have the bad fortune of being offered a transistor amp or a higain marshall, how do you set it up to sound Gilmourish?

    [I think it’s happened only once or twice. I try to set it as clean as possible with about the same settings as I’d use on my Reeves. Sometimes that won’t do and you have to tweak both the amp and the pedals to get a tone that you can live with. The Tube Driver and Muff especially can be hard to tame on solid states so I usually travel with a spare RAT and Tube Screamer, which goes nicely with most amps. – Bjorn]

  14. It is also really important, essential, to make sure that you have enough of the rest of the band and especially the drums in your monitor. If you can’t hear the drum kit very clearly – and you may struggle to on a larger stage – you have a massive problem and all your hard work on guitar tone will have been wasted. I speak from bitter experience !

    [+1. – Bjorn]

  15. Taking a Line 6 POD bean has been a bit of insurance at gigs. If my amp blew at least I have an amp simulator that I can plug into and carry on.

    I always have a spare 10 ft (3m) cable placed on top of my amp that I can grab quickly and straight jack my guitar to the amp in the event that my pedalboard craps out.

    Many gearheads add and subtract pedals to their pedalboards more frequently than their gigs (and for some, their band practices!). My advice is to resist the temptation of adding any new variables to one’s signal chain (from guitars all the way through the amp, and possibly the mics if those are brought in by your band) right before a gig. It’s usually better to “get by” with that old flanger you know all the quirks of rather than throwing on that new Ebay purchase received the day before. Troubleshooting new equipment in addition to all the other possible issues that you may have to deal with (a hungover bassist, an uneven drum riser, a PA speaker that craps out on stage left, lol) really sucks when preparing for a performance.

    Lots of great advice from Bjorn about extra strings, tools, cables, etc. I guess the only thing to add is something that should be common sense to everyone but still bears reminding:
    –> Make sure all these emergency/spare items are easily accessible and are in labelled containers (if applicable) considering that the ONLY reason you would be going to retrieve them is in an emergency situation.
    Imagine having this stuff locked up in your flight case that all other band members had stacked their empty cases on? This happened to me *once*. Won’t happen again!

    [Thanks for your input. I guess we all have experiences that would make up three new Spinal Tap movies. It’s hell right then and there but all can do really is to have a laugh and keep it mind for the next gig :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  16. Hi Bjorn

    Great work as always, even for the bedroom guitar player (as me). There is always a lot to learn.

    I have a Reeves Custom 50, and almost piss my pants when you said that a Mesa-Boogie Rectifier is “quite similar” to the Reeves. Being a huge Metallica fan and having a dual rectifier in my “list to get in a near future”, that premise was a little bit shocking. Could you please explain it a little bit?


    [It’s similar in the sense that you could very well get a Mesa as a Hiwatt but it’s somewhere in the same tone family. The Hiwatt and Reeves has a very open bright transparent clean tone while the Mesa rectifier is slightly darker with a bit more mids. It’s not an amp I’d buy for my tones but it’s very versatile and powerful so therefore most venues keep them as backline. It’s not the same as a Hiwatt but more similar than say a Marshall 900. – Bjorn]

  17. Thanks for all the tips and tricks! Very useful. Did you ever tried to work with plexi shielding in front of the guitar amp? I saw that with Joe Bonamassa. It makes sense to me. It’s a common thing they do around drums.

    [I’m not that familiar with Bonamassa’s gear but I think he’s using some really powerful stuff that needs to be controlled. He plays insanely loud and often on smaller stages. I saw him in Oslo some time ago and he played loud. Perhaps a bit too loud for the small stage and he struggled a lot with feedback. The plexi plates won’t solve the feedback but I’m sure they’re as much for isolating the guitar from the rest of the band as they’re for shielding the guitar mics for the noise on stage. It’s also common to use plexi plates if you’re recording the show. – Bjorn]

  18. Bjorn wrote, “Naturally I can’t go into detail right then and there about the importance of volume to get smooth tones from my beloved Big Muff so I gently tell him to fuck off and I’ll angle the amp even more (or pretend to tweak the controls).”

    That’s hilarious.

    [LOL! But true… :) – Bjorn]

  19. In addition to what you said about communicating with the sound engineer – what ever you do, do not piss them off!!! even if they are in the wrong.
    many years ago i caught a sound guy going through one of my cable boxes (I tend to carry spares for everything and everyone in the band) looking to ‘borrow’ a guitar lead (there were 3 bands on, and someone was having some problems), I told him all he had to do was ask, but he took offence, and no one heard a note i played all night.
    Ever since I’ve made a point of introducing myself to the engineer, and establishing some kind of rapport, and it does make the whole gig much, much easier.

    [Agree. It’s important to have a good communication with the engineer. I always try to have a fridnly chat before the show to let him know how I want to sound. It’s also important to let him know that you control the volume with pedals etc so that he doesn’t adjust you too much or add delays etc. – Bjorn]

  20. I absolutely cracked up with the amp off-axis from the sound engineer section! How true! I frequently play with a combo amp on top of a 4×12 cabinet. I also like to slightly alter the combo relative to the cabinet. Just a little bit does the trick.

    [Cheers! – Bjorn]

  21. Nice work, Bjorn! I especially like the part about making sure the rhythm guitarist’s gear is taken care of! ;o) It’s especially bad if he’s also the lead vocalist. Those of us who gig almost every weekend can certainly understand the value of the tips you’ve outlined here. Thanks again for all your hard work on this site.

    [Thanks Brandon! – Bjorn]

  22. Bjorn… Where were you, (and this article) when I was 19 and learning everything the hard way??? Sigh…

    Well you’ve given many great and valuable tips here… I would add to the list of things to bring..

    1. Ear plugs… (just in case).
    2. Picks… (PLUS a secret stash of “emergency” picks).
    3. A small towell or rag to wipe down your guitar after playing… (very necessary).
    4. Never go on stage without taking some proper hydration… (preferably beer)… Rocking out is thirsty business.
    5. And though I wouldn’t actually carry this around, a good tip is, if you get a cut on your finger-tip, “crazy glue” will hold it closed and allow you to keep playing, relatively painlessly…

    I would also add that, (considering how much you, or your bandmates may move around during the set), cables should be secured… Most guitarists these days know to feed the cable going into their guitar through their guitar strap first… so that you (or more often your singer) won’t step on it and pull it out… but what about the other ends? When possible, I like to tape the end of each cable going into and out of the pedal board, to the floor… and sometimes I’ll take the cable going into the amp, and feed that through the amp’s carrying handle first (same idea as the guitar strap technique)… I started doing that after my Bass player yanked his cable, breaking off the 1/4″ pin stuck inside the input jack of his amp, right in the middle of a set at CBGB’s in here in NYC… ah, good times…

    [Thanks for your input! – Bjorn]

  23. Nice article Bjorn!

    One time I had a gig where one of my cables broke mid song! The part in which it connects the wire to the tip became unsoldered, so I needed to keep my foot pressed on the tip of the cable to complete the circuit! After the song, I switched around a new cable, and everything was good again!

    The funny thing is though, that through the Soundcheck the cable was running fine, but I guess I pulled the cable a little too hard with my guitar, and it broke…

    Heh, Cheap cables…



    [Thanks for sharing :) – Bjorn]

  24. Important safety tips about grounding! Unfortunately, grounding becomes one of the more controversial aspects of equipment setup. Vintage amps often don’t have proper grounding plugs. Additionally, well grounded equipment can also pick up an immense amount of noise.

    It really depends upon how the power is wired in the venue. A lot of houses/buildings in the United States are grounded by running the wiring into a pipe running into the ground. You end up being at the mercy of whatever is going on in the dirt. :(

    To be sure, improper grounding is a good way to get injured. My father was playing his ES355 through a 65 watt Ampeg amp (back in the mid-sixties) and got knocked on his ass when he unwisely stepped in a puddle of water (talk about asking for it!)

    I once thought I had done the same thing when I hit a footswitch (wearing socks but no shoes) back in my college years. I got a jolt that ran through my leg. Then I looked down to discover that it was not an electrical problem, but in fact a wasp that had embedded himself stinger-first into my foot. Lesson: don’t play barefoot on stage!

    [Ouch! That reminds me that our keyboard player was stung by a wasp on his tongue during a pre-show dinner. He was allergic so he was rushed to the hospital got two adrenaline shots and was playing his heart out 30mins later. That’s rock and roll :) – Bjorn]

  25. Great advice, as always! For me the scariest part of the show is volume: both controlling volume discrepancies on stage and simply trusting the sound guy to do the right thing. You never really know for sure how it sounds ou front, and unfortunately you just have to learn to suck it up and trust that the sound guy knows best. It can be difficult when you’re up there wailing away and you don’t know if your tone is coming across properly to the audience.

    [Agree… you just have to live with it I guess but it helps to have someone you trust in the audience who can give you a nod. – Bjorn]

  26. Great tip of the week Bjorn. I play praise music at my church and we dont even do half of what you put in your article. Sometimes we dont even have time to do a soundcheck and the sound guys is having to adjust while we are playing. Next time we play, I am going to take the time and do a proper setup. Thanks again Bjorn.

    [This is by no means a manual for good tones but it works for me. I think either way it always pays off to spend some time setting up properly and not forgetting about the important stuff like grounding, power etc. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  27. Another tip for protecting the guitar from temperature changes.

    I open my case just a bit and prop it open using a sideways strap or tuner. I leave it like this a few minutes. Then I open it all the way and leave it like that a few more minutes. Then I take the guitar out. By slowly introducing it to the air where we are playing, I’ve cut down on the problems I have with the guitar.

    Hope that helps.

    Great article and I love your tip for dealing with soundmen who come up mid song to complain. I’ve done that more than once myself!

    [Thanks for the input! – Bjorn]

  28. Great advice Bjorn,

    It’s nice that you spend some time giving these tips, some musicians think that they only have to be aware of knowing how to play the songs and that’s it, not many musicians give a damn about the quality of their sound, which is for me as important as a good song. Thanks again!

    [Cheers Mario! – Bjorn]

  29. Good stuff Bjorn,as always…
    You have covered the lot except wheres the food coming tip that i learnt the hard way is to tape over any free Daisy chain plugs as they can short out and turn off a pedal if they touch a metal pedal casing..
    Keep it up….

    [Yeah, that has happened to me too. – Bjorn]

  30. Hey Bjorn,

    Great article once again. I think like you’ve have said preparation is everything in a live setting, just like it is when recording in the studio.

    In my experience one thing I’ve learned to do is not to feel pressured by the organisers when you’re setting up and take your time to ensure that everything is correct before you come onto the stage. After all, they’re also hoping that you’re not going to have to stop half way through a song. I think if it does happen, having something to say that’s either funny or meaningful is always a plus – I saw Rick Vito blow his amp once at a gig and while his roadies calmly went for another amp Mick Fleetwood brought his meaningful speech out and saved the day!

    Once again, I’ve loved reading your work and thanks for teaching everyone who looks at this site so much not just about David, but about their instrument in general.



    [Thanks for your input Tom! – Bjorn]

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