So you’ve learned all the music, fine tuned your tones, and meticulously arranged your pedalboard for an optimal ratio of toe-space to frequently used effects.

What could go wrong?

Everything. Everything can and will go wrong. It is entropy and Murphy’s Law in action. Creating an emergency gig case will save you from that “OH ****!” moment on stage.

Being prepared for the gig.

A few years ago I had a weekend playing Friday and Saturday with a big band in Dallas and a wedding gig that Saturday. On Friday night the gig was going great until my tubes started falling out of my amp. This was a regular problem at the time so I reached to the back of the amp and stuck them back in. No harm. The night continued like this every so often until I finally broke a string on the last song of the night. Again, no harm. Unfortunately I showed up to my wedding gig the next day with my G string missing and had the pleasure of playing a cocktail hour jazz trio  set with five strings. At that it was an inner string- all the worse. For some reason that I will never comprehend, Guitar Center is not open late on the weekends when musicians might need something for a gig so I ended up finding a set of strings at Best Buy on my way to the Saturday big band gig. All in all I was able to handle the situation professionally and it was a great exercise for me to see what new voicings I could come up with sans G string.

After that gig I vowed to fix my gear and never leave the house for a gig again without my OH ****! Box (i.e. OSB).

What Do I Need?

First and foremost, make sure that all of your gear is in functional working order. This means getting your guitar set up professionally, your amp serviced, and any noisy cables replaced. Every gig will require specific things but I like to keep some “staples” on hand for any situation that may arise.

I polled some friends on Facebook who are professional guitarists and we came up with this list:

  1. Extra strings (multiple gauges?)
  2. Lots of picks
  3. Capo
  4. Tuner
  5. Extra batteries
  6. 1/4″ Cable
  7. Power strip
  8. Pencil and pen
  9. Short extension cable
  10. Business Cards
  11. 5 Hour Energy
  12. Phone/iPad Charger and cable
  13. Clothes pins
  14. Small Screwdriver set
  15. Peg winder
  16. Wire cutter
  17. Stand light
  18. Three-prong to two prong plug adapters
  19. Music Stand
  20. Ground lift
  21. Guitar strap
  22. Hand cart/dolly
  23. Cash
  24. Duct tape/Gaff tape
  25. IEC power cable
  26. Black socks
  27. Spare fuses
  28. Spare tubes
  29. Small soldering iron and some pliers
  30. Mic cables
  31. sm57
  32. USB Cables
  33. Midi Cables
  34. Hex/Allen wrenches
  35. Guitar stand


I use a mono guitar tick for my main OSB. In it I keep strings, picks, a capo, a slide, in-ear headphones, a stand light, assorted batteries, a tuner, business cards, tools, spare cables, some adapters, an iPhone/iPad charger and cable, a pocket knife, and a pedal power supply. It also makes a nice place to put my phone and wallet while playing. My goal when loading in to any gig is one trip so the best thing about the guitar tick is that it attaches to my mono guitar case. In my car I also keep a secondary OSB in the car with a guitar stand, music stand, an extension cord, and a spare-spare 1/4″ cable.

The Guitar Tick and M80 Guitar Case are available through

One of the most useful things in my OSB is this screwdriver set from Stewart McDonald:



Be Prepared!

Do you have any other ideas for essential OSB items or want to share your disastrous under-prepared gig experience? Post them in the comments below.

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