You don’t always need to spend a ton of cash on gear for playing live. Transporting gear can often cause numerous things to go wrong. Expensive gear is usually fragile which could lead to regular repairs and replacements.
Expensive Gear vs. Inexpensive Gear
Expensive gear has its place, and that’s in the recording studio. In a recording situation minor details are under the microscope much more than in a live situation.
There is some great inexpensive gear which can surprisingly sound very good. These days you can pick up a delay pedal for a little over $100 which will sound very close to a vintage delay unit found in a studio.
Take a look at what some of your favorite professional players are using live. You’re likely to see some great inexpensive pedals in their pedal boards.
High Quality Cables
I like to replace my cables every year or so. The reason is cables tend to get beat up when playing in many different live venues. Especially if you’re playing in clubs; people spill their drinks causing your cables to get dirty and sticky. If you don’t replace your cables, you’re going to need to keep them clean.
Expensive cables are not a viable option for using live. There will be very little noticeable difference between a high quality cable and an inexpensive one. Save the expensive cables for the studio.
Take a look at the video below for a sound comparison between different cable manufacturers by JustinGuitar. Which sounds best to your ears?
It’s not necessary to spend a ton of money on vintage and analog rack gear. Modelling technology has come so far in the last few years that it’s difficult to beat something like a Hardwire pedal – doesn’t matter how expensive the competing unit is. Many pros are now switching over to compact units from sophisticated rack gear.
Save the fancy reverb and chorus units for the studio. In a live situation high quality processing is going to be much less noticeable. Having a look at what pedals some of your favorite players use can give you a good perspective on what’s right for you.
Many of the pros simply run a Tube Screamer into their amp for their distortion effect. Nothing fancy. And you can pick up one of these pedals for under $100.
Make sure you don’t use something overly digital. Zoom pedals are notorious in this regard. Use your ears to differentiate between what sounds good and what sounds bad.
Although it’s nice to cut costs where we can, your guitar amplifier is a very important aspect of your rig. It’s going to add to your tone and performance. To get the best live experience it’s important to use a tube amp. The downfall here is that they can be quite pricey.
Although you don’t need much more than a 1×12 provided you’re not playing in stadiums or theatres, a good amp is key. If you’re hard up for cash a good amp modelling unit like the Fender Mustang can work wonders, although a tube amp is definitely the way to go.
Amps are designed with the live musician in mind, so they are made to be taken out on the road. A good amp should last a very long time without needing any repairs or maintenance.
A guitar is something that can end up becoming extremely valuable to a musician. If you have an expensive guitar, the last thing you want is for someone to spill their drink on it, knock it over or steal it.
Many live guitarists prefer having a cheaper guitar for live performances. They like to use their more expensive and boutique gear for recordings and special live performances.
Personally I don’t have a problem using expensive instruments in a live situation. I make sure I keep a close eye on my gear. I also make sure it’s in a safe place out of the way of any harm.