Guitar Zen: Touring Without Techs!

Photo by Steve Jennings

Guitarists Wear Many Hats

We’ve all been to a big concert and seen the way a production and set changes all come together seamlessly to make a smooth running performance from the opener to the closer.  No doubt we’ve also seen the many frantic stagehands, technicians, and crew members doing all the hard work! But these days, with the economy being as it is, less people are paying to see shows and the end result is that bands have to scale back what they take on the road. So what’s usually first to go? Your beloved techs.

Well fear not my friends, because losing a tech (or never having one in the first place) isn’t the end of the world! You can do it yourself just as easily (as long as pride doesn’t stand in your way). Sure it’s cool to have somebody just hand you a guitar that’s ready to rock, where all you have to do is walk on stage, but the reality is that you’re paying for a luxury in a time when luxuries don’t come easy. Now if you can do it yourself, you know it’ll be done right and at the end of the day you have a few extra bucks in your pocket too! AND, you can always be clever and wear something different when your playing roadie (I like to put on a big hoodie and walk around introducing myself as SVH’s guitar tech) and 9 times outta 10, the audience will have no clue that you just set up your own stuff!

Five Quick Tips to Setup Like a Pro!

As the main guitarist in my band, I’m responsible for my guitar rig and the singer’s guitar rig as well, so I like to get the gear loaded into the venue as early as possible so that I can get everything unpacked, set up and ready to plug in and go for sound check. Whether you’re playing a small gig at the local club or playing a big festival style show, one thing is for sure, time is of the essence and you will almost always have to rush your gear on stage and whisk it back off even quicker. So here are a few pre-show equipment “staging” techniques that will surly speed up your set change and assure you the most ease of transitioning from roadie to rocker!

  • Load into the venue as early as possible. The sooner you’re in and set up, the sooner you can relax and get ready to ROCK!
  • Unpack all of your gear and set up as much as possible. Get your cabinet ready to roll up (even set your head or pedal boards on it for ease of rolling), get your pedals set up and wired to your rig and be ready to just power up, plug in and play!
  • Tune your guitars and double check the intonation. Often when traveling, guitars get knocked outta tune, especially when traveling in and out of different climates. So tune it up early, and then just fine tune it again before the show.
  • Change the strings on off days or after a show. When changing strings, they need to be stretched or worn in a bit. Doing that an hour before a show will cause you all sorts of issues, but changing them the night before or early enough that you have ample time to stretch them will give you optimal performance outta them!
  • Set up on stage quickly and quietly. Setting up is always hectic because your feeling rushed and usually a sound man or light tech will also be doing some tweaks and will more than likely ask you to be quiet if your just plugged in and noodling. So it’s best to get plugged in, make sure it all works and wait till you are asked to play by the sound man, so he or she can properly check all the lines and get you dialed in.

By doing these few quick and easy steps long before you need to walk on stage, you have set yourself up for success and did it all on your own! Now all ya have to do is go out there and BRING IT… then tear it all down real fast and get it off the stage! WHICH YOU HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE AND POWER TO DO ALL BY YOURSELF!!

Scott “SVH” Von Heldt is a staff writer for SMG. Scott is currently the lead guitarist for Brian “Head” Welch (ex-Korn) and has worked with members of White Zombie, Cirque Du Soliel and many others. In late 2008 he released the first book of his Mystic Art of Self-Discovery series entitled Mind Over Metal: The Musician’s Guide to Mental Mastery.


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