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The Importance of a Backup Box
When I was preparing for my VCE Guitar Exams (Australian High School Examinations for all you readers around the world) my teacher asked me if I had a backup box ready incase of emergency. When I said no I was hit with a barrage of questions. ‘What if you forget your backing tracks? What if you break a string? What if the powerpoint is in the back corner of the room and your lead isn’t long enough and you get stuck playing in the corner? It seemed ridiculous but deep down I was kinda scared. I was about to go into an exam which I’d spent 3 years working towards without a backup plan incase something went wrong.
Since then I’ve always had a ‘backup box’ that I take with
me to every gig. So what is a backup box? Basically it’s a box that you bring
with you to the gig which has a backup of everything you need incase something
goes wrong. Mine is a milkcrate I pinched from an alleyway on a drunk walk home
one night but yours can be whatever you want it to be. My box lives in the tray
of my ute (Aussie slang for boot of my car) and only ever comes out when I have
a gig. I’m going to go through the contents of my box in the hope of inspiring
you to prepare your own.
I always carry two spare 6m guitar leads, two short 30cm
leads and five patch cables in my backup box. Leads constantly get damaged,
bent, maimed or lent and never returned so it’s great to have more than you
need on standby.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rocked up to play a gig
and there are two stage power points to be shared by 3 guitarists who each
require 5 inputs. Sometimes it’s because someone knocked off the powerboards
the night before and sometimes it’s just because the venue is crap but
regardless if you bring your own board you’ll never be caught out.
If you’re a gigging musician chances are you change your
strings before they deteriorate to the point of breaking on you. Still
accidents happen and every now and then you’ll bust a string at soundcheck,
while warming up or worst of all while onstage. Having a stash of spare strings
in your backup box will prepare you for the worst and minimise the chaos when
It’s often really loud backstage and you won’t always be
afforded the opportunity to tune up between taking the stage and starting your
first song. Having a tuner in your backup box will let you tune backstage
before your set so you can launch right into the opening song with confidence.
Picks & Slides
If you play with a plectrum make sure you have spare pics in
your box. If you play with a slide, make sure you have a spare slide. Hey why
not have both?
Sheet Music &
These days I memorise everything before a show and always
play with a live band but back in the exam days it was often a requirement to
have a copy of the sheet music for the examiner to follow along to. Having a
folder prepared with copies of the music as well as a CD with all my backing
tracks was even more important than every other item on the list and totally
saved me during an audition when the person who auditioned before me accidently
took the iPod AUX cable home with them by accident.
So there are just a few of the things that I keep in my
backup box. Once again I can’t stress enough how many times a possible disaster
(or an unnecessary trip to the music shop right before doors) has been avoided
by having everything I need on standby. If I’ve missed anything important, or
If I’ve inspired you to create your own backup box I’d love for you to tell me
in the comments section below.
About The Author
Michael is a progressive rock guitarists and highly sought
after guitar teacher from Melbourne, Australia. He is a constant victim of
Murphy’s Law and has dedicated his life to helping other musicians avoid the
same fate. If you’re ready to take your playing to the next level sign up for Essendon
rock guitar lessons and unleash the fury!