Playing Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Ballarat and Melbourne was fairly simple in terms of gear for us, as we were travelling via road, where the only limitation is what you can fit in the cars/vans.
The next lot of shows in Brisbane, Hobart and Perth will be via air, which presents some pretty serious gear limitations for a guitarist (no, we don't own our own private jet like Iron Maiden).
The 3 biggest challenges?
- 23kg is all you can get for stowed luggage for most cheap-ish flights
- Guitars are too big to take as carry-on luggage
- Every bit of gear you take has to be transported with you. You can't rely on having ANYTHING provided for you at venues, no matter what the contracts state!
Based on these challenges, I want to share with you all the gear I take (and the gear I leave behind) when touring.
Even if you're not touring yet yourself, these tips will help you develop a reliable, portable rig that will get you (arguably) better tones than a wall of Marshalls!
Please note: I'm an endorsee of ESP/LTD guitars, but all other gear is bought and paid for at full price. Even if it wasn't, I'd still be using the same gear.
Guitar: ESP Horizon in Mono Case
ESP/LTD guitars are great for touring as they tend to be thinner of body and slightly lighter than your typical Les Paul.
The reason I take the ESP is:
- It sounds great
- It plays great
- It's reliable as hell. Strings rarely break, the neck stays reasonably straight and the electronics never cause issues.
I've taken hard cases before, but I find the soft (yet flight ready) mono case is much better for touring as I can walk around with the guitar on my back. It's also more forgiving of aggressive baggage handlers!
That being said, at every airport, as soon as I pick up my guitar, I open the case then and there with bated breath, praying to the dark gods of metal that there's no damage.
Other than the guitar, I always include:
- Sennheisser wireless receiver
- Line6 Guitar wireless receiver
- In-ear headphones
- Rechargeable batteries and charge cradle (for the wireless packs)
- Picks (all heavy)
- One spare set of strings
- Cloth and pliers (for string changes if necessary)
In addition to this, I pack all my stage clothes and spare clothes into the guitar case for added protection (and to minimise additional baggage).
All up, the case weighs between 7-9kg. Perfect!
Amp & FX: AX-8 in Custom Flight Case
No hefty unreliable tube amps for me!
I get all of my effects and amp tones from the AX-8 amp modelling unit, which is housed within a custom made hard case from C&C Cases.
Live, the sound engineer takes a send directly from the AX-8 and runs it straight into the PA speaker. No cabs or mics required.
This makes my rig dead simple and reliable. Even if we get a 5 minute change-over, everything will already work perfectly out of the box.
The only other items I keep in this case are:
- Guitar Wireless Receiver
- Spare Guitar Cable (in case the wireless pack dies for any reason)
This box is kind of heavy, but it's extremely well protected, which is important for a heavy computer. All up, it weighs in at about 10kg. That means it will probably have to be stowed, though I would usually try to get it on as carry-on if I can sweet-talk the steward/ess at airport checkin!
That's 17-19kg total for those keeping score.
Most of touring life is spent waiting and travelling. As such, it's important to have tools to make sure you get the most out of your downtime, and I have a few I can't live without:
- Makeup removal wipes. Yes, we wear facepaint every show, but it's unpleasant to keep it on between shows....
- Kindle. I read (a lot) and books are heavy. The Kindle weighs practically nothing. The best thing is that they are not very power hungry, so I can get away without using a charger for an entire month, even with daily use.
- Charge packs. Phone batteries are useless. It's always helpful to keep a few spare charge packs lying around in case of emergency.
- Laptop. I try not to do too much admin while touring as I prefer to keep my mind on the shows, but it's incredibly useful to have access to deal with emergencies or to sort out payments/transfers/maps (I hate trying to do all of that on a mobile phone). Also great for loading a few Steam games onto (just remember to download them BEFORE leaving home).
Of course, there's also merch and our in-ear rack that need to be taken, but that's what vocalists are for!
When building your own touring or live rig, I'd recommend focussing on 3 things:
- Make it as simple and easy to setup and maintain as possible
- Get the best tools for the job - trust me, it will save you money and time in the long run
- Prioritise saving weight first, size second.
Feel free to share your own gear rundown in the comments below. See you in Brisbane!