Seasoned engineers never leave home without their trusty gig bag, but if you’re new to remote recording, it can be hard to know what’s handy to have on the road. As a result, you either end up taking absolutely everything, just in case, or you end up on the job without a key cable of adaptor. In this article I am going to give you a sneak peek into my personal gig bag and explain why these items are so vital to having a successful gig.
To help you get into the zone let’s start with the definition of a gig bag…
Gig bag: noun. A self-contained mini-universe of cables and tools to bring with you on any recording gig. Separates the pros from the amateurs. See also: being prepared.
First, the bag itself. I prefer something with lots of pockets to keep everything separate and organized. My gig bag has handles and a padded strap so it can be carried or worn like a messenger bag. You’ll appreciate being able to wear your gig bag if you do a lot of gear loading! Measure your bag to make sure it is a carry-on friendly size if you travel by air. Pick something durable and fill it up with the following:
I keep a handful of different cable types in my gig bag and I have at least 2 of each type available so I can be ready for both mono and stereo situations. Some of the cables I keep in my gig bag are:
Short XLRs - these are handy for setting up a quick talkback mic from FOH, patching between pieces of gear, or plugging in a wireless receiver without using 25 feet of cable.
XLR Y-Cables - A Y-cable is a cable with one connector on one side which splits into two connectors on the other end. XLR Y-cables are great for doing quick signal splits. For example, at a recent concert recording, I had the main output of my board (mixing console) going to both my recording rig and to a video crew who was live streaming the event. That way, I was able to record my rough mix whilst simultaneously broadcasting that mix to the live stream.
1/8 inch headphone connector to RCA or Jack - You never know when you’ll need to record the output of a device. With one of these cables to hand you’ll be able to record a cell phone call or “message received” sound effect you need. If you’re more of a live sound person, these are great for making sure you’re getting signal to the PA and monitors. Just play some music off your phone and check that everything is routed the way you intend. Plus, you can play some walk in music for the audience before the event starts.
Various USB, Firewire, Phone Chargers and Other Computer Cables - It’s always good to be prepared to copy data and I try to be prepared for not only my needs, but the needs of others. I might not need an extra USB cable, but the video person I’m collaborating with might. For that reason, I also keep an iPhone charger in my bag as well as an Android charger. I want people to remember me as the person who had the thing they needed when they needed it.
Again, make sure you have at least 2 of each. Most of the adapting find myself doing is done in pairs such as from 1/4 inch outputs on a board to XLR inputs on a recording device. From left to right, here’s what’s in my gig bag:
Female 1/4 inch to Male XLR, Female XLR to Female XLR, Female XLR to Male TRS, Male XLR to Male TRS, 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch, and 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch. I also have 4 RCA to 1/4 inch that are not pictured.
Tools and Tape
These are some of my most used items. From taping down cables to tightening shock mounts and reaching recessed pad switches on microphones. I keep both Phillips and flathead screwdrivers as well as a couple of small jewellers screwdrivers for securing DB25 cables. In addition to labeling my board, I use label tape to mark what channel my XLRs are plugged into, especially if I’m recording an event with changeovers and different performing groups.
A stereo bar is a vital piece of my kit. I record a lot of orchestras and choral groups using a pair of mics (usually Neumann KM184’s) positioned in XY so being able to put two mics on a single stand is great.
Extra batteries are always good to have at the ready for wireless mics, console lights, or portable recorders. I find myself on catwalks and running cables through crawl spaces quite often so I keep a headlamp and a couple of flashlights in my gig bag as well.
Pens, sharpies, and markers are necessary for taking notes during the recording, labeling cables, and marking up scripts. At my studio, we use personalized notepads to detail the titles of songs, the take number, audio format, which hard drive/s was used, input lists, microphone placement, and any other information that will be helpful to have during editing and mixing. In addition to my recording notes I keep a blank pad of scratch paper. I keep all these writing utensils in a sparkly gold pencil case because it is easy to spot if you’re backstage in the dark.
Of course, you need to be able to listen to what you’re recording, so throw a pair of headphones in! It is also a good idea to keep business cards in your gig bag. You never know when your next client is in the audience at the performance you’re recording!
What’s In Your Gig Bag?
Are there any items not mentioned here that you always have with you in your gig bag? Drop a comment below and let us know what to add to this list!