Ever forget to bring a cable or extra strings to practice? Batteries? Tubes? Well hopefully one of your bandmates has your back or practice is over. It’s an inconvenience when this happens at practice, but it’s a disaster if it happens at a gig. Some bar owners will rightfully dock you for time lost. And forget about getting asked back…
To save face (and gig money), be prepared. Have a “trick bag” ready. You can use an old gym bag or backpack to store gig essentials. Just keep it small. Here’s a checklist of things that you should have in it:
Duct tape– Jet tape, Quack tape, wonder tool, marital aid-whatever you call it; you gotta bring it. The silver stuff is great for holding down treacherous cables and wind-blown setlists as well as mending straps and broken mic clips. This silver is worth its weight in gold at a gig.
Instrument, speaker, and MIDI cables– Packing 2-3 extra instrument and/or MIDI cables is always a good idea. If you have a pedalboard, you might want to include a couple of patch cables.
Guitar Picks– If you use picks it’s reassuring to know that you have plenty on hand to flick at the bass player.
Extra strings– strings are like postal workers- they can snap at any time. So ALWAYS carry at least 2 complete sets of strings with you. Even if you have a backup guitar.
Miscellaneous– Do you use a music/guitar stand, capo, slide, Ebow, etc.? Also, remember to bring a few extra mic clips and a drum key.
Basic Tools– Screwdrivers, pliers, string winder, Allen wrenches, etc.
Power strips, power cables, and Extension cords– You can’t play power chords without power and…uh…cords. Ensure that your cords are long enough to draw power from all over the stage. A big orange extension cord with a power strip attached should get you through any gig.
Batteries and Adapters– Effects pedals, tuners, and wireless units are just some of the electronic toys we carry to shows. And they all need a power source. Bring spare power supplies when possible or at least bring appropriate-sized batteries for backups.
Electrical Parts– Don’t forget about your amps! Tubes and fuses can save the day. Be sure to carry components that match the manufacturer’s specifications.
a CLEAN change of clothes– be proactive in preventing “wardrobe malfunctions”.(It happens…). And changing out of sweaty stage clothes does wonders for your post-show social life.
Ideally, every band member should have their own “trick bag”.
Tablature is a kind of “musical shorthand” that has been around since the 14th century. All modern guitar players should make themselves familiar with reading it because it’s the easiest way to convey melodies and chords. To start reading tab, you’ll need to know the string and fret numbers.
*Remember that your Low E is the thickest string- High E is the thinnest. The bigger the string number, the bigger the string…
If the orientation is confusing, try laying your guitar down in your lap with the strings facing your chin.
TAB is as easy as reading a sentence from left to right. All we need to do is determine what string and fret to play.
Low E STRING (6th)
We already know how the strings are laid out- the numbers placed on the lines (strings) tell us what frets to play. In this simple example we start off playing the 6th string/1st fret, 6th string/2nd fret, 6th string/3rd fret, 6th string/4th fret and finally 6th string/5th fret.
Notice how all the fret numbers were on the same line (the 6th string). You can look at this example and immediately see that we are only using the Low E string.
*How would you annotate an open string? With a 0 (zero). Think of it as “playing no frets” on that string. Some of my students find it easier to think of the zero as the letter O as in Open string.
Let’s try reading another example incorporating open strings and the other five strings.
Try to visualize TAB like you are connecting dots from left to right:
*Just remember that numbers will switch to different lines, BUT THEY ALWAYS READ LEFT TO RIGHT!!!
Can you write out chords with TAB? Sure, but just remember that the L-R movement is a reference for elapsed time. Single notes happen one at a time, but chords hit several notes at one time. To show that the notes occur simultaneously, they need to occur in the same “frame” in time. We notate this by stacking the numbers of the chord in a vertical line.
The example above has you playing a common Em chord at the beginning and end. Because the numbers of the chord are stacked upon each other, they occur simultaneously.
If you see a collective of numbers stacked vertically, you know that you will be playing several notes at once- but just think of that group as just one more number in the Left to Right progression.
TAB does have many benefits (easy to read & write, plenty of TABS available online, etc.), but it does have a few major drawbacks. For one thing, we have no idea how long any of these notes are held. Most melodies have certain notes held longer for emphasis. TAB alone has no way to express this. If I handed you TAB from a song you have never heard, it would be impossible for you to get it right rhythmically.
Standard notation (sheet music) shows us the duration of each note you play, along with the note itself. It is common practice in modern guitar books to have Standard guitar notation with TAB printed directly below. The note values are aligned vertically with their respective TAB numbers so that, with a basic study of note values, you should have a pretty good idea of how long to hold each note.
(*Later on you will find that TAB can contain more advanced information on technique, fingering and phrasing. You can find out more on the TAB GLOSSARY PAGE).
The single most important thing to learn in music is the Musical Alphabet. Don’t move on until you have this memorized. Be able to recite it forwards AND backward without hesitation.
Let’s start simple. How many notes are there in music? Imagine all the songs you have heard in your life and consider all the stylistic and cultural differences. How many notes would it take to create this seemingly limitless body of music? THE ANSWER IS TWELVE.
12? That can’t be right…but it is. You can play any melody or song using a dozen notes.
Think of these 12 notes as increments on a ruler.
As we move to the right on a ruler, the numbers go UP. Move left and the numbers go DOWN.
If for some bizarre reason you had an unlimited supply of rulers, you could theoretically place them end to end (in either direction) to infinity. The 12 note sequence always remains the same. It just keeps starting over. The only difference is if you are going right (UP) or left (DOWN).
This perpetual 12 note sequence is the basis of understanding music. The only difference is that in music we replace these numbers with letters.
We use the first seven letters of the alphabet (ABCDEFG) to name all 12 notes.
* I know 7 letter names doesn’t seem like enough to name all 12, but bear with me. This is one of those musical concepts that don’t seem to make sense at first.
We can fill in the missing note names by using something known as sharps (#) and flats (b). Sharps and flats can be likened to “generational suffixes” that add “Jr.” or “Sr.” to someone’s name to distinguish them. We’ll add sharps and flats to the existing letters to finish naming the 12 notes.
Sharps (#) raise the pitch of a note- moving it one space to the right.
Flats (b) lower a letter one space- moving it one space to the left.
The space between A and B could be considered one space higher than A (making it an A#) or a B lowered one space (making it a Bb). Both names are considered correct. This is what is referred to as enharmonic equivalents. This means that A# and Bb are the same note expressed differently. Later you will find that one name or the other will be preferable in a given situation.
Let’s try to fill in all 12 notes now.
Notice how we don’t have spaces between B to C and E to F. The reason is we only needed 12 names for our alphabet. If we added a sharp to all 7 letters, we would end up with 14 names. We only need 12, so B and C will always be adjacent to each other. The same thing goes for E to F.
Most people are familiar with the layout of a piano. It’s a great visual aid to see how our musical alphabet lays out. The original 7 notes of the alphabet that we used to name notes are always white keys. Black keys are for sharps/flats.
Here is the complete 12 note sequence on the keyboard (NOTE that B goes right to C and E goes right to F with no black note between them):
Here is what that 12 note sequence repeated on a keyboard looks like:
*Note that every letter has a sharp or flat after it EXCEPT B-C & E-F!!!