What’s In My Gig Bag? Part 2: Jazz/Rockabilly, Solo Shows and Flying

Bassist by bicycleOne of the things every gigging bassist needs to refine is what they bring to the gig, in addition to their bass and amp (if appropriate). We all have items we might need for gig emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. Showing up to the gig and having an equipment problem is no fun and ultimately it makes you look bad. Everyone is different, but today I’d like to share my gig bag so that those of you just starting out might have an easier, and less embarrassing, road than others have had.

One abiding principle I follow, without finding myself without an important accessory, is this:

Be able to load and unload in one trip.

This principle comes in handy when you are crunched for time, when a great deal of walking is needed to get to the venue, or when travelling by plane. It is also valuable for security reasons, i.e. in many cases it is not wise to leave equipment unattended either in the vehicle or at the venue.

For the classical gig bag, see Part 1 of this series.


  1. Electronic tuner
  2. Complete extra set of strings
  3. Earplugs
  4. Extra endpin
  5. Extra endpin stops
  6. Extra batteries for my preamp
  7. Electrical tape: In case one of the pickups runs loose and buzzes through the amp. Also useful in a variety of other circumstances.
  8. Extra ¼ inch cords of varying lengths: In case one decides to short out on me.
  9. A screwdriver: For the amp screws, which sometimes vibrate loose and cause an unwelcome sound.
  10. Allen wrench for my custom pickup mount. One is permanently on the back of my fingerboard, and I carry extras in my case.
  11. A power strip.
  12. Extension cord.
  13. Bass Wheel/buggy
  14. I strap my amp to a collapsible dolly. This way I can carry both bass and amp in one trip. So I keep an extra strap in my car, in the case one fails.
  15. I normally don’t use a stool on these gigs, but when I do, I use one that breaks down and fits in a backpack on my back. I want to load and unload in one trip.
  16. Set list, or charts as appropriate

Amplified Solo Shows

This is a different ball of wax than what most people would need, and tends to be equipment specific, so I won’t go into it here too much except to say that the more equipment you use the more emergency troubleshooting accessories you will need with you.

For example, when playing amplified solo shows I carry a battery charger and a specialized screwdriver used to open my rackmounted equipment and reseat internal chips quickly, if needed.


Flying presents a special set of challenges. When playing locally, there are some things I do before I load up for the gig. For example, I make sure all the parts that need tightening with a screwdriver or wrench (amp parts, C-extension etc.) are in good working order. I don’t often need to do this type of adjustment, but if I do, it usually lasts me through a local show, or a few days on the road. If I’m flying, however, I may need a specific tool immediately and can’t rely on the people around me to have what I need.

So when I fly, in addition to anything I might usually bring for a local trip, I load up:

  1. Small Phillips screwdriver.
  2. Extra allen wrenches (for my custom pickup and mounting bracket).
  3. Wrench for C extension parts
  4. White out. When flying, accidents happen. Sometimes the bass might not even make it to the venue in time for the performance. I may end up playing a concert or recital on a borrowed bass with a different string length than my personal bass. This means the notes aren’t where my hands expect them to be. I can mark a few spots on the fingerboard of a borrowed bass with white out and get through the gig with improved accuracy. Then I can remove the white out safely without damaging the fingerboard of the borrowed bass.
  5. When flying, I separate my two bows. I put one in the flight case and carry one on board the plane. That way even if my bass doesn’t make it I still have my own bow.
  6. Metronome: If I’m on the road for a while, I’ll want to practice.
  7. Dampits: Humidity changes are tough when flying, especially if you are going from say Virginia to Las Vegas. They are also helpful for when the bass is in the baggage compartment of the plane. Dampits help protect the bass in such situations.
  8. When the gig requires a pickup, I also carry and extra pickup in the flight case….just in case.
  9. Sheet music (as appropriate)

How about you? Tell us about your gig bag list in the comments.

I look forward to seeing your gig bag backstage at your gig!

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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  1. Just out of interest, when/why would you need an extra endpin?