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What’s In My [Vocalist] Gig Bag?

October 26, 2012

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a vocalist. I sing with different bands. I have performed with rock bands in the past, and I am currently singing with a jazz band. We recently performed at one of our monthly gigs, and it inspired me to write about some of the things I bring to gigs. Most musicians have what is called a “Gig Bag”. They use this to carry their instrument, charts, picks, tuner, etc. I haven’t heard of many vocalists taking a “Gig Bag”, since we usually don’t have a lot to bring – however, I like to be prepared. Besides the obvious items – water, lozenges, lip balm, extra cash, etc.- here are some of my “Must Have” items. Even if you aren’t a vocalist, some of these items can be helpful if you are singing in a show or even just have to do a lot of speaking for a project!

  • Throat Coat Tea                                                                                                                                                       This tea is amazing. I purchase it at my local health foods store, but you can get it online as well. It contains licorice root, so it is very soothing, and it helps to (as the title implies) coat your throat. It’s also a life saver if you have to do a lot of singing or speaking and you have a sore throat! I like to drink this before I leave for a gig, and I even bring a few of the teabags in my gig bag. If I am performing at a restaurant or cafe, I can just ask for a cup of hot water – and voilà!
  • A Capo                                                                                                                                                                         This may seem like something a vocalist wouldn’t need – but I disagree. If I feel I perform a song the best in a certain key, I don’t want to take the chance that the guitarist I am working with will forget his/her capo. I can always sing a song in a different key, but I want to do my best when I am performing – so I always bring a spare capo, just in case. I purchased an inexpensive 12 string capo online. I recommend getting a 12 string capo, because that way it will fit, whether the guitarist you work with plays a 6 string or a 12 string guitar.
  • A Flashlight                                                                                                                                                                 The venues we perform in are often darkly lit – pubs, romantic cafes, restaurants, etc. It is always good to have a flashlight on hand. You may need to adjust the sound levels on your amp, find something in your gig bag, etc. I know some vocalists who keep a reading light on their music stand so they can see their lyrics. I prefer not to use lyric sheets, but if that’s something that works for you – a reading light might be the way to go!
  • Binder Clips                                                                                                                                                                     If you are performing at an outdoor venue, or even at a venue that has a very pesky ceiling fan – binder clips are a “Must Have”. You can easily clip your lyrics or assist the other musicians in clipping their charts to the music stands. It’s not easy to get into your performance while you are running after the papers that have blown away.
  • Business Cards                                                                                                                                                             This may seem like a pretty obvious thing to have, but it’s a very important part of being a performer. The last thing you want to do is be caught off guard by a prospective employer. Believe me – I know this from experience. You live, and you learn.
  • A Hand Percussion Instrument                                                                                                                               It’s always good to have something to tap out the beat during an instrumental solo when you’re not singing. Some examples are a tambourine, maracas, egg shakers, sleigh bells (depending on the season), cow bells, finger cymbals, etc. Evaluate the style of your band, and find something that will go well with the genre. I usually keep a tambourine and maracas in my gig bag, and when the season rolls around – sleigh bells.

If you are a musician, or you do something similar, I would love to hear what you carry in your “Gig Bag”. Good luck!

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