There are a lot of accessories out there for bass players these days.
So many of them claim to be things that are "must-have" items too. But how many of them are truly essential?
And why is it so important that you have them?
I've been thinking back through my own gigging experience lately in an effort to figure out which items every bass player (in my opinion) should have in their gig bag.
Some are obvious, some are not so and there might even be a few you've never thought of having.
So with that said, enjoy this quick but hopefully informative list.
Let's kick off with an item we can all agree has to be present in any bass players gig bag. Regardless of the gigs you play, the level of player that you are or the style of music you play with your band, every bass player must have a good tuner.
There are tuners and tuners. Some will favour a stompbox-style tuner which can happily fit on a pedalboard whilst others will prefer a clip-on tuner which is clamped to their headstock.
For me, either of these options is great because a good quality tuner (either stompbox or clip-on) allows for accurate and ultimately silent tuning.
No one has paid to hear you tune your bass after all.
What I wouldn't recommend though is what I'll call plug in tuner which can't be used on a pedalboard.
Often these are sold with beginner bass bundles and sometimes double up as a metronome.
Don't get me wrong, they are accurate but the issue is that, because they can't be used on a pedalboard or as a clip-on attachment, you can't use them mid-gig.
They're less versatile and this means you won't get as much bang for your buck.
Next is a decent case.
Simply put, your bass needs decent protection whilst it's being put in the back of vans, trains, buses and aeroplanes.
If your bass is broken due to a lack of good casing then it's bye-bye gigs.
Many companies like Mono and Protection Racket do some excellent models these days.
They have really jumped on a trend for semi-soft cases. Meaning these cases offer the comfort that you get from carrying a soft case but also the protection of a good hard case.
Both of these brands also offer case models which come with a lot of storage which is perfect for carrying other items on this list.
Next up is cables. And lots of them.
This is a brief but important point.
Get good quality jack cables of all sizes and types.
Yes, you need longer cables for instruments but you should also invest in smaller patch cables if you use pedals. They're neater and will make the floor space near you much less of a trip hazard.
You should also invest in spare speakon or speaker cables to connect your amp head to your cabs and always carry a spare power cable.
If one of these goes mid-set and you don't have a spare then that's the end of your gig. And that's a horrible feeling. Trust me!
Bass Guitar Straps
Next up, let's talk about straps.
There's a lot of debate over what constitutes a good strap.
For me the criteria are simple.
Get a strap that has thick padding and one that's wide enough to cover a large portion of your shoulder.
The reason is that bass guitars are heavy and after several gigs, this heavy bass could start to cause you pain and playing problems if you've got a bad strap.
Now, you might say that the solution here is about getting a lighter bass which is partly true. But the strap (if it's good) should be there to solve that problem.
Ultimately though, the problem isn't the weight. It's how that weight is dispersed.
If you look at high heeled shoes you can see that (most of them) can carry the weight of the owner. But the reason they're so painful to wear is that all the weight of the wearer is concentrated down to one small point.
The high heel itself.
A thin bass strap will do exactly the same thing. It will concentrate the weight of the entire instrument down to a fine point when much more of your shoulder could be used to spread the strain out.
Get something thick, wide and that spreads the load of the bass evenly.
Finally, let's follow up with some obvious things that are so important they simply must be said.
Handy Spare Items
Spare strings! Get a spare set and then a spare, spare set and then a spare, spare, spare set.
I've broken strings before on gigs and it's annoying, to say the least. But what makes it worse is when you don't have a spare. You'll be scrambling to change all your lines to new positions if you don't have a replacement in your case.
To go with that you should also get a bass string winder.
This is a genius little device that fits over the tuning head of your bass and allows you to restring in about one-tenth of the time.
I've changed an entire five-string set two minutes before stage time and had time to spare to tune up before the first song.
They're not expensive and they will save you so much hassle, energy and time.
For those of you using pedals and pedalboard then a power supply is a must.
So many venues and even recording studios have dirty power. By which I mean power outlets that cause your pedals to produce an awful "hum" noise.
If you have your own power supply that you can take to gigs then you can be sure that you'll have good power wherever you go.
And lastly, get a decent cloth to wipe down your bass after each gig.
Because there's nothing worse than picking up your bass to play a gig and finding last nights sweat all over the strings!