Steel Guitar News August 23. 2012

Hello fellow players,

This is Bob Hempker subbing for Bobbe Seymour today.

I thought today we’d talk about things we need to carry in our pack-a-seat.

Years ago, I was headed to Florida to do a New Year’s Eve show and we were loading the bus. To make a long story short, I got in a hurry and forgot to load my pack-a-seat. We got to the venue the next day and as we were unloading the bus I noticed my pack-a-seat wasn’t on there.

It was New Year’s Eve afternoon in a small town in Florida and I had no volume pedal, picks, bar, tuner, cables, all the essentials you needed to play a job. I started calling music stores out of a phonebook and I found one that was open that was about 20 or 30 miles away. Finding that store open was a small miracle in itself.

I borrowed a car and drove to the music store. I bought a set of cables, a thumb pick, finger picks, a bar, a tuner and a real cheap volume pedal. I got back to the venue just in time for the down beat. I couldn’t find any type of chair to sit on that was the right height so I borrowed a chair from the office which adjusted up and down. I jacked it up far enough to work.

At any rate, I got through the job. I had played a lot better before than I did with this strange equipment, but I did get by.

The reason I told this story is to emphasize that when you’re going outside your home to play, make sure you have everything you need to play a gig. Your guitar, your amp, effects, volume pedal, cables, bar and picks. You could be out of business leaving something behind.

So I thought I’d go over my checklist and what I do to make sure I’m prepared for a gig. To borrow an idea from Bobbe Seymour, you may want to consider typing up a checklist and taping it inside your pack-a-seat. Pilots go through a pre-flight checklist before taking off and we might take our cue from them.

At home, I have a checklist of things to pack when I go on the road. It includes things like toothpaste, razor, socks, everything I’m going to need because it’s so easy to forget some small thing that makes a big difference.

It’s pretty hard to forget your guitar or your amplifier, but it’s easy to forget a small item that normally goes in your pack-a-seat. Personally I have a couple of lists. If I’m playing a rock n roll gig, I definitely need to take my distortion box. If I’m playing stone cold country, my reverb, delay and chorus pedals go along for the trip.

Those considerations aside, my basic list of things that always travel with me follows.
At the top of the list are my volume, reverb, delay and chorus pedals. Then tuner, cables, spare cables and cord ends. I personally use George L. That keeps me from having to carry a soldering iron.

Obviously your bar and picks should go in a pouch of sorts in your pack-a-seat. I always carry extra picks in case I lose one. I even carry an old set of picks in case I’m playing a bar somewhere where people are allowed to set in. If someone wants to set in and needs to use my picks, I give them the old set. I never ever allow anyone else to wear my personal picks.

I carry a spare set of strings for each neck. I carry extra thirds, fifths and tenths because those are usually the ones that will break if I do break a string. I carry a string winder and cutters. I like the ProWinder because it has the cutter built in so I’m not slowed down looking for two tools instead of one.

I’ve changed strings in the middle of a song and had it tuned up and ready to go for the next song because I had to play the intro to the song. Sonny Osborne, of the Osborne Brothers Band and I used to argue about who could change a string the quickest.

One thing I’ve found that can be very useful is a ground lift adapter. It takes a three prong plug to a two prong plug. Sometimes, just lifting the ground can eliminate hum and if you’re in an old building that only has the two prong outlets, you’re S.O.L. without such an adapter. Carry a couple of these. They’re very inexpensive and small. They don’t take up a lot of space in your pack-a-seat.

I personally carry a power strip with a surge protector. So many modern devices like the Hilton volume pedal for instance, have large transformers which will block some of the outlets. On a small stage, by the time everyone else plugs in, you’ve only got one outlet so you’d better have a power strip.

Steeler’s Choice builds a pack-a-seat with a power strip built in. This is the ultimate solution because you don’t have to worry about leaving it behind. It’s already there. In addition, being built in, it’s out of the way so people won’t trip over it or step on your Hilton pedal transformer.

If I use a lot of effects, I have to have the Hilton pedal because the Hilton has a buffer built into it that the pot pedals don’t have. This automatically matches the impedance from your guitar, effects, cables and everything you use. Sometimes just running through the pedals even with them off, can alter your tone.

I like to carry a set of Hex (Allen) wrenches in case I need to adjust something underneath my guitar. This is one of those small items that people don’t think to carry, but than can be a life saver.

If you use a pot pedal, carry an extra pot and string. I’ve had a pot just lock up on me. I’ve had a string start slipping. Carry string rosin to put on your volume pedal string to keep it from slipping. I carry all the stuff I need to fix my pedal in the seat. I carried an extra pedal on the bus when I worked the road.

You might want to carry a few spare parts for your guitar such as bell cranks and rod collars. If you use a tube amp, carry a couple of spare tubes.

Above all, if you don’t own a pack-a-seat, invest in one. First of all, it’s the correct height for playing a guitar. It rare that you can get to a job and find a seat that fits. If the only seat in the house is a barstool, you’ll definitely wish you had a pack-a-seat.

It also eliminates the need to carry a case for all the small essential things that you have to have. Like a good Boy Scout, be prepared.

Check out our monthly specials at and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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