Gitbox Culture

Musings on guitars, guitarists, guitar styles and approaches, technical matters and guitar design by a professional guitarist with a Ph.D in ethnomusicology. Also covering electric bass, lap and pedal steel guitar. And what the hell, banjo.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Exploring the limits of gear portability

I live in a downtown area of Toronto, and I find that quite a few of my gigs are within walking distance. I prefer to walk over taking public transit or driving; it's better for my health, better for the environment, and the walk gives me time to think or just listen to music on headphones. An added advantage to walking is that I am not at the mercy of transit delays (common in Toronto) or heavy traffic (ditto); I can be sure that if it takes 45 minutes to walk to the gig, I will get there in 45 minutes.
Until recently I didn't think that I had the option of bringing a full rig to a gig on foot.   The good news is that I've managed to miniaturize my gear over time and I can now walk to gigs with no problem.
An essential ingredient is the ZT Lunchbox.  This very small and light but loud solid-state amp is easy to carry for long periods. The Lunchbox weighs about nine pounds and really does feel like a lunchbox as I walk. The secret to the usability of the Lunchbox on gigs is plugging it into the PA from the line out on the back. The line out sounds very good and I treat the signal as I would an acoustic guitar - some in the main speakers and some in the monitors. I put the amp on a barstool and lean it back on the cord, which gives it a nice angle to beam the sound right at my head. That way I get plenty of direct signal, but I also know that I'm getting out to the house and everyone on stage can hear me, without getting killed with volume. This setup works very well and I now use the Lunchbox for every gig. My Fender Twin has not left the house in over a year.
For years, I used a large Furman pedalboard for effects. This was great but very heavy and impossible to take on the streetcar, let alone walk to gigs. I now use a Line 6 M9 multi-effects unit. This unit allows me to arrange six pedal 'models', from which I can use three at a time. I usually run it with a couple of different overdrives, a tremolo or wah, a reverb, delay and compressor. The nice thing about this unit, too, is that it's pretty small and not too heavy. I use a double gig bag - I put a Strat or Tele in the bottom compartment and the M9 and cables in the top one. That goes on my back with the double straps and I carry the Lunchbox in one or the other hand. If I really need to, I can carry a music stand or mic stand in the other hand, though I haven't had to so far.
I can't overstate how much being able to carry my gear to gigs has improved my life and reduced my travel stress. Parking can be a real problem in the downtown core and the transit and traffic situations I've already mentioned. It's also nice to be able to have a beer and not worry about getting nailed by a spot check. I'm sharing this with you because I wouldn't have thought it was possible to get a complete rig to a walkable size and weight, but I've done it and you can too.

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