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.


  1. With you there brother! Just bought one and gigging via transit here in Vancouver has never been easier! +1 on the great sounding line out! I wrote about the Lunchbox on my blog

  2. This post was cool on so many levels.
    I once carried a watermelon four blocks and felt sorry for myself. You wanna be a working musician? MOVE. And the shoulders? MOVE. Sting's what he is but n@@@a is FIT because he has to be.
    Beautiful insight. So much of our inspiration as artists invoke a cerebral response that we forget our physical vessels need resistance to stay on pitch/target/malleable etc. I walk everywhere, myself, but mostly to get away from the banjo.