Lessons about performing, lesson fourteen: Maintain your kit!

Well, here we are at #14 already. It has so far gone by quickly. This one should be fairly short, by the way.

If you’re wondering what I’m doing, then click here. I’m giving you all the rules you need to know if you’re going to become a performing musician. This list actually was motivated by someone who has decided to do just that.

This next lesson is applicable to those who don’t play, just as much as it is to those who play giant concerts for 250,000 people. It applies to you, to me, to everyone. It’s pretty basic, but often overlooked.

Without further ado, our next lesson for performing musicians…

Rule #14: Keep your shit in good working order!

This applies to not just performing musicians, but to all musicians. It applies to other industries and all sorts of areas of our lives. Basically, keep your shit clean and ready to use.

When you’re done with your gear, clean it and put it away. Clean out your amps on a regular basis. If they’re tubed amps, go ahead and replace ’em before the fail. Check the condition of your cords and go ahead and check them for continuity.

Wipe your guitar down. When you restring it, give it a good cleaning. It’s covered in rotting, dead skin cells. I have seen how frequently some of you bathe. You’re talking a potential ground-zero event for zombies! Seriously, that thing’s a potential disease vector.

[REDACTED] never changed his strings – like ever. I don’t think bass guitar strings break, even if you attach a Ford F-150 to ’em. Like, he never changed ’em. They were black. The frets were caked with bits of dead [REDACTED] and the fretboard was covered with [REDACTED]-slime.

Don’t think you escape, Mr. Drummer. No, you still have vomit stains on your toms. Playing with vomit on them just spattered it around. It smells bad and you should clean it. Fuck, you should replace the heads and tune the damned things. They’ve been ‘dead’ sounding for the past 8 shows.

Have some pride!

Maintain that stuff. Yes, it’s okay to treat your fretboard. I send my shit out now – ’cause I’ve got it like that. So, they get done once a year and I rotate through the guitars that are out for playing. Go ahead and use some fretboard conditioner of your favorite type.

Can you over-condition it? Sure. Unless you live in a dry environment, don’t do it more often than once every six months. There, you happy? That’s a nice and easy rule you can follow. No, it’s not going to swell enough to matter – we’re talking measurements less than a micrometer. I can tell you that it’s better than a dried out fretboard spitting the frets out on the ground.

You know what your guitar came with? A fucking book. Read it. Strangely enough, it’ll tell you how to maintain your guitar properly. I know this is hard to believe, but the manufacturer actually knows this stuff better than you do. Your amps came with a book. Your monitor came with a book. Your stacks came with a book. Your microphone came with a damned book.

I really, really don’t have to tell you to keep all those books, do I?

I buy a bit of used gear – more than is healthy so we’re just going to say, “a bit.” What baffles me is when said used gear doesn’t come with the books. You ask ’em what they did with the books and they say, “I don’t know. I think I threw them away.”

What? Were they worried about the extra weight? What possible fucking motivation did they have to throw those books away? Stop doing that! Seriously! (You can probably find the manuals at their respective manufacturer’s website.)

By the way, crack that new amp open and tape an envelope to the inside. You can put the manual and any notes about that amp in that envelope. On top of that, it’ll maybe help you prove it belongs to you when you didn’t follow Rule #6, and watch your shit.

So, clean your kit, maintain your kit, test your kit, etc… There’s already a million things that can go wrong at a show and it sucks double when it’s caused by something you’d have caught had you just given your gear a quick cleaning and inspection after you last had it out.

When I put a guitar back, I put it back cleaned. I often put it back with new strings on it, but I’m not sure if you want to be that anal. I clean it and inspect it for problems. I cycle through the knobs to see if there’s any noise. I use one of several size dental mirrors to give things a quick look inside. I check the fingerboard for wear, I check frets for condition, I check the nut for cracks, etc… It takes all of two minutes.

Clean and maintain your kit. Inspect your kit for future problems points. Preventative maintenance goes a long ways. You’re not in a band with a guitar tech and roadies. You have to do the work yourself. This applies to hobbyists, students, and even non-musicians. I currently have a young student and I will be genuinely disappointed if they come ask for a lesson with a dirty guitar.

Again, thanks for reading, commenting, enjoying, and encouraging me. This particular lesson/rule makes me think that there’s potentially room for a small series on maintaining your kit. If you think there’s room for such, feel free to let me know. You can comment or you can use the contact page. (It’s linked over in the upper-right, I just made that page today.)

What’s great is that this is a Sunday afternoon. It looks like I’m publishing this on Wednesday, but I’m not. In fact, I’m getting it all set up and ready to roll ahead of time! This has been the best feature ever – and it’s made it much easier for me to work writing into my schedule. That’s why there’s so many new articles and why they’re on a regular basis. It’s just me using the schedule feature! Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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