EXCLUSIVE: What Every Portable Musician Needs

It takes more than talent to be a portable musician. Being able to handle the life of a roaming musical artist means being ready to play wherever, whenever, and in almost any circumstance. Whether you are a DJ or a guitarist, preparation is vital in the field of mobile music. You’re going to need a few things, no matter the genre or type of gig.

Number One: CABLES

Seemingly obvious, but A LOT of DJs and other mobile musicians forget their cables (and this includes guitar/bass strings as well as strip cables/extension cords). I’ve been there, and it feels terrible when you need to beg other musicians for a cable. It looks plain unprofessional. Don’t bring only one set of cables—it’s quite handy to have two sets in case one is lost, forgotten, broken, or, in the worst-case event, stolen. I know it may seem tempting to buy the cheapest set of wires money can buy, but like most musical gear, quality does matter, even over price. So don’t be afraid to splurge on those Monster cables because in the end, they will truly save you the hassle.

Number Two: CONVERTERS

I cannot stress this one enough—unless your cables have Medusa-like heads with a plethora of input options, you’re going to need some converters for your cables. Not all venues use the same mixer/sound setup, so you must be prepared to handle a variety of different inputs. The two you MUST have are quarter inch (commonly referred to as guitar cables) and RCA. You are most likely to find these two connections on any mixer, so with them covered, you’re ready for almost anything. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a converter for XLR (also known as microphone cables), because you never know when a promoter will use self-powered speakers without a mixer.

Number Three: FLASHLIGHT

As weird as it may sound, a flashlight will save you in a lot of tight spots in the dark and scary world of music. We all know that the majority of gigs are performed at night, and usually in the corner of a cave-like bar. So being able to see is critical. In the past, not having a flashlight has cost me significant time. I have connected cables to the wrong jack, tripped on things, and, all too often—forgotten equipment at venues because I was not able to see it when packing up. Get an LED flashlight—they’re pretty bright and have longer battery life than conventional flashlights.

Number Four: COMMUNICATION

First and foremost, I wish I didn’t even need to mention this one. You must have a charged cell phone! Always bring a car charger/wall charger for your phone because being able to contact the promoter, other band members, and even fans is critical. Make sure to put your phone and its accessories on your “checklist” of must-have items for your gigs.

Just as important as having a working phone is having a professional business card. Don’t use free business cards because you need all the attention on you, and not on the company that is making the cards for you. Spend the $40 to $100 max and get something that really sells your worth and talent.

Other than the obvious, such as your main gear, these four vital resources will guarantee a quick, flawless setup. As a portable musician, the sooner your gear is in place, the sooner you can start making music.

—Rahfee Zahkee

Rahfee Zahkee is a Live Beat Productionist/Controllerist & DJ. He can mix all genres and create new songs and remix them live using self-programmed MIDI controllers, effects, sampling, and mixing techniques.

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About Rahfee Zahkee