Do you have a guitar repair maintenance kit? Are you prepared for an unexpected situation that every guitar player encounters sooner or later?
Have you been “playing out” without the proper tools and things that can save a gig “gone-bad?”
Here are the 8 essential items that every guitar case or gig bag should have.
Read on to learn more, and don’t be caught without them!
If you’re in a hurry, here is a summary of what you should consider putting in your guitar repair maintenance kit.
|Items For A Guitar Case||Items For A Gig Bag|
|Guitar Strings||Guitar Strings|
|Extra Picks||Extra Picks|
|String Winder||String Winder|
|Microfiber cloth||Microfiber cloth|
|Fretboard And String Cleaner|
|Backup Guitar Cord|
What Is A Guitar Repair Maintenance Kit?
A guitar repair maintenance kit is a collection of tools and things that a player commonly uses to quickly remedy an issue or problem that cannot wait until a more convenient time. It’s basically a first aid kit for guitars.
These kits are a little different than what you would normally use to care for your guitar. For example, you wouldn’t normally pause during a practice session or gig to polish your guitar, but you would have to stop to quickly change a broken string, assuming you didn’t have a backup instrument.
Sometimes guitar emergencies are a “happy accident,” but it’s not something you should count on. For example, during the first Black Sabbath album recording, Tony Iommi’s Strat stopped working, so he reached for his “backup” Gibson SG to finish the session. The SG would help to define his sound, and the rest is history.
Most problematic occurrences are a lot less spectacular than this, but they still require a rapid solution. I’ll bet you have some backup equipment available when you play, even if it’s just a few extra guitar picks.
The key is defining and collecting a small group of essential items and always having them available to help you get through any playing situation.
Not Just For Emergencies
Guitar repair maintenance kit items are not just to deal with an emergency situation. They can include things like a small microfiber cloth to wipe down your sweat-covered strings and fingerboard after playing a challenging set or session.
Keep It Small
One important thing to remember when you collect the items for your guitar repair maintenance kit is that they should all be able to fit inside your guitar case or gig bag. If you make a bigger kit to carry separately, you will probably forget to bring it when you play.
Even if you keep a larger kit in your car, there is always the possibility that you will not have it available when you really need it (maybe you got a ride to a gig with a bandmate).
Guitar Case Or Gig Bag?
I always carry my axe around in a guitar case. Even a cheap case will usually protect your instrument better than the average gig bag, and it will give you more space to carry a bigger guitar repair maintenance kit.
You can always start with a gig bag and a smaller guitar repair maintenance kit and then get a guitar case when you have the money.
Either way, always be smart about the items you choose to pack and use the table above as an example.
Making Room For Your Guitar Repair Maintenance Kit
Ideally, you should always carry these 8 items. They should fit into a standard-size guitar case that has a compartment for a guitar strap, etc.
Remove any unessential items from the compartment, like the guitar strap, adjustment wrenches, whammy bar, and any “case candy” (instruction book, hangtags, etc.).
You can keep the strap attached to your guitar to free up space. However, if you worry about your strap’s metal buckle damaging your guitar finish, then get a strap with a plastic length adjuster.
If you use a whammy bar, keep it screwed into your guitar’s tremolo. You should be able to screw it down far enough for your case t close without it leaving unsightly marks on the inside cover.
Adjustment wrenches to tweak your guitar action or truss rod are for home use. Keep these in your repair shop, on your workbench, in your music room, or your bedroom.
Put the case candy in a safe place at home so you will not lose it since it can add value to the guitar if you decide to sell it down the road.
The 8 Things That Every Guitar Repair Maintenance Kit Should Have
Here are the 8 things I always keep in my guitar case. Use a container that fits into your guitar case compartment or gig bag pocket to keep them from getting lost. Of course, your list may be a little different; it’s really up to you.
For example, acoustic players may not need a spare guitar cord, so you can substitute that item for something else (see the list of suggestions in the section below).
Absolutely Essential Items
Here are the items that all guitar players should plan to put in their Guitar Maintenance Kit. They are “must-haves” and will make your life easier. If you use a gig bag that has a pocket, then these 4 items should all be able to fit.
If you have a deluxe gig bag with more room for storage, then bring as many of the 8 items as you can take.
1. Guitar Strings
Always carry one complete set of strings because you never know which one you will need to replace. If you play electric guitar and use a thin string gauge, it’s relatively easy to break the B or high E strings, especially if you use a whammy bar.
Therefore, I always take some extra E and B strings so I won’t have to open an entire set, especially if the package is sealed to preserve freshness (keep them from oxidizing).
To learn more about strings, see Why Change Guitar Strings? – Tips To Play And Sound Awesome!
2. Extra Picks
It’s always good to carry extra guitar picks, especially if you use very thin ones that can break easily. Even heavy picks can wear down at the tip after multiple uses and change the sound of your music.
Some players use various pick types (shape or thickness) for different songs or sets. A fellow band member might even ask you to supply an extra pick.
If you do hybrid picking, then be sure to include a thumb pick and/or fingerpicks.
If You Don’t Use A Pick
If you are strictly a finger-picker, then you may have room to bring things to help you with nail care, like a file or superglue to mend a broken fingernail in a pinch.
3. String Winder
Having a string winder can significantly shorten the time it takes to change a string and allow you to wind it on the tuning machine post without overlapping turns. A poorly wound string is less likely to stay in tune, even after you stretch it.
Power string winders are great for changing an entire set of strings but get yourself a manual string winder. It’s small, cheap, and will do the job.
Here is a video from John Dreyer at Fender University that shows you the proper way to remove and install new strings on your guitar. Check it out!
4. Microfiber Cloth
A microfiber cloth is something that you will use each time you play your guitar. Wiping down your strings after each session will make them last longer.
It’s also a handy item to use if you need to apply a cleaner to your strings and fretboard. If your hands sweat a lot, then you probably use a string cleaner frequently.
The following items are not totally essential. They can be omitted if you use a gig bag or want to make room for another item that’s more important.
5. Wire Cutter
A wire cutter is a good thing to have if you need to change a string.
If you’ve ever tried to remove a string by pulling it through the bridge saddle and tremolo block of a Strat without cutting off the coiled-up end, then you know how frustrating it can be.
I also like to clip off the extra string length after installing a new string because it makes everything a lot neater and prevents the dangling string ends from scratching the headstock of my guitar.
6. Fretboard And String Cleaner
A fretboard and string cleaner is a good thing to have during a practice session or when you play a gig, especially if you just bring one guitar. Things can get pretty sweaty in a hot room or under stage lights.
I like “Fast Fret,” which comes on an applicator so it won’t spill and goes on super fast. It not only takes the “squeak” out of your wound strings, but it will clean them as well as your fingerboard.
It comes with its own cloth to wipe down your guitar neck, and one can of this stuff will last “forever.”
Will it make you play faster? Probably not; that’s what “practice” is for, but check it out!
7. Backup Guitar Cord
You never think the guitar cord that you have become so attached to over the years is going to “crap out” on you in the middle of a tune, but it happens, and it’s a real bummer! Usually, someone else in the band has an extra one but don’t count on it.
Some guitar players put an extra cord in their amp if it’s an open-back combo unit. Just be careful pulling it out, especially if it’s a tube amp.
If you’ve gone wireless, then you’re a lucky duck, but you still need a cord to connect to your amp.
8. Clip-On Tuner
A tuner was an essential item in the old days, but now most electric players put one in their effects chain or on their pedalboard. All-in-one multi-effects units have them built-in.
If you already have a built-in tuner, then replace it with another item, like a multimeter, to check electrical continuity.
If you plug straight into your amp or are an acoustic player, you’ll probably need to bring one or uses some else’s tuner.
I like to bring a clip-on tuner because it can be used in any situation, and it’s one less thing in your signal chain. Planet Waves makes one that is accurate and easy to use, so I really like it!
Other Items You Might Want To consider
If you have extra room in your guitar case or gig bag, here are some other items for your guitar repair kit that may be useful.
- Screwdrivers – slotted and phillips head
- Pliers – standard and needle-nose
- 9 Volt batteries for stopmp boxes
- An extra pre-amp and power tube for your amplifier
- A multimeter – to check electrical continuity and voltage
- A battery checker – for stompboxes that are not hooked up to a power supply
I can tell you from experience that if your guitar with active electronics stops working suddenly, then a battery checker and multimeter can save the gig!
What About A Portable, Pre-Assembled, Guitar Repair Maintenance Kit?
I typically find that the 8 items listed above are more than adequate for most electric and acoustic players. However, if you are looking for some additional goodies to take to your next practice session or gig, many portable repair and maintenance kits are available.
One that I really like is the Fender Custom Shop Tool Kit.
It comes with:
- A guitar string winder
- A 6.25 ” diagonal string cutter
- A 15-blade feeler guage set
- A setup guide and ruler
- A 4-in-1 screwdriver (2 Philips and 2 slotted)
- 2 Hex wrenches
- 2 Hex drivers
- A storage pouch with the Custom Shop Logo
Final Thoughts On The Guitar Repair Maintenance Kit
If you’re a guitar player that does group practice sessions or gigs, then you should have a guitar repair maintenance tool kit that fits in your guitar case compartment or gig bag pocket.
Always carry the 4 to 8 items listed in the table above to give you the resources and peace of mind you need for any occasion.
You never know when you will break a string or have a more serious mishap that requires the tools and things that can get you playing again quickly.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You probably already have some of the items required to assemble your guitar repair tool kit. Start with the 4 absolutely essential items and add the others as you go.
Remember the timeless phrase coined by Ben Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Tell Me What You Think
Please let me know what’s on your mind in the comment section or if I can help you with anything?
- Do you have a guitar repair maintenence kit? How often do you use it?
- After reading this article, are you thinking about getting your own kit together?
- What other items do you think the kit should contain?
- Any tips to share and how are they helpful?