It seems today, more than ever, there’s a guitar player in your local bar, brewery, or restaurant. The popularity of solo players, powering through multiple hours of cover tunes, has clearly risen.
If you’re a proficient player, not only can you have a great time rocking out, but you can make a pretty penny doing it. Of course, you need the right setup if you’re going to do it right. Occasionally, you’ll find a venue that is merely plug-and-play, but that’s not often the case. The best guys and gals out there have quality gear they can rely on to make them sound professional.
It can seem daunting to get set up, but that’s probably because you’re doing it all on your own—or at least, you were. Now, we’re here for you. The experts at Sam Ash have come together to give you a rundown of all the helpful equipment you want to obtain for playing solo sets.
To be clear, we’re not covering the most obvious and integral components of this process—the guitar and PA system. We figure you may already be passed that if you’re considering playing out on your own. This is strictly about additional equipment and extras you may not think of as obvious. However, if you do need some help with choosing a guitar, check out one of our buyer’s guides on selecting an appropriate guitar:
You can also get some advice on which strings you should select in our article: “Which Acoustic Guitar Strings are the Best?”
As for everything else, go ahead and take a peek at some of the most helpful gear you can utilize a solo guitar player.
Playing solo sets obviously means you won’t have a drummer, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a beat. If you’re not up on the newest tech in this realm, you might be thinking of the gentleman from Mary Poppins, with a bass drum on his back and cymbals between his knees. But those days are over. Now you can pick up something like the Singular Sound BeatBuddy Drum Machine Pedal. This pedal features non-quantized, 24-bit recordings of real drummers. You can upload your own songs onto BeatBuddy and control how the beat is operated, inserting fills, transitioning between verse and chorus, and adding drum breaks as you see fit. This pedal can add a whole other dimension to your set.
Another pedal you can use to take your solo set to the next level is the Boss VE-2 Vocal Harmonist Vocal Stompbox with Effects and Guitar-Driven Harmonies. This pedal adds vocal harmonies to your already excellent voice, with intuitive technology that matches you appropriately. With the integrated footswitch, you can toggle harmony on/off while singing, or bypass the VE-2 entirely. Store three favorite sounds and recall them with a panel button or an optional footswitch. There’ also an Auto Harmonist mode, which detects the guitar chords you play in real time, generating the correct harmony as you sing. Thanks to this awesome pedal, your solo set can take on the vocal quality of a professional recording, in real time.
When you’re playing 3+ hours, you’re entitled to a few breaks. But it’s not much of a break if you have to worry about unplugging your guitar, placing it in the case, storing it away, and reversing the whole process when you return. The best way to avoid this is to get a solid guitar stand, and for our money, the Hercules GS414B Plus Auto Grip System AGS Single Guitar Stand is an excellent choice. This stand automatically grips and holds your guitar as you place it on the stand and you can adjust the height for your instrument. You can rely on the tripod format to be sturdy and trust the foam contact points will keep the body scratch-less.
Nothing is more annoying than messing with a difficult strap, other than perhaps dropping your guitar on the floor. Both make you look like an amateur and at least one will definitely damage your precious instrument. Avoid all of that terror by installing D’Addario Strap Locks. You can easily remove the strap buttons from your guitar and replace them with these D’Addarios—which are available in Gold, Nickel, or Black Chrome, to match your instrument’s style. Once the buttons are in, you then easily and tool-lessly secure the other component to your strap, and you have the ability to quickly slide your strap on or off, without ever having to worry about fiddling around or dropping your axe. Bottom line, these strap locks could save your set.
If you have a true acoustic guitar, without electronics, it might be a little too costly to add another new guitar to your list of equipment to purchase. Luckily Seymour Duncan has a solution for you. The Seymour Duncan SA3SC Woody SC Magnetic Soundhole Acoustic Guitar Pickup is a clip on pickup which fits on any acoustic’s soundhole. Much more affordable than a new guitar with onboard electronics, this little pickup faithfully conveys the natural beauty of your acoustic’s sound.
As illustrated earlier, when beginning in the world of solo sets, there are a few little wrinkles you might not be aware of. But like we said, we’ve got you covered. You might have noticed that reading music from a physical copy has been replaced with digital options, like an ipad. But whereas most players will struggle with getting their digital music copies “on the right page,” you won’t have to, thanks to the IK Multimedia iRig BlueTurn Bluetooth Page Turner. This foot pedal allows you simplify the page turning process for your sheet music, lyrics, slides, tabs, and other digital documents, so you won’t miss a note.
With this gear, you’ll be playing like a pro at the outset. Reputation precedes the greatest amongst the solo players, so don’t be surprised if you get more gigs than you anticipated, and pull in a nice crowd at each one.
Check out all the other excellent gear we have to offer solo players at SamAsh.com.