As a guitar tech, it’s a responsibility to ensure that the guitarist has everything they need to make their job easier. All they need to worry about is walking on stage, playing well, and having an amazing show — the rest is on you. From the simple things like remembering to change batteries, to squeezing two full stacks and two full bass stacks onto a stage barely big enough for a drum kit, the onus is on you to ensure the show goes off without a hitch.
Guitar tech, Pjay Johnson (Busted, McFly, John Newman) walks us through his five top tips every guitar tech should know.
1. Have a routine but be flexible
There’s an enormous list of tasks to get through when preparing for a show. The best way to accomplish these tasks without overlooking something is to establish a solid routine. Try and set up your equipment and carry out any routine maintenance checks in the same order each day.
2. Tuning Tuning Tuning
Use a tuner that you have experience with and trust. It helps if all members of the band are using be same tuners too. If you can listen to the guitars you’re tuning through a small amp or headphones, this is even better as it’s all well and good tuning by eye but if the intonation has slipped, tuning with your eyes alone just won’t cut it.
3. Make Spares your Best Friend!
This point is frequently overlooked, often as a matter of budget. You can carry out preventative maintenance and inspect the gear all you like, but at some point in your career, a piece of kit will fail without warning. So no matter whether it’s a brand new string snapping halfway through the first song, or even a valve giving up the ghost before the encore, be sure to expect the unexpected. The fastest fix is to have a spare ready to throw in its place without disrupting to show too much.
4. Stay up to date with Equipment
This is paramount if you want to stay relevant. There are similarities between a lot of gear: guitars, amps, pedals, wireless systems, etc., but with the introduction of modelling amps being much more akin to programming, it’s important to practice.
5. Learn to read your Guitarist
This is the most important aspect of a guitar techs duties during a show — particularly if the guitarist you’re looking after is also singing. Sometimes they may not be able to walk over and tell you they have a problem. Often, they’ll signal some other way if there’s something wrong with their setup, their monitors or their in-ears. You got to read these signs and be prepared for any eventuality. One way or another, you need to get it fixed and be off the stage as quickly as possible.