Hey worship leaders! Ok so let’s talk gear. I like to be prepared. Nope. I like to be over-prepared! Haha! Just ask my tribe. They’ll confirm this. Honestly though part of good leadership is planning and preparation. In an effort to serve the people on my team and the ones in front of me I like to be in the habit of anticipating every detail as best I can. It’s important to have the musical tools that you’ll need on-hand. Eventually you’re going to show up at church and you’ll realize you have a dead battery, or you bust a string, etc. Or maybe you’ve arrived at a new place for an event or retreat or you’re leading as a guest somewhere and their setup isn’t quite what you have at home. So to avoid potential issues I’ve learned to bring a lot of my own stuff with me. Obviously, this list will vary depending on what instrument you play, and on whether or not you have other elements planned like tracks or pads. And over the years this list has gotten bigger as I’ve added new equipment or figured out the hard way that there was something I missed.
I lead on an acoustic guitar and generally run pads too, so with that in mind, this is my current list.
- Um.. my guitar. Obviously. haha! But actually if I’m going to be the only acoustic player then I’ll also tend to bring along a spare guitar. This is especially true if I’m going to be out-of-town.
- Guitar Stand… nearly everywhere I go they have guitar stands. That said, I’ve been places where there weren’t enough of them for the entire team. But even if there are, I bring my own anyway because, well, I really like my guitar stand. I even take it to church with me every weekend just because I like it so much better than the standard ones we have on hand. Mine is this auto-grip stand from Hercules. The guitar hangs on it from the headstock. Which actually, over time, is better on the instrument. Plus the U-shaped base on the standard ones always seems to get tangled up with my cable and/or strap. User error on my part? Ha! Maybe. But this one is heavy-duty and suuuper stable, and for me was well worth the money.
- A pedal tuner. Mine is the Boss TU-2. Plus an iSpot power cord. It can run off battery power too but I prefer to plug it in.
- A wind-screen for my vocal mic. This is just one of those black foam ball sleeve thingys that slides right over most standard handheld vocal mics. They’re inexpensive and washable. I like them for a variety of reasons. They make using shared microphones more sanitary. So there’s that. But mainly I like them because they soften the ‘p’ and ‘s’ sounds, inhibit wind noise if you’re outdoors, and they allow me to sing right up against the mic without having to worry about bumping into the metal cover of the mic itself. Every time I work with a new sound engineer I always let them know that I’d like to use it and get their opinion on it. I’ve never had one ask me not to. Actually they all seem to prefer it.
- Extra guitar strings. as alluded to earlier. Also a peg winder and needle-nose pliers/wire cutters.
- Extra 9-volt batteries. And a battery tester. I’m in the habit of checking my guitar battery every time I’m leading. We have four services at our main campus (one on Saturday evening and three on Sunday morning)..and a dead battery in the middle of a service would be a major bummer. I unplug the instrument cable from my guitar following the Saturday evening service so I don’t drain the battery overnight. But if I forget… then I have fresh batteries on hand. The tuner pedal mentioned above can run off a 9-volt too. So if I end up in a situation where I don’t have access to plug it in, then I can always throw a new battery in it instead.
- Speaking of instrument cables, I always bring at least a couple of my own, plus a patch cable for the tuner. Any cable can eventually go bad, but at least I know my cables are in like-new condition, and are properly re-coiled after each use. On occasions when I’m bringing my piano along…then I throw in a few more. If I’m going some place new and unsure of the set-up, then I’ll tend to make sure I bring along some longer ones too, just in case.
- My iPad. Because whether I’m working with charts or just a set list, I use my iPad instead of paper. That said, I also bring along extra paper copies for myself.
- I run my iPad hands-free so I also bring along my Bluetooth controller pedal. And the micro usb cable I use to keep it plugged in. It contains a rechargeable battery but I prefer not to depend on that, especially through a rehearsal and multiple services.
- A mic stand holder for my iPhone. As mentioned above I tend to run pads, which I am currently doing from my phone..(you can refer to my previous post on the subject for more details on that..), so I purchased this mount so my phone is at my fingertips.
- A male to male, 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch connector cable to connect my phone to the system via a direct box.
- Lightning cables and a dual wall adapter so I can keep my iPad and iPhone plugged in.
- Extension cords.. in two different lengths. (Mine have three outlets each.) I never want to assume that any place I visit will have an extra one. And you never know how far away the outlet is going to be…hence the two sizes to choose from. Also when I’m traveling I will tend to pack a power strip. All of these are black, btw. So they’re not overly noticeable or unsightly on stage..
- My IEM’s (in-ear monitors). Extra tips, And a headphone extension cable.
- A couple of capos. (in case one breaks…). Pro hack: in a pinch you can use a pencil and a rubber band and make your own capo. Haha! I’m serious! Personally though I’d rather have a spare.
- I make sure I’ve packed my guitar strap. And bring along extra guitar picks! Somehow they always ending lying around the house in the strangest places, or still in the pockets of all your skinny jeans, except for the ones you’re currently wearing of course.
- Don’t forget the chord charts for your team! At least in my case I’m the only one who’s paperless. So I print copies of the charts out for everybody else. Including for the sound engineer and whoever is running the lyrics. And one last tip: if your service is outdoors then place the band’s charts in thin 3-ring binders. Your team will appreciate it. And so will you when no one’s music is blowing across the lawn in the middle of the service. 🙂
I think that’s it! At least for now. Like I said before my list keeps growing and changing as I add new elements or discover new ways that I can be better prepared and/or better serve my team. I’d love to know what some of you have in your gear bags!
Blessings on you as you continue to serve our Lord Jesus by leading His people with excellence! ~ Michelle
Michelle Haywood Smith is a Jesus follower, image bearer, ezer, worship leader, vocalist, acoustic guitar player, aspiring poet and songwriter, blogger, reader, perpetual learner, chocolate acquisition specialist;)….and also a daughter, sister, wife, mother & friend.
Cover photo by Haley Powers from Unsplash.