A good voltmeter/multimeter is extremely important. With this, you can check cords, AC and DC voltage, and even for troublesome voltage leaks and ground faults that can shock a guitar player when he walks up to a mike. RadioShack has many different models and price ranges, so you should be able to find what you need there.
A battery tester is nice to have so you can quickly test your batteries for all your flashlights, gizmos and wireless stuff. I like the ones that can quickly check 9V batteries, since most of the stuff I use has that kind of battery. You’ll also need to remember a good stock of spare batteries, in a variety of sizes (AA, 9V, D, etc.), since everything seems to use a different size.
You’ll want to pack a cable tester, something sturdy, inexpensive and easy to use that tests all the cable styles you use. Behringer produces a good unit. Along with this, bring plenty of spare cables and audio connectors (banana plugs, 1/4” plugs, XLR ends) and maybe a few electrical connector ends. It is also nice to have a few tidbits of wire and cord in case you need to build a quick cable to interface something unexpected.
A really cool audio tester is a definite plus. There are several new ones on the market that do the job nicely; I have an older Audio Toolbox with a signal generator, oscilloscope, cable tester, RTA, polarity tester, and noise generator. It comes in really handy quite often!
Screwdrivers are often overlooked, but important. A collection of standard screwdrivers and micro screwdrivers should be in your bag of tricks. Buy good quality drivers, since there are few things more irritating than having your tool fail to remove that super tight screw! Along the same lines, you’ll also want a small electric screwdriver – take off a speaker grill once by hand and you will know why this is in here.
Remember wiring pliers and a variety of other pliers; several different types of pliers are needed for a well-stocked toolbox. Needle nose, standard and visegrip pliers are good choices. Pack a crescent wrench. A good-quality adjustable wrench – or two – is great to have. I like a 6” and a 10” version for maximum versatility. Finally, don’t forget your hammer – you know why (to fix broken stuff, or to finish it off).
A flashlight is a must, preferably a small one and a big one. A razor knife is good to have, as well as a multitool – commonly known as a “leatherman.” It has lots of cool stuff like knives, files and pliers. I also carry a “micratool,” which has a small knife, scissors, a nail file and tweezers thrown in.
A labeling machine is great and affordable! Check them out at your local office supply superstore.
Get a CD with test tones, noise and other handy sounds on it, for when you’re tweaking and checking out sound systems. Always carry your favorite music CD to tweak your PA, to check the EQ and the room; this will help ensure you’ll be hearing all the frequencies you need to hear, and identify which ones may be overbearing.
Random things include a soldering iron, solder, desoldering wick, electrical black tape, super glue, plastic wire ties, scotch tape, board/artist tape, sharpies, ink pen, lighter, screws, rack screws, contact cleaner for electronics, compressed air (in a can) to blow out switches and faders, Q-tip swabs, and a nice clean paint brush to tidy things up! Those nice microphone zipper bags the mike companies give out are great to keep some of these things in, but clear ziplock bags get the job done too.
And, finally, don’t forget the duct tape!
Once assembled, put all that neatly into one of those little toolbox/briefcases sold at a hardware superstore and you are set. Now go and conquer the world!
Tell me what you got in your toolbox – drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Anderson is president of Concert Sound Inc., which provides sound, lighting, stage, roof and backline services throughout the Midwest. Concert Sound has served the needs of many major acts over the years, including the Beach Boys, Starship, .38 Special, and Mickey Gilley. Concert Sound also handles sound-and-lighting sales and installations, and designs custom band systems. Andy has been active in the audio field for 25 years, beginning with a recording studio and moving into live sound and sound-system installation. He is active at Dawghouse Recording, a ProTools-based recording studio in Ames, Iowa, and is a partner in a business specializing in musical electronics repair and speaker reconing.
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