Posted by: worshipguitarguy | August 16, 2006

Formula One Racing and Gear Setup

f1.jpgA few weeks ago, while watching the Formula 1 Race from Hockenheim, Germany I was reminded again just how awesome the guys who work the pits are.  If you’re unfamiliar with F1, it’s considered the most technically advanced form of motor racing in the world.  The best cars on the track each week are so evenly matched that the races are won or lost by how much time’s spent in the pits… so those guys have to be good.  They can change four tires, fuel a car, make adjustments to the wings, and clear the air intakes in under eight seconds.  Some of the pit crew members even wear heads up displays mounted in their helmets that relay information while they work!

 Later that afternoon, the race had me thinking…  about my setup as a guitarist.  I’m one of those guys who sets up and tears down several times a week.  (For those of you who set up and tear down your entire sound setup each week, I’m right there with you…)  In my mind, I was going through my setup process as a musician and how to streamline it, so like the pit crews, it would be as efficient as possible.  The following are a couple things I’ve learned from my own experiences:

1.  Have a mental gameplan for setup and teardown.  When you come in each week, do you have a plan for approaching your setup?  Do you have everything you need in your gigbag and cases for setup?  (i.e. cables, power supplies, etc.)  I’ve made it a point to own all the stuff I need to run my own signal chain, and I always carry a spare 1/4 inch cord and effect jumper cables.  If you can save your money and buy your own stuff, then you’ll have more confidence that things will work when you hook them up… (and an easier time troubleshooting if they don’t).  

When it comes to setup, my course of action usually consists of the following:

  • Set up my amp:  I’ll plug it in, turn it on, but leave it on standby
  • Set up my pedalboard:  I’ll put it onstage, pull the cover, run power to it, and check a couple of my pedals to make sure I have power going to them.  Then I’ll run a 1/4 to my amp from it.
  • Unpack my guitar(s):  Put them on their stands, and run a 1/4 from them to my pedalboard. I’ll then flip my amps standby switch and test my guitar to make sure I have signal passing through.
  • Run a mic to my amp:  Depending on the venue I’m playing in, I may have a sound tech to help with this, or I may have to do it myself.  Since my amp travels with me in a ATA case, I grab a boom stand, put a Shure SM57 (usually) in front of my speaker cone, and run a XLR cable from it to the channel the sound person asks me to plug it into on the snake.
  • Do a Sound Check:  When our band and the sound staff is ready, we’ll run a soundcheck to make sure I have signal coming into the monitors and the house.

2.  Have backup plans in case things go wrong.  Things that can go wrong will go wrong from time to time.  How do you handle broken strings?  What happens if your amp won’t fire up?   What do you do if you can’t get any signal to go through your pedalboard or effects unit?  Having backup plans in your mind can minimize stress before playing.  If my amp dies on me, I have a POD in my gigbag with a small footswitchable controller.  I always take two electrics wherever I go, so if I break a string, I can swap and be back in action within about 30 seconds.  If I can’t get signal to go through my pedalboard, I’ll pull the 1/4 inch cable from the end of my pedal chain and run my guitar directly into the amp.  If I then have signal, I’ll plug that cable back into the last device in my chain, and run my guitar to the input of the same device, (which happens to be my volume pedal)  From there, I keep adding the next device on the chain back in, until I figure out which one’s giving me the problem.

3.  Arrive Early!!!:  One of the biggest ways to create stress for both yourself and your band is to consistently run late and rush to make setup.  So before you play, know how much time you need to setup your gear, and give yourself at least an extra 15 minutes to cover any problems that happen.

4.  Be a Team Player:  If there’s other equipment your worship team needs setup when your gear is ready,  jump on board and help the rest of your team.  In our band, the bass player is usually the first one ready to go.  What I love about this guy though is once he’s done, he’ll be looking around to help the rest of us with setting up mics, monitors, cords, and other gear.  Also, our worship leader likes to switch between keyboards and guitars on many weeks, so I take it upon myself to make sure his guitar gear is ready to go so he can focus on getting his keyboards and vocals ready.  A great principle to live by is that your setup isn’t finished until your whole team is finished. 

Just like a pitcrew, your band is a team of people who’s goal is to facilitate worship… when we’re team players, it takes everything we do to the next level.



  1. […] Check out this article on streamlining your personal instrument setup process.  This is the kind of practical, down-to-earth resourcing that I love!  Well done, Gerry. by Phil Ayres | posted in Asides Trackback URL | Comment RSS Feed Tag at | Incoming links […]

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