Touring Pro-Tip: There’s Really No Excuse to Not Have Spare Fuses at a Gig

There are a lot of things that should be in your toolbox/utility suitcase/rack drawer/etc at a gig, and most of these are common knowledge. Spare cables are a big one: not just 1/4″ but a spare power cable, maybe a spare midi/footswitch cable if applicable. Also, an extension cord, spare strings, a string cutter, a battery powered tuner (even if you have one on your pedalboard or rack), a screwdriver, spare patch cables, velcro, etc.


But there are two often overlooked items that shouldn’t be: spare tubes (assuming you play through a tube amp) and fuses. Now I have gigged without spare tubes. They can be expensive, and you need a pair (usually), and if you’re not on tour it may be easier to borrow a head from another band instead of swapping out tubes in the middle of your 30 minute set. And did I mention they can be expensive?

But fuses? Seriously, every guitarist and bassist should have a spare set. Yet it’s amazing how rarely people carry them. Sometimes your amp is perfectly fine but just plugged into an outlet with shoddy power and your fuse blows. You’re going to need a spare eventually. But more to my point, a 4-pack of fuses will run you something like $2-$4 at Radio Shack. So just pick some up. Maybe you won’t need them for years. But one day your fuse will blow and you’ll feel like a dumbass for not having a backup.

And by the way, I recommend keeping them in a pill holder or something. Otherwise once you rip open that bag to get at one fuse you’re guaranteed to lose the other 3. I have an AM/PM pill holder that holds my fuses in one side (“AM” is for “Amp”) and I keep a few spares for my forgetful bandmate in the other.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.

Latest comments
  • For drummers: Drumsticks are the big obvious one, but you should also have a spare kick pedal standing by (especially if you’re an abomination like me & play left-handed with a double pedal). Spare snare wouldn’t hurt either (although you could borrow another drummer’s if the need arose mid-gig)…

    • My emergency tool box is: Sticks, Keys (Always one guy asking for a key 15 minutes before the gig.), Velcro, Duct/Gaffer tape, Moon Gel, wingnut’s and felt, some sweat bands for those small venues with no ventilation, a little bit of cash for emergency, and anything else i feel like i’d need for the show.

  • This is a great reminder! I usually tape spare fuses to my amp so I know where they are.

    When you retube your amp make sure to keep the old tubes (all long as they’re not blown) and use them as spares. They my not sound quite as good but they’ll get you through the gig.

    I carry a box with what seems like an absurd amount of back up shit, but it’s come in handy a few times!

  • A wrench for tightening that fucking output jack!

  • A cheap combo amp you can just mic up if your tube head blows is also advisable. If your rig dies mid-set, you won’t have time to be replacing fuses. And for the love of all that is unholy, a fucking POWER ATTENUATOR. Spotty power at venues is a common reason why equipment gets blown mid-set.

    • I agree with this, but if you’re running a separate head-cab setup in the first place, you can usually get away with just bringing a backup head, depending on your specific needs and setup. There’s lots of lightweight solid-state heads that you can throw in a backpack or gigbag along with a good distortion pedal. Either way, beats having to swap a fuse mid-set.

      Agreed on spotty power, I watched a band once blow through three different heads in a single set, one twice after swapping fuses.

      • True. Probably unlikely that a surge is going to blow both your amp and your speaker cab–it would blow the amp fist. But I’d also be a paranoid about a cab crapping out mid-set though. So yeah, either a combo or a separate mini head + a 1×12 speaker would have you covered if everything else in your rig fails.

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