FIF: 5 Tools Every Guitarist Needs

Written by
Logan Tabor
Published on
January 21, 2021 11:17:12 AM PST January 21, 2021 11:17:12 AM PSTst, January 21, 2021 11:17:12 AM PST
Everyone guitarist in the history of civilization, at some point or another, has either known or even themselves been the typical “underprepared guitar guy.”  We are all guilty of it. Now that we’re all grown up, it’s important that we not only forgive ourselves this heresy, but that we also redeem our former selves by becoming “super-prepared guitar guy!”  That’s why, today, we’ll be talking about the 5 tools every guitarist should keep with them at all times.  When we say tools, though, we don’t mean picks, tuners, extra cables, etc. (although you should definitely keep those items on you at all times); we are actually talking about TOOLS.  You know, those little gadgets designed to do a specific job?  So let’s get into it…

Contact Cleaner/Air Duster


Seems a bit silly to be carrying around a can of duster, but honestly how many times have you or one of your buddies showed up to a gig only to be welcomed with the happy little surprise of a suddenly noisy volume pot?  Whether the pot is on your guitar or your amplifier, the fact is, this comes up all the time and can often be alleviated quickly with some canned air.  As guitarists, we pretty much sweat on every piece of gear we own.  Not only that, but we are moving our gear around constantly; in and out of cases, onto different stages and into different clubs, passed from hand to hand.  All of these factors introduce dirt and grime into the equation, and this glop will inevitably work its way onto our pots to create that horrible scratchy sound that makes everyone give you the side-eye.  Try keeping a can of Blow Off Duster with you, so you don’t end up being “noisy underprepared guitar guy.”  

Wire Cutters

So you just showed up to a gig.  You’ve hauled your gear onto the stage, the house sound guy has you all mic’d up, you are in the middle of a sound check, and you pop a string.  Now, because you have become “missing-string underprepared guitar guy,” you must walk, tail between your legs, over to the guitarist from the other band and ask to borrow some wire cutters so you can quickly change your strings.  Once again, it has happened to all of us.  But having wire cutters on hand will save you so much time and hassle when it comes to changing out strings; whether you’re sitting on your couch the night before a gig, or replacing a string on a set break, it is extremely important that you keep a proper pair of wire cutters with you at all times. Oh yeah, and for an even more expeditious string-changing experience, you might consider carrying a string winder.

Fretboard Conditioner

Like I said before, as guitarists we sweat on every piece of gear we own (and if don’t, then we’re doing something wrong).  While that may not seem like a big deal, it’s actually reducing the lifespan of our guitars dramatically.  With ebony and rosewood fretboards specifically, the dirt, oil, and salt from our hands and sweat can actually work their way down into the wood and compromise its integrity.  For a long, buttery, happy life, our fretboards should be cleaned on a regular basis with something like a mild fretboard conditioner.  This not only cleans the dirt and oil from the fretboard for increased playability, but the conditioner actually works its way down into the wood to seal it from dirt and sweat.  Keeping something like this Rene Martinez Fretboard Conditioner in your gig bag (and remembering to use it) can really change the way your guitar feels, looks, plays, and lives.  It’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up much space in your bag, so don’t become “cricky-cracky-fretboard underprepared guitar guy.” 

Soldering Iron


While this one is a bit more advanced of a tool, it is still a vital part of the guitar apocalypse survival strategy.  Just like with the noisy pots, everyone (or one of their fellow bandmates) has showed up to a gig to find that their input jack is now making the rattle-pop-buzz-bang noise from hell.  I know, “it wasn’t making that noise last night at practice,” but guess what, it is now.  That noise, if left unaddressed, will undoubtedly make no less than 20 appearances throughout your upcoming set; that noise will drive away half a crowd and cause a sound guy to mute you.  No kidding, I’ve seen it happen.  You need to be able to quickly unscrew the jack plate and fix that intermittent connection, but without a soldering iron (and potentially a little solder) you won’t get far.  Not to mention, there are so many things that could be quickly fixed, either on your guitar or your amp, if you just carried a soldering iron with you.  Plus, it’s basically infinite cool points if you’re the guy that shows up with a soldering iron and fixes your bandmates’ or someone else’s bandmates’ gear on the spot.  It is imperative that all guitarists own, carry, and know how to use a quality soldering iron, lest they become “janky-input-crowd-killer underprepared guitar guy.”  

Screwdrivers, Sockets, and Allen Wrenches

But wait!  This article said “5” tools, not “7!”  You are correct; however, when all these tools come in one case they count as one tool.  So, why do you need this stuff?  Pretty much everything on your guitar that could ever need tweaking, can be accessed with one of these tools.  Your knobs might have tiny lock-screws on them, which will require an equally tiny flathead or Phillips head screwdriver. Your pots have a nut around them that will require a socket to unfasten.  Your locking tuners or truss rod might need a tweak, and for that, you’ll most certainly need a variety of allen wrenches from which to choose.  The fact is, you never know what will come up, because our gear is not always lightly used.  The working musician, in particular, is constantly having to make adjustments, replace small parts, and check on this or that.  You can reduce the great many tools you would need in order to accomplish this, by making the Rene Martinez 24-Piece Micro-Tip Screwdriver Set a part of your arsenal.  It comes with a handle, a variety of Phillips and flathead bits, three different sizes of sockets, eleven allen heads, and the adapters needed to use all of them.  This multi-tool set is an absolute must have for the modern guitarist looking to avoid becoming “bad-pot-poorly-intonated-loose-plate-buzz-bang-fail underprepared guitar guy.”