What is a Guitar Tech?
A guitar tech is the person on tour responsible for the maintenance of the guitars. Their main priorities include loading and unloading the guitarists’ gear, tuning and prepping guitars for the show, cleaning and changing strings, and replacing broken parts.
Skills required to be a Guitar Tech
The most important skill needed to be a successful guitar tech is understanding how guitars work. This doesn’t necessarily mean knowing how to play guitar, but knowing how to set them up, tune and clean them, and fix them is imperative to the job. Troubleshooting and problem-solving are also a big chunk of the daily experience. Even with doing all the preventative maintenance in the world, it’s impossible to know when something will go wrong. Being prepared and having backups will save a lot of headaches in the long run.
Daily tasks of a Guitar Tech
The day starts with showing up to the venue and talking to the local crew to get a sense of the show’s setup. Every venue is a little different in terms of what they have available, so it’s vital for the local crew to talk with the touring crew to ensure the show can go according to plan. Once everything is mapped out, the load-in begins. The cases are pushed into the venue, where the touring crew begins to unpack all their gear.
As a guitar tech, it’s ideal to get the guitars out of the cases as quickly as possible, so they have the proper time to acclimate to the environment. With touring all over the world, it’s common to experience significant climate changes. Because the guitars are made of wood, they’re sensitive to things like changes in temperature and moisture. The necks can bow, and the tone can change if they’re not used to the new environment they’re in. It’s the guitar tech’s responsibility to make sure the guitars are show-ready.
Once all the gear is set up, the tech will restring and clean all the guitars. Changing the strings on a guitar daily is the best way to prevent any mishaps on stage, but just in case, the guitar tech has another guitar prepped and ready to go. They’re also making sure all the gear like amps, cords, and pedals are in working order for the show. They use soundcheck to go over things with the artist, and ideally, the way the artist receives their guitar for soundcheck is the same way they’ll receive it a few hours later for the show. Once soundcheck is finished, last-minute adjustments are made, and the doors are opened for the show to begin.
During the show, it’s the guitar tech’s responsibility to give their artist their undivided attention. The artist is putting all of their trust into their tech. To perform to the best of their ability, they need to know their tech is on their A-game. The tech needs to be prepared for things like strings breaking or amps blowing during the show and have plans in place to fix anything that goes wrong. They’re also responsible for switching out guitars for songs that are tuned in different ways and making sure their artist has a capo if a song requires it.
Once the show is over, the guitar tech will pack everything back into their respective places and prepare the gear to be loaded back into the truck to move on to the next show.
Guitar Tech Tips
- Always be aware of the temperature and humidity of where you’re performing so you can ensure the guitars are acclimated before the show.
- Choose preventative maintenance over reactive maintenance.
- Have an alarm set and wear a watch, so you’re never running late
- Never forget the “oh shit” cable, because you never know when you’ll need it
- Be a good hang because if the artist can’t get along with you, you won’t last
- Make sure you’re there for load-in and load-out because the gear is your responsibility at the end of the day, and you have to make sure nothing gets broken
- Use things like flight miles or other perks at airlines to make traveling with gear easier