Take a moment to think about the most important piece of gear in your rig or studio. Maybe it’s your most powerful, most capable, or most expensive piece of gear. But what happens when the strap comes off your vintage guitar and all its sweet, inherent mojo falls from your shoulder to make contact with the floor? Or when the battery of your MacBook Pro dies, and all your plugins are rendered useless as you scramble to plug in to the nearest outlet?
Sometimes, it’s the little things — the overlooked simple pieces of gear — that are the most essential. When they work, you don’t even notice them. But when they don’t, they can cut your gig short, wipe out unsaved changes on your masterpiece, making their presence known. Here are some of the zZounds crew’s picks for such overlooked, yet essential gear.
I am baffled as to why every single instrument or strap doesn’t offer this feature in one way or another. I spent my formative years in loud and terrible punk/metal bands, so thrashing around on the stage, basement floor, or friend’s living room to cover up my bad playing was key. The first time I saw someone else duct-tape the hell out of their strap I quickly copied their approach. Then one day, I stumbled across strap locks and in one form or another, have had them on all my guitars since.
Even when you’re just standing around playing, having your guitar strap fall off and force you to awkwardly fumble to hold up your guitar and keep riffin’ to stay in the game is the guitarist’s version of being pantsed. If a cheap, small piece of plastic can prevent that, then why not use it? My current go-to is the Planet Waves ‘Planet Lock’ strap. It’s a basic black strap that has a ratcheting system to lock onto your existing strap buttons, simple and easy, no drills or screwdrivers required.
Pictured stage right: why you want strap locks.
If you have a strap you already love, like a super badass police tape strap to let everyone know you’re a rocker from the wrong side of the tracks, or big fat comfy leather one because you’re not 23 any more and your shoulder hurts, D’Addario Universal Strap Locks are a great option for their simple and slim design. Plus they’re co-designed by Ned Steinberger so you know they’re on the minimalist-based functionality game.
– Corbin, Social Media Manager
Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
The Default Recording App on Your Phone
My pick is not exactly a piece of gear, but important nonetheless: it’s the default recording app on your phone, in conjunction with the default microphone on your phone. Why so specifically basic, you ask? While there are better options out there for those seeking high-quality recordings — I’m looking at you Shure MOTIV and IK Multimedia iRig gear — there is no quicker, more accessible way to capture ideas on the fly than with your phone’s default recording app and on-board mic.
Sure on the iPhone it’s called Voice Memos, but unless you’re a modern-day Dale Cooper giving Diane your whereabouts, you’re probably using yours to record those elusive melody ideas or lyrics before they vanish into the ether, and you can kiss the next “In My Feelings” goodbye.
– Mason, Blog Manager
Pearl Joey Jordison Signature Snare Drum
One piece of gear that I couldn’t perform without is hands down the Pearl Joey Jordison Signature Snare Drum. It’s a 13” x 6.5” steel snare that has all the body of a deep wood snare and the bite and crack of tightly tuned piccolo. I’ve had this baby for nine years now and while I’ve updated almost every other portion of my kit over the years, the snare has to stay the same. Even though I don’t play music that sounds anything remotely close to Slipknot, it sounds great live and it has the attack to cut through the mix in smaller venues where the whole kit isn’t miked up. It sounds absolutely amazing in the studio, too. One of my favorite things about this snare is during soundcheck at venues – the crack is so overwhelming and unexpected that everybody in the audience winces along with every quarter note I hit. Totally love it, totally can’t live without it!
– Sean, zZounds Gear Expert
Efficiency is crucial when you’re working on a lot of mixes at once. In my opinion, the mouse pad does not make it easy to edit between takes. Purchasing a wireless mouse dramatically changed my workflow. I use the Lenovo YOGA Mouse, but you can use any wireless mouse that is compatible with your computer. Once you get one, you’ll hate editing without it. JUST MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY CHARGE IT!”
– John, zZounds Gear Expert