The art of the fly rig is something that many people attempt but few ever master. Part of this is due to the fact that different gigs often require different gear, and your fly rig might constantly be undergoing changes to suit the variety of travel scenarios that you may encounter. However, regardless of what instruments you choose to bring, or what pedals you end up putting on your board, there are some fundamental structural elements that will likely stay the same from gig to gig (cables, board, cases, etc.) We have put together this buying guide to help you construct the most efficient and secure fly rig possible, so that you can spend more time focusing on the gig itself and less time worrying about the rest.
First things first: you are probably going to want a pedal board that is smaller than your main board, one that holds the essentials without taking up any extra space. Ideally, this board will be small enough that you could even carry it on instead of having to check it. Pedaltrain’s Nano series provides some great options, like the PT-Nano-SC, which even comes with a carrying case. The case is nice not only because it gives you more options for portability and protection, but because it also discreetly conceals your gear, thereby helping you to avoid theft while you are traveling.
Traveling with your own instrument cables is a pro move. Sure, there will likely be plenty of cables at your destination, but you can never be sure what condition they are in, so why tempt fate. Problem is, cables love to get tangled when no one is looking, and just because you wrapped your coils with care before your flight does not mean that they won’t be tangled after your flight. An easy way to avoid this issue is to incorporate coily cables into your fly rig. That’s right, we are talking about the old favorite of Paul Gilbert, Gearmanndude, and vintage aficionados everywhere. Coily cables can be excellent travel companions due to how easy they can be to manage compared to traditional cables.
You are going to need something to attach your pedals to your board, and although cable ties can be useful, velcro can actually be easier for a couple of reasons. First of all, although cable ties do not require you to permanently affix anything to your pedals, they are effectively single-use items, as you have to cut them every time you want to remove a pedal. Secondly, when dealing with airport security, it is common for an agent to require a more thorough screening of your gear. Having a rig outfitted with velcro makes it very easy to quickly remove pedals from your board for inspection.
This is more of just a general pedal board suggestion, but having isolated power for your pedals is always a good idea. Luckily there are several companies that make compact solutions to address this issue.
Flat patch cables
Sometimes the ability to fit one extra pedal on your board comes down to cable management, and one of the easiest ways to save space is to use flat patch cables, especially when you have pedals with side-mounted inputs. Of course, companies could all just agree to use top-mounted input jacks, but that is another issue all together.
This one is a no brainer that people tend to overlook. Sure, everyone has a light on their smartphone, but maybe you need to save the battery to make sure you can get a Lyft after the gig, or take pictures during the show, or livestream the event. Plus, using your phone as a flashlight while troubleshooting your rig puts it at risk of being lost, stolen, or broken. Avoid that nightmare by getting yourself a compact LED flashlight that you can keep with your rig.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of airlines destroying valuable instruments, and while they won’t allow you on the tarmac to carry your instrument to the plane’s cargo hold yourself, you can do everything in your power to make sure that your precious cargo is well guarded. These days, cases can be had that are designed to withstand plenty a beating without weighing much more than a gig back. Some even have wheels and straps to make the whole cartage process that much easier.
Chances are you are not going to know anything about the state of the electrical wiring of the places you have gigs. Even if you did know, there wouldn’t be much that you could do about the wiring itself. However, you can control how the power coming from that wiring gets treated before even touching your rig. One of the cheapest and easiest ways of doing this is to bring along your own power conditioner. You are probably already accustomed to bringing a power strip with you, so why not get one that will also clean up your power? These double-duty power strips/conditioners are convenient and can often mean the difference between a humming pedal board and a silent one.
Cutting strings, unscrewing pedals, and opening bottles are all things that you have likely ended up doing in the middle of a gig. Instead of having to hunt down the front of house guy, or bother the bartender, why not just pack your own multi tool? These are actually useful for plenty of applications off of the stage as well, and can be great to have when travelling. This one here is a bladeless model, meaning that your tool won’t get confiscated when you go through security.
We get it, you have limited space on your board, so why waste it on something that doesn’t make any sound? Well, because it makes all of the things that do make sound, sound better. With a mini pedal tuner you can split the difference and save some space while still keeping everyone around you sane.