What's In Your Case? A Case Study
Posted by Bradley Laird
Every now and then I open my mandolin case and am astonished to see the collection of odds and ends that end up in there. I thought it might be interesting to open the case up and talk about what is in there and why.
Even before the case is opened you can see that I have a bunch of stickers and my name plastered on the case in giant letters. Ugly, yes. But, it serves a good purpose. One night I was at a jam session
and left the scene, mando case in hand, and only as I tossed it into my backseat did I notice that it was not my case! That got me thinking how easy it would be for someone else to walk off with my mandolin by mistake. So, the next day I stuck my name on the case.
When opened, my case has a strange collection of interesting contents. It probably looks a lot like your collection. There are some mystery items that I have no explanation for, such as the temporary tattoo, a business card from some insurance guy, a bright green feather from a "boa", lint balls and general crud accumulation. That kind of stuff I try to ream out about twice a year or I can't get the lid closed.
But, inside this pile of stuff (which all does fit in the case) are some downright useful and essential items. Here is a list of what I found in my case today along with a little commentary:
1. My Mandolin - I mention this item because I once got halfway to a gig and realized I had an empty case. My mandolin was at home laying around on the couch or something. If you do nothing else, at least verify that the thing is inside before you walk out the door.
2. Nail Clippers - Used for obvious reasons from time to time. Can also be used a some sort of all purpose tool if you are creative.
3. Emery Board - I don't think I have used this more than once or twice ever, but I have it. The ability to sand on something could be very handy.
4. Spare Strings - Of course you need these. I usually have one or two complete sets and whatever oddball partial sets are laying around.
5. Wire Cutting Needlenose Pliers - Good for chomping off the string ends. The needlenose end can be used when a string breaks at the tuner capstan and you can't get that little piece out of the hole. Can be used to re-bend your tailpiece cover to make it fit right and it will even open a beer bottle in a pinch.
6. Electronic Tuning Device - I carry a cheap Korg. I have three or four different models all over the house, but carry the Korg. (When I wrote this I was using the old Korg, but have switched to a Sonic Research which is the best tuner I have ever used!)
7. Extra AA Batteries - For the tuner, or a friend's tuner if they need them. I keep them in a little leather "purse" so they don't accidentally drain themselves by being nestled in among loose mandolin strings, metal tools, etc.
8. Super Glue - I carry a tube of this adhesive and have used it a few times over the years. You never know how you might be able to use this. I once had a bit of pearl inlay fall out of my banjo neck and fixed it 2 minutes. Loose binding can be tacked down. It is one of those things that you will never
need if you carry it but wish you had it the moment you don't.
9. The "Drug Store" - I carry a few Aspirin, Tylenol, Immodium AD, and the like. This can help you personally or some ailing fellow musician and make an otherwise miserable gig something more bearable.
10. Laminated Photo of Bill Monroe - I have always carried one of these in all my mandolin cases. Keeps me humble.
11. A Picture of "Your Sweetie" - Correction. I carry a picture of my sweetie, not yours. I am not sure exactly how this helps the situation but I know it does.
12. Business Cards - Have them with you! Stick them on the speakers, lay them around here and there. Keep all the band members stocked with a few in their pockets at all times. This is the cheapest and best form of advertising ever devised. Don't look like an idiot while you dig for them. Snap one out when asked. And smile. That guy interrupting you during your fabulous mandolin solo to ask for a business card is the guy who pays for you to be able to play that mandolin! Smile and hand him the card.
13. Pens and pencils - Keep a few with you. Sharpies to autograph CDs and photos. Make changes to set lists. Get someone's phone number. Got to have them.
14. Craftsman Deep Well Socket - This is what I use to play slide. Fits my ring finger perfectly and is nice and heavy.
15. Picks - Good grief there are picks everwhere in there! Most of the plastic ones are shot. I keep the good ones in two old leather coin purses. One belonged to my grandfather and the other my great-grandfather. That was back when coins were worth something.
16. A Small Piece of 600 Grit Sandpaper - I use this to smooth up a gouged pick from time to time.
17. A Guitar Capo - Now you might really wonder why I have that in my case. I don't use it on the mandolin. But, having a spare on hand can help when some less prepared guitar player can't find his capo. Do you really want to play Old Joe Clark in G? Lend him the capo and you will both be happier.
18. A Bandana - Swiped from a gig. So many uses I can't describe them all.
19. "Multi-Purpose" Tool - I carry a little thing that has six various tools folded into one handle. Swiss Army screwdriver of sorts.
20. A Humidity Indicator Card - I give these away in my piano tuning business so they are present as a "piano tuning business card" and also provide a means of keeping tabs on the humidity in the case. I have a few homemade humidifiers I employ about twice a year but don't habitually carry them around.
Be prepared and you can often avert minor disasters and just make your life easier. Case closed.
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