Monitor Must-Haves – Becky’s Top Ten Toolkit Items that I never gig without
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Becky Pell is a Monitor Engineer who has worked in the industry for over 20 years. Becky started her professional life as an apprentice at RG Jones Sound Engineering in London, where she swept a lot of floors, cleaned a lot of cables and loaded a lot of trucks, gradually working her way up to become an engineer. After going freelance in 2001, she toured as a monitor and RF tech with Black Crowes, Travis, and Kylie Minogue, before moving behind the desk to mix monitors for artists such as Aha, Muse, Westlife, Anastacia and Take That. She also runs monitors annually on the main stage at the world’s largest festival, Glastonbury.

I suspect that for many of us, our toolkits feel like a little piece of home on the road. Why else would we find so many photos, amusing stickers and personal curios in there? Looking in someone’s toolkit is often like a glimpse into their lives. Whenever I’m trucking monitor gear, my trusty blue flightcase is in there full of my tools and some non-essential home comforts. But when there’s a fly-gig it’s just too bulky to take and so I downsize to three pouches that go in my checked baggage, and a small case that stays in my carry-on, containing the things that are totally essential to do the show (because my track record with lost luggage is not great….)

Here’s what’s in my mini-toolkit – my top ten items that I never gig without.

In the carry-on: 

  1. my IEM moulds including spares, and the artist’s IEMs too.

  2. Also in the carry-on: USB key with the showfile (which is also on my laptop and will have been emailed to the local monitor tech to load up ahead of time).

Moving to the checked baggage:

  1. My trusty hand-held RF scanner. This has got me out of sticky radio situations more times than I care to remember.

  2. My multi-meter. I don’t care how apparently safe the country I’m visiting might seem to be, I ALWAYS meter the power, because cables get trashed and accidents happen. Surprises involving voltage are just too dangerous to risk.

  3. A Leatherman multi-tool.

  4. Cleaning kit – I have baby wipes and alcohol swabs for IEMs and mics, and those little wire pokers for removing wax from IEMs. If I’m not carrying my vocal mics (which I try to do, even if only the transmitters, having confirmed receiver frequencies with the local supplier), I’ll take a toothbrush and a travel-size bottle of antiseptic mouthwash for thoroughly cleaning mic grills – there are few things grosser than halitosis-ridden vocal mics! I also take a soft paintbrush and screen wipe - some desks are not well-maintained, and I like to mix on a desk that’s relatively clean.

  5. Labelling materials – white and black PVC tape, Sharpies and scissors.

  6. A handful of XLR turnarounds such as a M-M and Fe-Fe; minijack to XLR; and a phantom power checker. Mini-jack to ¼ inch adaptor. Obviously I have a PFL pack, but this means that if we’re in an RF disaster zone or some other unforeseen circumstance I have the option to free up a frequency by monitoring straight off the desk.

  7. A small torch. I know my phone has one but I’m old-school, and besides, I can’t hold my phone in my mouth to free up both hands without getting drool all over it!

So there we have it; my main tool kit has lots more toys, but with those essential items I can overcome most.

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