Avoiding Gear Acquisition Syndrome

By Brett Ratner

You've all seen the commercials where some celeb sportin' a white mustache says "Got Milk?"

Among my musically-inclined cohorts, we've modified that phrase to read "Got GAS?" Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) is a common disease found particularly among, but not limited to, guitar players. A loose definition of GAS would be the obsessive and irrational horse trading or purchasing of musical related equipment.

GAS is NOT the same thing as collecting. In fact, many people find that the collecting of instruments is as much a joy as playing them (particularly if you have the financial means to collect).

GAS differs in that the compulsive need to "tweak your rig" supersedes the desire to improve as a player, compose music, record, (and if you have aspirations of playing professionally) seek gigs. Another common trait of a GAS-inflicted individual is the tendency to impulsively trade in a perfectly good piece of equipment for a seemingly more desirable piece of equipment (often at a loss of money) and later regret the transaction.

The purpose of "Avoiding Gear Acquisition Syndrome" is to pass along knowledge that this journalist learned the hard way (I too had GAS). In other words, hopefully this column can eliminate "trial and error" purchases and save you money and hassle by helping you make lasting, educated purchases (and make them on the FIRST TRY). The goal here is to get stuff that you're happy with and makes you sound good... not stuff you'll wanna unload in six months.

Another benefit of educated purchasing is that you achieve a solid foundation for your instrument setup. This frees you up to buy additional gear just for the fun of it (versus an urgent need to get your tone up to par). For example, when I finally settled on a single guitar and a single amp that I liked, I didn't "need" to get anything new. Thus I was liberated to the point where I could just have fun collecting pedals (cuz I "wanted" to). Someone else, on the other hand, may discover a particular amp and pedal arrangement that works, thus freeing him or her to collect guitars. The more crucial point is that the sooner you figure out what works for you and stick with it, the quicker you can move on to becoming a better player.


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