Wow! Ten years! It is hard to believe that GuitarGear.org has been around that long! What’s even more amazing is that despite having had lapses in posting, I’m actually still adding content after all this time.
I thought about what I might write for this momentous occasion and played around with several ideas but in the end, decided to share a few thoughts on what I’ve learned over 10 years of writing this blog.
I’ll bullet-point the items to not place any particular priority on them:
- There is no substitution for personal experience. I can’t count the number of times people have said I should try something, or that some gear is the best out there, or I see some video or audio demonstration claiming the same. I’ve made the mistake of buying gear sight-unseen based upon that free advice (no matter how sincere), and been disappointed – many times. Now, if I hear something great online, or hear about something via word-of-mouth, I will make an effort to try to test it out. If I can’t get demo it, I won’t get it.
By the way, if I could only choose one thing to write about, this point would be it. So if you don’t want to read the whole article and still want to take something away, this is the point to remember.
- Don’t get sucked into the hype. Dumble, Klon, etc. People pay top-dollar for that equipment. Is it good? No doubt about it. I’ve played a Dumble. Haven’t played a Klon. But are they actually that good that you’d be willing to spend thousands of dollars for one? Hey! If you have the means, more power to you. But going back to my first point, use your ears and be honest before shelling out the money to get something like that. That said, I paid almost $300 to get a Boss CE-2 Chorus; something I paid $69 for back in the early 80’s. But I sold it, and decades later, wanted that sound again. But having experience with it I didn’t balk at the price I had to pay. It was worth it. Funny thing though is that I only use it in my home studio because I don’t want it to get ruined by gigging it too much. 🙂
- The only thing that a high sticker price guarantees is… well… A high sticker price. If you go on gear forums, you’ll see many people essentially brag about having such and such gear and share how much they paid for it (this especially rings true for boutique pedals), and express just how much better it makes them sound. The implication is that the higher price makes that particular gear so much better than others in its class. I’ve learned to chuckle about that because as many other people say, “Your mileage may vary.” I myself have several boutique pedals, and I’ve paid top-dollar for some, such as my beloved Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay, or my hauntingly smooth Homebrew Electronics THC Chorus. But then again, I had the opportunity to try them out before I purchased them. I know, I keep going back to the first item, but it’s the “bigly” one.
- Trust your fingers to build your own sound. No, you don’t sound like Eddie Van Halen. No, you don’t sound like Robben Ford. No, you don’t sound like John Mayer. So I guess you’ll just have to settle sounding like yourself because the only fingers you have are your own. I know that people – myself included – like to buy the same gear as their guitar heroes. I bought a few of Satch’s pedals when they came out. But I love those pedals – especially my Big Bad Wah – because of what I can do with them. For instance, I saw an interview with Satch describing the wah pedal and at the time, I was looking to replace my Cry Baby. My first thought wasn’t, “Wow! If I got this, I could sound like Satch!” Actually, my reaction was much more mundane and I thought, Hmmm… I wonder it this will work? So I went down to Guitar Center to try it out once they had it and fell in love with it, and it has never left my board.
You see, and this especially goes for those starting out buying gear, you’ll eventually learn that your TONE is yours and yours alone because of the fingers you have and the combination of the gear your possess. If you’re looking to develop a sound, it can only be yours. For instance, a few years ago, I was on a board where people were talking about getting that EVH “brown sound.” There was a lot of discussion on how to achieve that until one dissenter said that there’s no way you’ll get there because what you hear on the recording has been processed with EQ, compression, reverb, etc. There’s no way to know what the mixing board settings were, nor how the guitar parts were mastered and trying to get that in a live rig was folly. He then backed that up with one important message: You don’t have EVH’s fingers!
So trust your own fingers, and build your own sound.
- The journey in finding the right gear is important. But recognize that it’s a journey. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a shitload of gear that you never use. GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) is real. You see a demo or hear a recording of a guitar, amp or pedal, and you start jonesing to get your hands on one. Or… if you have the funds, you just buy it. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that. But before you know it, you will have spent thousands upon thousands on gear, and you’ll look back and say one day and say, “Shit! I gotta get rid of some of this…” I used to have over 20 guitars. But I’ve sold off most of them to where I now only have the 4 that I play regularly.
But I know of a guy who tragically passed away at a young age who never got over his GAS. My buddy purchased all his gear and literally filled up his two covered racecar haulers!
The point to this is that as you’re buying gear, do your best – and I know this is very difficult – to be calculating about your purchases, and how that particular gear will fit with you and your sound. I do have to say that at the present, at least for me, it’s much easier to have self-control with pedals. A bit harder are amps, and probably the most difficult are guitars. Luckily with the high-priced items, I have a natural barrier to entry, and that’s budget. But if I had the means, I’d go out right now and get a Gretsch Brian Setzer. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always difficulty controlling my GAS with guitars, which is how I ended up with over 20.
And even though pedals are much, much cheaper, I’ve found my sound, so I’m pretty picky about what I put in my chain, and that’s the crux of this particular point. Buying gear to me has been a journey in developing my own sound. The journey never ends, because I’ll tweak things here and there. But recognizing that it is a journey has helped me constantly take stock of the things I purchase and how they might affect my tone.
Well, so as not to sound self-serving on this momentous day, I’d like to wish all of you who have followed GuitarGear.org over the years just one thing: ROCK ON!