Guitar players are an eccentric lot, ask any 100 of us a question pertaining to music, and you’ll get 100 different answers. Especially if you ask us about gear…. yes I said it, gear. Not only guitarists, but most all musicians are very passionate (actually downright stubborn) about the gear we use. In today’s market there are so many options to chose from that some folks (even seasoned pros) don’t know what they're shopping for. There are times that we all could use a little help in researching what we’re looking for, and here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1: IT’S THE SNIPER, NOT THE RIFLE! Plainly stated, if you can’t play, no amount of money or gear is gonna make you any better. There’s no substitute for practice and playing experience.
2: Make sure your instrument(s) is/are properly set up. Does it stay in tune? Is it easy to play? Can you get a variety of sounds/tones out of it? Does it stay in tune? Does it make noise (60 cycle hum, ground buzz, etc.)? DOES IT STAY IN TUNE?! (Disclaimer: I’m a tuning Nazi, tuners are cheaper now than ever before, so there are no excuses! And bass players, you're usually the culprit, you should tune twice as often as anyone else!). Have a luthier/tech that you know and trust to keep your instruments up to par, and/or learn how to do as much upkeep as you can.
3: You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you get what you pay for. Some guys are lucky enough to afford custom built guitars & basses, boutique amps, hand wired pedals, & power conditioners, etc., but you don’t have to drive a Bentley to win the race! However, you must have reliable gear that works properly and can get the sounds you need to get the job done. Make a solid investment in your career, but you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to finance it. And use cash whenever you can, you’ll have more bargaining power to get the best deal you can get.
4: Get to know your local music store personnel. I’m a big fan of small independent music stores, the kind of place “where everybody knows your name”. If there’s something you’re looking for, they can keep an eye out for it, and also help you if you’re not sure what it is you’re looking for. And they all usually have service techs that can work on instruments, amps, gear, etc.
5: Learn what your gear is capable of and know when it is appropriate to use it. Knowing how your gear is going to fit the gig/studio situation and how to dial it in to where it fits in the mix with everything else is the key. If I’m going to be playing a night full of Merle Haggard in a small club, I’m not gonna bring my Marshall JCM800 and 4x12 cabinet! It would be too loud, take up too much space on the stage, and would be the wrong sound for the material we would be playing (and would make all my bandmates hate my guts!). I’ll save the Marshall half-stack for the 3 piece rock band that plays Journey & Bad Company all night!
Gear isn’t everything, but it doesn’t hurt to have different sounds and options. It’s important to have gear that works properly and is versatile, but above all you have to know how to use it. I hope this might help you out a little (or give you a quick laugh or 2!), and I would welcome your comments!
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