When it’s time, it’s time…
It can be easy, oh so easy, to fall into the age-old trap when it comes to music gear. Buy new gear, fall into a rut, buy more gear, fall into a bigger rut, buy more gear etc. Sometimes the answer isn’t buying new gear but learning how to use the stuff you’ve got.
However, there are genuine circumstances when it is time to give your rig a shot in the arm. Maybe you’re still playing the same gear you learned on, or your tastes have changed, or maybe you just fancy treating yourself. Whatever your reason, a timely upgrade can give you genuine enthusiasm to get stuck into your music.
We thought it would be worth an article looking at some of the key milestones you’ll reach with your gear. An attempt, perhaps, to rationalise the thought processes behind what to upgrade, when to do it and some of the common pitfalls people fall into.
1. You broke your gear
Pretty easy to rationalise, this one. If your gear is broke, it’s time to replace. But here’s where the questions begin. Do you replace like-for-like? Or, do you look to take a step up the quality ladder? Or do you decide a break-up is the best thing for both of you and redouble your efforts elsewhere?
Say, for example, you have a trusty old distortion pedal. It’s been with you since high school, played countless BOTB (Battle of the Bands) shows and generally lived the life of a hard-rocking dirt pedal. Then, one day, you fry its insides by not checking the power supply you were wedging in it. Do you a) buy the same pedal again? Or, b) try out some new ones? Or, c) give up distortion and buy something obscure.
2. Your tastes have changed
Music is a wonderfully fluid thing. One day you’re listening to solid gold pop hits, then next filthy death metal from Honduras. That’s cool though; through music, we explore the wider world, so we’d wholeheartedly endorse a bit of adventure.
It can, however, have a significant impact on your playing style and, ergo, your playing rig. A simple, solid example here is the singer-songwriter. Where once an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal was all you needed, now your sights are set far higher. Full band arrangements, with electric guitars, synths and drums.
Here’s where you have to think critically about what you buy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying something just because it looks cool and, while there is a place for that thinking, it can land you in trouble in the long run.
If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is to think critically about what you need. Do your research, try out plenty of gear and try to make decisions pragmatically.
3. I fancy a treat
My own personal favourite reason for upgrading your music gear; you fancy treating yourself. Sometimes, no justification is needed other than “I bought new gear because I wanted to.”
When you’re operating in this realm, you should listen to your heart. Forget research or practical thinking. Go to your local Dawsons store, or browse the site, and see what things make your heartbeat that little bit faster. There’s plenty of stuff on there, some of it doubtless better/more expensive/cooler or more eye-catching than what you have at the moment.
A favourite trick of mine is to justify ‘treat’ purchases by aligning them with arbitrary life milestones. I got a promotion at work: yay, new synth! I joined a gym: yay, new pedal! It’s Friday; yay, new strings. It’s easily done, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.
A word of warning though. This kind of attitude can lead to ruin if it goes unchecked. My personal handbrake if I’m thinking like this is to consider the value of something, rather than its price. If it’ll get used, and add something to my sound, then what more justification does a musician need?
If you’re reading this article it’s likely because you’re either considering buying new gear or are looking for a bit of gentle persuasion. Joking aside, it’s important that any new gear purchases will improve your sound, or at least give your motivation to play a kick up the behind. We don’t advocate wasting money, but we can probably all agree that there’s little in a musician’s life that compares with the feeling of NGD (new gear day.)
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.