Is Gear Lust Wrecking Your Bass Playing?

From time to time, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself spending hours looking at gear online. Basses, amps, effects, recording interfaces, even guitars. I’ll be going about my day, reading the occasional article or forum post and bam! it hits me. Suddenly I feel the urge to search out every review, forum comment, eBay posting, and YouTube video, as well as scour the manufacturer’s website, to find any and all information relating the object that I am obsessing over. To be honest, I used to do this a lot. You see folks I have what we musician’s refer to as “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” or “G.A.S.” G.A.S. can strike at any time, and if you don’t learn to control it you can end up wasting a lot of time and money on equipment you don’t even use. Personally I feel that I have gotten myself under control in the last couple of years, but I do occasionally go astray. The thing is though, at the end of the day, I’ve read and compared a lot, but have actually done nothing productive.

Is Gear Lust Wrecking Your Bass Playing?

I love trying out new basses, amps and effects, I mean who doesn’t right? But at a certain point you have to realize that you may be spending more time on acquiring the tools of the trade than actually playing bass. In this regard I feel that new gear can actually get in the way of us becoming better musicians. If you find yourself spending more time researching gear, than actually playing, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it?

A friend I’ve known for years has a serious case of G.A.S. I’ve never heard him play or talk about playing, yet he owns something like 20+ basses, 15+ guitars, a few amps for each instrument, Mandolin’s, even Trumpets. He is constantly buying and selling gear on eBay. At this point I see him more as a collector of sorts than an actually musician.

Wrecking may be a to strong a word here. I guess you could say that gear lust, or G.A.S., side tracks us from picking up our instruments and actually playing.

Better Gear Makes For A Better Player Right?

This is a common misconception that I hear from people. We like to trick ourselves into believing that a new piece of gear will some how magically make us better players. That we will sound better, play better, and just be better. In this way we are trying to justify the time spent looking at new gear when in reality we could have put that time to better use by using the gear we already own.

I’ve known some really great musicians who can pick up any instrument, no matter how old or cheap, and make it sing. These guys can make phenomenal music playing crusty old guitars that look like they’ve come out of the garbage. It’s not the gear, it’s the player.

Be Happy With What You’ve Got

There are many good reasons for buying a new bass or upgrading your amp, but this shouldn’t be a constant thing. Lately I have been challenging myself to keep my lust in check by using the gear I already have. I’ll be honest, I have several basses to choose from, as well as a couple of amps. In my case, whenever I find myself lusting after a new piece of gear I stop and think about what I already have. Once I’ve put myself in check, I’ll pick out one of my basses I haven’t played for a while and rediscover why I had to have it in the first place. Even if you only have one bass, perhaps you can adjust the setting on your amp and see what sort of new tones you can get out of it. Bottom line is, use and appreciate what you have before going out and buying new stuff.

We all know that the best way to improve is to actually play. It’s not about the gear, it’s about the time you put in to learning your instrument and the more you focus on that, the better you will become. So the next time you find yourself lusting after a new piece of gear, go grab your bass and play instead!

Are you too afflicted with G.A.S.? What advice do you have for others who are?

 

8 Replies to “Is Gear Lust Wrecking Your Bass Playing?”

  1. Hey man! You must be a mind reader!! I’m suffering from this BIG TIME!! But not really from a standpoint of envy but research. Problem is that I’m blurry from all of the research.

    I’m researching amps. Right now I have a Fender BXR 60 (60 watts). It’s served me ok because it was only me playing. Well, now I’m in a band and during practice, I have this thing nearly maxed out and I can barely hear myself cut through the guitars, drums, etc. I obviously need a new amp.

    I had originally thought maybe 200 watts is what I need but after talking to other players, they are recommending 300 at a minimum. Some even recommending 400-500 and beyond. Problem is that I’m on a budget and really needing to keep it at $200 or below. Plus, for space purposes, I’m looking for a combo amp. So I’ve been researching brands, specs, reviews, etc looking for amps. Plus, trolling Craigslist and Ebay for used ones that fit my budget.

    I’m totally cross eyed from this!!!


    Bronson

  2. Hey Bronson. Sounds like you’ve had good reason to be G.A.S.ing! Great to hear that your in a band, that’s awesome man. Sounds like your budget’s pretty tight, have you looked at any of the GK combos? They can deliver a lot of bang for the buck. Probably your best bet is Craigslist, sometimes you can get lucky there. Hope you find something soon.

    Cheers,

    Stanton

  3. Hey Stanton,

    It’s Basslad from Thunder Row. I spotted your article there and commented on it. I thought I’d post the comment on your website, too. It’s a great article and it brings up an important issue. I can certainly relate to it. So, here it goes:

    “Yes Sir, I know what you mean. GAS can turn into addiction and become a problem. You’re fully aware of it, and yet you let it control you. I’ve been guilty of giving in to it on a few occasions myself. Is it wrecking my playing? Well, I wouldn’t put it that way, but it definitely took up time that might’ve been spent practicing. However, the same could be said about spending time on the forum. I often catch myself spending more time on the Thunder Row than I initially intended to.

    The Community is growing and just reading new members’ posts and welcoming them can take some time, but they certainly deserve it. In addition, I’ve been building my own website and the inspiration came from this community. That’s been taking away from my practice time recently more than anything else. I am reshuffling my priorities now.

    You can find all kinds of excuses why you should get new gear. I look at it this way. If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with having a second instrument in a particular category as a backup. If you get a third one, you’re really pushing it unless it’s a trade-in. Maybe you haven’t found your perfect instrument yet, and you’re swapping. If you are an active artist and touring, you may need more gear out of necessity. But, once you’ve decided that enough is enough, or you simply cannot afford something, you have to be firm about it. I think you have found a very sensible solution to the GAS problem.

    What advice do I have? Time management and focus. The idea is to schedule for what you need or want to do and approach it with a specific focus. For example, if I connect to Thunder Row, I try to limit myself to 15 minutes per day or 5 minutes three times a day. If I go over my limit, I give myself demerit points. When I come across a new post related to gear my focus is purely scientific, just to know about it, or I might simply disregard it altogether, out of sight out of mind so to speak.

    Luckily, I have enough gear in my arsenal to last me a lifetime, so I would have hard time finding more excuses. Am I completely cured? I wonder…, never say never again!
    Wow, aren’t I a blabber? Practice time!!!”

  4. Hello Basslad,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you bring up some good points. I can relate to getting priorities in order, I’ve been doing a lot of that myself lately. On the one hand I would like to be writing more post, but on the other hand I would like to continue practicing on a daily basis. For me, most days it comes down to either playing bass or writing as I typically only have time to do one or the other. The irony is that this website is about playing bass so if I spend most of my time writing instead of playing, at a certain point I won’t have anything to write about. Guess you could say I am still trying to find my balance and along the way am realizing what many of my distractions are.

    I too have enough gear to last me a good while, I just have to keep reminding myself of it!

    Stanton

  5. Maybe having a daytime job that is not about anything music at all helps in a way. You only have that evening hour or that one weekend. You know that if you don’t play then, you won’t play at all that day. Not having much money helps too. I would like to see more blogs like this one and that talk a bit about the psychology of music instead of all those long lists of retweets of gear.

  6. Hi Stanton,
    I had this problem & went thru about 8 basses in a year’s time. I was heavily influenced by the “experts” on the Talk Bass forum, and hadn’t yet learned that everyone else’s opinion of a bass is just that: an opinion.

    I wanted so much to play the almighty Fender bass, particularly a precision bass. It was heartbreaking when I thought I had scored the bass of my dreams, an American P bass, only to realize I could barely handle the thick neck. Although it sounded amazing, I decided to sell it. I then tried a few Squier jazz basses, and a SBMM bass.

    Finally, I found the perfect bass when I wasn’t even looking…I had been to a guitar shop to have new strings put onto my SBMM. I tried out the Ibanez sr700 and walked out with it, leaving the SBMM behind. Ironically, I knew all along Ibanez was the one for me because I started out on them!

    So the lessons I learned were: try it before you buy it; what’s right for everyone else isn’t necessarily what’s right for you; and stay off Talk Bass & hit the woodshed!

  7. Basstarter, lack of time and money is certainly a great deterrent. The biggest reason I don’t write as much as I once did is lack of time. When I only have an hour or so in the evening to either write or play bass, playing bass almost always wins. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Hey Tracy,
    I agree, I have bought a few items online only to find out that they were completely wrong for me once I had them in my hands. I’ve also come to realize that for almost every glowing review you can find online about a piece of gear you can usually find someone who thought it was the worst item ever. “Try before you buy” is great advice!

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