Here's advice I would have given myself some time ago had I known then what I know now:
- Pssst: It's not the gear. Once you get beyond finding a comfortable instrument the rest is what's in your head, heart and fingers. Remember the story about Chet Atkins who, when a fan complimented the way his guitar sounded, put it on a stand and asked "How does it sound now?".
- Don't spend money on gear for the sake of variety. Get one or two good instruments and play the heck out of them.
- Play with a clean sound as much as possible. You may miss the effects at first, but you'll learn to compensate with more interesting technique and composition.
- Don't buy anything that you're not going to want to carry (without a cart) for a distance of a few blocks. I don't care how good you think that seventy-pound amp sounds: if you won't carry it it's not going to get used outside of your music room.
- You most certainly can get a good guitar sound without tubes. Don't feel that you must follow the herd. (See #1, #3 and #4.)
- Avoid impulse purchases. When you get the urge to buy something, pick up your instrument and practice. Compose a new piece. Record something. If you still want the gear after all that, then perhaps the purchase will have some lasting merit.
- No regrets. If a piece of gear doesn't work out, sell it. Give it a year if it was a well-considered purchase. If it was an impulse buy (see #6), correct your mistake as soon as possible. Remember: keeping gear for the sake of having options is nothing but a distraction from actually making music. (See #2.)
- Find a guitar that sounds good straight into a flat, clean amp and the rest will take care of itself. Vibrating strings need wood and air to sound their best, so stick with a semi-hollow or hollow-body instrument. (See #3.)
- Learn to get a good sound at conversational volumes. The guitar is a midrange instrument. Don't be afraid to use plenty of mids. And don't push the bass: it kills articulation. You'll have a lot more options for playing with and in front of other people if you don't assault them with high SPLs.
- Keep it simple. You know your rig is complete when you can't remove anything else.
September 19 2008 17:37:07 GMT