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http://lamkins-guitar.com/music/article/shop-or-play
David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
LCW on Bandcamp
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: human nature, goals, motivation, @musings info
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Shop, or play?

Guitarists, as a rule, are afflicted with something called Gear Acquisition Syndrom (GAS). This compels them to buy different gear when what they have is already "good enough". GAS could be triggered by vintage gear, the latest high-tech digital gizmo, a pretty piece of flamed maple, ... just about anything. GAS can get in the way of lots of things, not the least of which is playing the guitar.

But GAS doesn't have to be a permanent affliction. Sometimes it runs its course. Or you might get yourself out of the habit on your own.

I got bored with shopping. I don't see anything in the local shops that I can't live without. Heck, I rarely see anything that even interests me any more. And we have some pretty cool shops around here...

Guitar mags? Forget it. I'm cheap. I'd rather spend $15 on a CD or an instructional book instead of three guitar mags. The only good thing about the guitar mags was the ads. And no one's selling anything that I might buy, so paying $5 for a catalog with a few one-page lessons is kind of silly.

Hell, even the internet is losing its lustre. I only visit two forums on a daily basis. Mostly I poke my head in to see whether anyone has asked a question I can answer (it happens, rarely) or to jump into one of those "preaching to the choir" threads. And that gets kind of stale after few dozen iterations.

What I'd really like to find is some conversation about technique, writing, theory and performance. There's a bit of that on the two boards I visit. However, I don't encounter many like-minded individuals when it comes to musical tastes and preferences.

That last bit, I think, is the key. I know that I look for people who share common interests. It's pretty easy to identify with a peer group when you focus on consumerism, but not so easy when it comes to musical tastes. (Unless, of course, the musical-taste peer group is consumer-focused, as it is so often for popular music.)

Internet BBS's are still primarily a textual medium for most people. It's a no-brainer to sit down and pound out a pithy one-liner (or even a few well-considered paragraphs), but it's a big production to make an audio or video recording and prepare it for distribution. And with the plethora of formats, limitations on bandwidth, etc., even the would-be recipients of multimedia content tend to not bother.

So, yah... relying less on the internet and more on interactions with local musicians is a good thing when it comes to reducing GAS. The occasional "tone fest" is fun, but I want to play when I get together with other musicians.

I've cut waaaaaay back on my gear purchases, and am slowly selling off less-used gear that I know I can live without. My target is two amps and maybe a half-dozen or fewer guitars, plus a few run-of-the-mill pedals. If I really had to pick just one guitar and amp to play for the next -- say -- five years, I could do it today without hesistation.

Now, I'm not going to suggest that everyone sell off most of their gear, or even stop buying new gear. Different people have different needs and varying capacities to focus on more than one thing at a time. For me, the time that I don't spend on gear is time that I do spend studying and practicing, and I've been able to improve my knowledge and technique. So it's been a worthwhile change.

On the other hand, I'm not chasing after a holy-grail tone, so that makes me pretty easy to satisfy with gear that's well-built, simple and responsive to my playing style.

In the end, it helps to put things into their proper perspective. If I were to die tomorrow, I'd want to be remembered by friends and family for the music I played rather than how much gear I'd owned.

September 01 2004 03:13:39 GMT