What is it about gear that gets musicians so excited? I suppose it’s just that endless list of stuff you’ve always wanted or there’s always something you haven’t tried… and as my mate Matt Schofield said to me this week “once you disappear down the rabbit hole man, you’ll never get out!” Hmmm….
Okay, for the non-musicians out there, maybe I should explain a little:
I’m a guitarist (of course you already know that!) and I have a handful of guitars, amps and bits and pieces. They are all good bits of kit, they do the job I need them to and they have served me well in my time on the road… but here lies the issue that most musicians face… the chance there is something out there that is better: a Strat just like mine but one that sounds a bit better than the one I have… an amp that sounds just that bit sweeter (a technical term amongst guitarists) or more organic (another word from the gear obsessed guitarists vocabulary).
So what do you do? Well, pretty much all of my gear I’ve had for most of my gigging time and the bottom line is that it works. Do I go into every guitar shop I see? No… to be honest I get quite bored with a lot of the shops these days because they are all quite generic and sell the same stuff. However, there is almost two markets out there…. What I would call the ‘every day shop’ and then what is probably best described as the ‘specialist shops’… ones that sell the really high end exotic stuff that costs an arm and a leg! These ones are few and far between: the shops that sell vintage gear, handmade guitars and the ‘boutique’ amps and stuff (yes, ‘boutique’ is actually a commonly used term these days for high end gear!!)
So. Is this high-end gear better? Why is it more desirable than the bog standard stuff you buy in most shops? Does spending three or four grand on a guitar guarantee it’s that much better than one that costs 500 quid? Well, yes and no. Sure it will be made from the best materials available but like anything, it is all down to personal taste and what you are looking and listening for. Maybe the one that costs a few hundred quid might just happen to do what you want it to! Fortunately for me this has been the case with most of my guitars. Sure there are guitars out there that are more desirable, vintage ones that are worth a fortune…. But are they better?
I suppose the reason for this blog is that I have just spent a week surrounded by loads of this high-end gear and whilst I have always been quite happy with my own gear, it doesn’t stop you seeing a bit of ‘gear’, wondering about it and giving it a go (as I did this week)…. And was it better? Haha… well the answer to that question is that yes, some of it is better.. better made, better sounding, better looking….. BUT some of it isn’t. …because it doesn’t do what I want it to do OR it doesn’t do it any better than the gear I’ve got. However if it is better, how much better is it? Is it gonna make me sound better, or play better? No. I will sound exactly the same as me but in my own mind I would think it’s better. Am I rambling yet?
I guess the moral of this rant is that yes, there have always been guitars I would love to have, amps I would like to own but invariably whenever I have tried this stuff it has either disappointed or I would have to rob a bank to buy it. But, as I was warned… once you start delving into that area, it really is never ending.
The quest for the ultimate guitar tone: it’s infinite. Hmmm….but am I happy with my sound? Yes. Does my gear do what I want it to? Yes. Is there a chance I could get the same sound but 10% better? Yes. Have I considered or thought about changing stuff? Yes. Can I be arsed? NO!