Guitar Players and Gear Acquisition Syndrome

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Well, it’s that time of the year, where the biggest trade show on earth, Winter NAMM, is slated to start! Well, for the music gear industry, that is. Showcasing the latest, greatest music equipment all under one roof in the Anaheim Convention Center in California. And, that just happens to bring this thought to mind. I spent one day recently, chatting it up with a good friend, who also plays guitar and halfway into the conversation she said, “you have G.A.S.!” I said, “excuse me?” She said,”yes, you suffer from Gear Acquisition Syndrome!” Really!

Well, after she explained the definition, which is, sometimes also abbreviated, “G.A.S.”, is a term used to describe an urge to acquire and accumulate lots of music gear. This term is commonly associated with guitarists, who tend to acquire guitars, guitar amplifiers, pedals, effects processors, accumulating extensive quantities of gear over an extended period of time. Well, my guitar playing pal was right! So, that brought up another valid question. Where did it all start? I found myself reflecting over the years, all the gear acquired, and, that had come and gone. Visuals of my studio, every corner filled with, well you know, gear!

For me, it started with the beater acoustic guitar my dad brought home one day after work and gave to me. It was true love! I played it for hours, developing massive blisters on my left hand fingertips and still kept at it like some mad scientist! A few more acoustic beater guitars entered the picture after that.

Then, entered the whole quest of acquiring an electric guitar and guitar amplifier. So, a couple of trades and a little bit of extra cash, I had my first electric guitar and guitar amp! True love again! Who says you can’t find true love twice! I couldn’t put it down. Not for a minute. I scored a practice amp with two knobs. One for volume, the other for tone. Of course both would get cranked to level 10 and my strat style electric would get kicked on the bridge single coil pickup position a lot of the time, doing everything I could to make the guitar scream and wail!

There’s no doubt my family wanted to strangle me. Sigh. But, I loved rock n’ roll! And, I was on that quest for a wicked overdriven sound. How to do that! Well, I’m sure I blew the speaker in my poor practice amp out within the first month. And I wasn’t too concerned, cause it screamed distortion!

The only other gizmos I’d acquired at that point were a tuner, capo, extra strings, string winder and wire cutter, guitar picks, guitar slide, guitar strap, polish, a soft shell case and extra instrument cables. So, after about six months, absorbed, reading all of my guitar magazines, every column, studying every single advertisement, I had learned about every effects pedal under the sun. A whole new chapter was about to unfold in my gear acquisition. I wanted a distortion pedal. Yes. So, I went out and scored an MXR distortion pedal. Came home, plugged it in and a whole new dimension of screaming overdrive and feedback came to life! Cool!

Now, I’d been developing my guitar chops, immersed in my Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton records. Listening for hours everyday after school, picking out lick after lick these guys played. Dissecting them. Sitting right beside my record player, moving the needle on my turntable back to the same place a thousand times, listening, absorbing, determined to pick out each amazing phrase and chord progression.

I was playing so many styles of music. Rock, jazz, blues, country. Remember, I was just thirteen years old still jamming on my first electric guitar. Then, one day leaving a guitar lesson, there it was hanging on the wall to my right, as I’m walking out of the music shop. What? A cool guitar! Yes, I stopped, picked it up. The salesman said, “wanna plug it in!” Well, of course, I did. So, the rest was pretty much history. But, I had to figure out how I was gonna be able to afford to purchase that guitar, still just being a preteen with a small weekly allowance. So, I started adding together, my allowance, also, money I had saved up, and then beg your parent til they can’t take it anymore thrown into the mix, too!

I was playing in jazz band at school at the time and also was actively playing in musicals as well. So, with some savings, a couple of guitars to trade in, some extra cash from my parents, done, I had a new guitar! Another love affair sparked. I actually purchased it around my birthday. So, I spent the good portion of my birthday gathering, playing for my family and friends. I loved that guitar.

Time marches on and now I’m playing in various rock bands. Playing in standard, alternate and open tunings. I had saved up more money and I wanted, yes, an extra electric guitar. Nothing fancy, but something that would be fun to bounce back and forth with. Scored.

Ok, so you see the pattern forming. It started fairly young for me. Around ten years old, actually. So far, I’ve just reflected on some early guitar acquisitions.

Now, you can imagine it’s a miracle that my practice amp had made it this far. Ok, so began the quest of investing in another guitar amplifier. I remember scoring a Peavey Bandit 112 solid state Guitar Amp. Man, that amp wailed. It had more tone controls, highs, mid’s, lows, built in overdrive and reverb! Watch out! Reverb! Addicted instantly. I ran that amp into the ground. In fact, I smoked it! Onward!

Ok, I decided I needed to get a guitar amp half stack. 100 watt head, solid state and a 4 12’s cabinet. Why? Well, why not? Did you ever watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV or go to a concert? Well, there were stacks and stacks of guitar amps across the stage! Being a rock guitar player, how could you not want that! Rock on!

Now, I need pedals. Ah, a Boss pedalboard with a Boss distortion pedal, chorus pedal, equalizer pedal, tuner pedal and a power pedal to power up all pedals on the pedal board. Yeah! Next, a Crybaby wah pedal. It was quite the wall of sound coming out of my bedroom, under my parents roof, as a teenager. Summer days, windows were opened and I played for all to hear. Luckily, my neighbors were incredibly understanding with the rebellious teenage girl living next store cranking up her half stack!  Slightly rebellious, huh!

So, I was playing in garage bands, freelancing occasionally with regional bands, still taking guitar lessons and continuing to learn about all the cool gear that was constantly coming out and being reviewed in guitar magazines. Yes, guitar magazines, an excellent source for G.A.S.!

Oh man! The ultimate guitar revealed itself one day, when I was leaving a guitar lesson. Sound familiar? Yes. It was an American Kramer Pacer Imperial. The guitar was built after Eddie Van Halen’s designed specs for his Kramer at the time. Locking Floyd Rose Tremolo, Seymour Duncan double humbucker pickups, maple neck, medium jumbo frets, 3 way pickup switch and a custom body finished with killer graphics. It was sitting in an enclosed display case, hanging on the wall at my favorite local music shop. Of course, a big price tag was hanging on it. I had to play it. It was the most amazing guitar I had ever laid my hands on. Yes, how many times have you said that. Well, I drove myself insane trying to figure out how I was going to buy this guitar. This guitar was so unique and played like butter. The Floyd rose tremolo was tantalizing. The guitar was setup for speed. Once again, a big price tag. Sigh.

I went home and went thru all my gear. Deciding what I absolutely could live without. This was a major investment. I had money saved up. Gear to trade in. So, after parting with two guitars and eight hundred in cash, that guitar was mine. And I’ll have you know, after all of these years, I still have that guitar! That one was truly a keeper! I jokingly tell my husband to bury that guitar with me when I depart this amazing world. He just shakes his head, but knows I’m serious. That guitar has brought me so much joy over the years. It’s played hundreds of gigs, traveled across the country, touring, been thru the best and worst of times. The stories it could tell. Whew! At this juncture, it really needs a fret job. That guitar survived hundreds of gigs. These days it stays stored most of the time in its hard case close by in my studio. And on occasion, I break open its hard case, take it out and go down memory lane with it.

Fast forward. So much gear has since entered the picture. Now, it’s tube amps, boutique amps and more effects pedals. Solid body and hollow body electrics. Tele’s and strat’s. Resonator’s, Floating trems and Bigsby’s, stop tail bridges, D tunas, various single coil and boutique guitar pickups, recording gear for laying guitar tracks, computer apps. Custom built guitars.  Microphones for my guitar amps. Guitar stands, guitar amp stands, guitar amp roadcases. Guitar roadcases. And the whole amazing world of acoustic guitars with all of the choices and options that exist there. So much gear!

Living in the millennium, you have so many outlets for acquiring and learning about gear. Just about every music gear catalog is accessible online, you have guitar forums, eBay, every music product company has its own website, and just about every music magazine is accessible online, too! Wow! So many resources to tap into!

Fact. I’m a musician. I’m not rich by any means, at least when reviewing my monthly banking statements. I’m a musician by choice. I have no regrets. I love what I do. So, yes, guilty as charged!  I have G.A.S.! And being that we are on the eve of Winter NAMM 2013 trade show kicking off this coming week! Well, you can imagine, for me, I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store, being at NAMM.

With that said, product reviews on tap in my upcoming articles in Guitar Girl Magazine! Covering lots of cool new gear being announced and exhibited at the 2013 Winter NAMM trade show! Stay tuned! True gear head signing off at Guitar Girl Magazine! Pick up your guitar and play!

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