As the kids like to say, I am hashtag-blessed.
I am fortunate enough to own a massive array of music equipment- and not just bargain basement gear. I own several Japanese Ibanez guitars & basses, three top-shelf valve amplifiers, and some truly phenomenal speaker cabinets.
To get the obvious our of the way- no, of course I don’t need all of this gear. John Petrucci playing a Gio through a practice amp will make me sound like an amateur.
But show me a master who has not moved on from his starting equipment.
On one extreme end of the spectrum you get the Kung-Fu master guitarists. They are at the top of their game, and have a single bare-bones rig that they know like the back of their hand. It’s great gear, well-worn, but in an excellent state of playability. They don’t want a vast array of gear to pick from- they know their strengths, their gear, and that’s all they need.
On the other side of the fence, you have the Tony Starks of the musical world. They boast comparable skill & success, but they keep an arsenal of gear at their disposal. Even if they are not flexible guitarists, or playing across multiple bands or genres, they require all this firepower to be within reach. They’ll constantly be changing up their formula, trying new combinations, changing their minds, finding new favourites, contradicting themselves, and will keep a steady flow of equipment moving through their custody.
Something often repeated online or on Youtube is that “…if these people forwent all the agonising and deliberation on gear & setup, and just spent that time playing their instruments, they’d be virtuosos by now.”
In theory, they’re probably not wrong. But, I put it to you that if these musicians hadn’t this constant shifting landscape of gear at their fingertips, that they may well not play their instruments at all.
I’m unfortunate enough to be on the gear-hoarder end of the spectrum. I wish I could channel my drive for musicianship from raw enthusiasm and other-worldly inspiration, but the fact of the matter is that I (and many others) struggle in that regard. In the modern world, the pleasure centers of our brains have shortcuts available at every turn. Where Tony Iommi sought respite from the thick, polluted air surrounding the factories of the north of England, we stop at McDonald’s or just spend all night in front of our massive TVs.
This sounds like disparaging new-age talk, which I myself am allergic to, but it’s the truth- and we’re all guilty of it. It’s so easy to get a fix of dopamine these days that our Pavlovian conditioning has told us that we can fulfil ourselves by ordering a Pizza, binging Netflix, getting drunk somewhere, or with a quick visit to PornHub.
And don’t get me wrong- we all need this escape from time to time, but when it’s so effortless, it soon causes the primal part of our brains to call into question the effort/reward ratio of our creative pursuits.
What does this have to do with hoarding guitars and amps? It’s simple, we’re all potential Isaac Newtons, and that scent of unsullied tonal pastures is a falling apple. Where Isaac Newton & Tony Iommi happened upon their inspiration courtesy of circumstance, we find ourselves in a consumer-centric world. And no matter what you think of that, it does mean that we, dear reader, have the privilege of buying our apple.
I just got a JCM800 2203 Reissue in Burgundy Snakeskin finish from the annual TOMS sale for way below cost, and it got me to write this very clump of words, essentially performing website necromancy. The only reason I’m not playing the amp right now is that it’s damn loud, and I played until midnight last night, so I thought the neighbours deserved a restful Sunday morning.
That said, their dogs have been barking for the past hour, so I’m off to see if I can deafen them from the comfort of my loft.