OK,don’t get me wrong here. I am as much a fan of gear as the next person. I get all crazy when I walk into a store and smell a wall of high-end acoustic guitars. I could spend hours playing with the latest gadgets and such. I would love to have a collection of guitars, both rare and everyday. Throw in a home studio decked out with Pro-Tools and I am set. The truth of the matter is that too much gear IS a bad thing. Stay with me here.
I usually meet two kinds of musicians.
- The guy who can play like Clapton and Matthews. Unless this guy is on tours or a serious studio musician, he probably owns a few guitars and a few pieces of gear. He can make a $200 Yamaha acoustic sound like a presentation series Taylor. All talent, limited gear.
- Guy number two has way too much gear and way too little talent. You have met this guy. He has the latest and greatest. More guitars than your local Mom and Pop music store. Each one is high-end. The problem is that Mr. Guitar Man has spent most of his time figuring out how to max another credit card rather than spend the time on practicing his chops. We have all been this guy at one time or another. We fall into a trap of thinking that if we just had a little better rig, we would sound incredibly better. It’s a fantasy.
Each new piece of gear comes with two prices – the sticker price (in dollars) and what we will call the FT price. The Focus and Time price. The FT price is whatever the gear will cost you IN ADDITION to the cash. Consider adding the following to the cash:
- Focus. Each new piece you add will force you to focus on it. Small pieces will usually take a smaller focus. Let’s say you get a $4500 guitar. It’s now a whole new ball game. During a worship set you worry about getting it scratched. Someone wants to play it and you cringe. A little smudge and you get a tear in your eye. It becomes a focus of discussion. This can be dangerous. I would rather have people talking about kingdom movement and life change than the new tool. It’s not about guitars and gear. The focus has to be on the mission of Christ. Anything else and you are in some dangerous territory.
- Time. The more you have, the more you have to manage. The more you have to manage, the more time it will take. Change strings, fix a problem, transport this, polish that. The clock ticks. Last time I looked, I did not have an overabundance of time.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t add to our gear. I am all about experiementing with new and creative things. I think it is vital to the craft of music to do so. We just need to be careful. I have seen too many people be distracted by the means and not the end.
So, lest you call me a hypocrite, let me give you my gear rundown. Back in the day when I was a gear-head, I had a Gibson 335 and 2 new Taylors, foot-pedals, wireless rack-mounted system, and other goodies. That came somewhere after the notion that I had to have a keyboard, sequencer, and 4-track. Later, I came to the place where I dropped my gear down to only two guitars; a Taylor 514CE and 710KCE. I used the 514 as a backup in case I broke a string. After awhile I realized that I barely touched the guitar. It seemed a waste of money to have a $2000 guitar as a back-up. My wireless unit became outdated and I went back to the old fashioned 1/4" cord.
So what do I use today?
I have some fun recreational instruments like a beater Yamaha that is barely campfire worthy, and a ukulele I purchased last year in Hawaii.
As far as stage gear, I use a single guitar (Taylor 710KCE), a 1/4′ cable, and a set of Ultimate Ears. I always request or have a backup chepo guitar just in case I break a string or my main guitar takes a dive. I may eventually get a decent backup guitar, but it will be reasonable. With this rig (and some misc items for the gig bag) I lead worship at exchange almost every week and do limited touring.
The truth of the matter is that the gear is here to serve us, not the other way around.