For musicians, it’s often a struggle to figure out how much gear one needs. You could have a guitar, a good guitar – and still think there’s another guitar out there that will open up the floodgates of creativity. To some extent, this is true.
Some instruments are just a better fit for you. It may be the right size, have the right looks and produces the tone that you dream of. There is however, a point when you buy gear simply because you want to buy more gear. The sheer satisfaction of saying you have a particular model of an instrument becomes the thing. At this point you become a collector and not necessarily a player.
There’s nothing wrong with either. They are just different things.
Some people are both for example Nels Cline has an amazing collection of guitars and plays them extremely well. Someone once told me there is a guy who collects every model of a particular guitar brand every year. I think this is perfectly fine, as long as you’re aware of what you doing. The danger is, as a musician to use the excuse of not having the right equipment as your excuse for not creating music.
I know friends that sometimes have difficulty in creating music because of unfortunate circumstances (physical or financial) and this is beyond their control. Still I feel that if you have some kind of instrument you can find a way to create music. I remember getting tendonitis when I was in college and realised that I could still write music on my keyboard instead. It was one of those little MIDI M-Audio Oxygen 8 keyboards connected to my laptop. I wrote a piece I could have not written on guitar simply because it was more idiomatic on the keyboard.
I remember a time when I couldn’t play that much on guitar. I felt my technique was limited and I was starving to be able to play better. Still, I ended up writing music that is very different than how I write now. Back then I was writing music influenced by Pat Metheny and Yellowjackets. But, I couldn’t really perform the music or improvise on it. Now when I play the songs, I understand it from the perspective of a more experienced jazz musician. I wrote those songs on classical guitar. Now I can play them on a jazz guitar. But what really is a jazz guitar? Is it the fact that it has been historically related to jazz musicians who have played it over time? Or is it a guitar used to create the music that we call Jazz.
Sometimes, chasing for an instrument based on the brand name or the fact that the musician you admired played the same model can be a distraction. It’s not wrong but is a means to an end.
Find good gear and make good music. Good luck.
Oct 26 2016
Originally published on FB as “Gear and Creativity”