G.A.S. is a popular acronym for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It’s loosely defined as the inherent never-ending search for the elusive “perfect tone.” As guitar players, we constantly analyze our rigs and think about the songs we want to play and the next thing we want to try the next opportunity we have to pick up our axes. In the process of those thoughts, it can lead to several of the things listed below. I’ve broken it down into a few recognizable symptoms and a few causes for the onset of G.A.S. attacks. Do these seem familiar?
YouTube Overload: You’ve been on YouTube a lot. I mean A LOT. You’ve watched every demo from every major player on YouTube, and also some of the less-than-flattering ones done by amateur demo-er hopefuls.
Lack of Focus: This piece of gear is just stuck on the brain. You think about it while you’re eating, you think about it while you’re walking the dog, you think about it before you go to bed (or often can’t go to sleep because of thinking about it). I doesn’t really leave your mind totally.
Anxiousness: You’re just overly excited for no explainable reason other than the idea of getting that new pedal/guitar/amp, or the remote possibility of pressing the purchase button on something you’ve been researching for quite awhile. “Should I do it?” will likely cross your mind at least 2 times.
Tunnel Vision: Gear is all you talk about, even to people who care absolutely nothing about gear. You find a way to bring up gear in a conversation hoping to steer the conversation towards guitar gear
Habitual Checking: You keep checking your email for a shipment notification. You check the shipping status at least twice daily. The expected date of arrival, you check the mail at least twice, and/or you check the window to see if the mail person is there.
Boredom: Lack of interest leads our minds to wander into the unknown. It could be a situation where you’re sitting at your desk at work on your lunch break, nothing exciting on social networks, nothing good on TV at home, etc.. The internet is more accessible now than it ever has been, so it’s a very simple step to jump on YouTube and proceed down the gear rabbit-hole. Most of the next few relate directly back to boredom, and it’s just an endless intertwined mess of gear lust.
Frustration: The fact that you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall in your playing and can’t get past it. The urge to get better is there, but you feel like you’re not making any progress with becoming better. The idea of getting new gear just might help kick-start your drive to play again. This honestly works sometimes, and other times it just circles around the more frustration.
Discontent with Current Gear: You’ve gotten to a point where you’ve tried to make a pedal or guitar or amp work for you, but it just doesn’t quite do what you want it to do. This is the most justifiable of the reasons. It’s understandable to want to upgrade if a piece of equipment isn’t suiting your needs. It could lead to finding something with better audio quality and tweakablity, or it could drive you to a completely new piece of gear that you never thought you’d use. The key is finding the balance between discontent and the next thing on the list:
Curiosity: Is the grass greener on the other side? Sometimes, YES! Sometimes, NO…. The idea of finding something that takes what you love and can improve on it is exciting. There’s always that question lingering as to whether something can be improved upon even more, even by the slightest bit. What better way to find out than to try? “Worst case scenario I don’t like it and I’ll return it for a refund or I’ll sell it.” – Says every person experiencing G.A.S., ever.
Peer Pressure: “Dude, this thing sounds awesome. You’ve gotta get one to try!” – Sound familiar? Could be your best friend, family member or even a thread on a gear forum, but someone is absolutely head over heels in love with their new pedal, and can’t recommend it enough. This can make you look into something that you don’t really need, but because it’s said to be so good, you’ve at least got to watch the demos. At this point there are three possibilities:
- It’s a pedal that you’re interested in sonically, and it starts the process off. Watching YouTube demos, reading reviews, asking questions to the people who own one, searching for a price, more YouTube videos to be sure, and finally purchase (or trade).
- It’s something you don’t really care anything about, but you’ll look up regardless because it’s something to do (back to the boredom and curiosity section). The question arises of “Wonder how it would sound with my rig?” or “That would be really interesting to write songs with.”
- You somehow miraculously escape and just look past it without another thought.
Excitement – The desire for this feeling is overwhelming. The idea of getting something new in the mail is exciting! The thrill of the purchase, then comes the dreaded wait that seems like takes an eternity. You check the shipment tracker and excitement only grows as they’re updated. Label created…..package picked up by carrier….in transit (from source location)….arrival at sorting facility (in your home state)….package out for delivery! You know what carrier it’s coming from, so you know what time that carrier usually delivers to the house. It edges closer and closer, and your nerves are on edge with excitement. The package arrives and the sense of joy and excitement is overwhelming, to the point where you can feel the nerves firing all over your body and you get those excited tingles. You can’t quite open the box fast enough, and then you just stare at it for a few minutes (guitar gear is typically really awesome/cool/pretty to look at). Pictures typically are taken, and straight to the woodshed you go.
A board full of gorgeous, G.A.S. -inducing gear. Photo courtesy of Michael Hecker
What is the solution to Gear Acquisition Syndrome? Honestly, there is no definite cure (apart from maybe continually buying more pedals from us 🙂 ). It’s more of a mindset than something you can physically do (because it always stays in the back of your mind). Here are a few things to try when the GAS starts welling up inside of you:
- Put the phone down/turn the computer off: Simplest thing to do is to completely disconnect. If the demos aren’t available to be watched, then you can focus on other activities to keep your mind occupied.
- Learn a new song/riff: Another great way to deter from GAS it so bury yourself into learning a new song. I stuck with a challenge of learning one new thing every day, whether it was a riff from a song, a scale, a playing technique, etc.. Again, it goes back to keeping busy, and what better way to do that than improve your proficiency with your instrument.
- Tweak existing gear: You can try moving the order of your signal chain around, or test stacking one overdrive into another (and the opposite). See what it sounds like putting tremolo before dirt instead of after. Try seeing if you can find a unique sound at the highest range of the knobs. Experimentation will keep you from getting bored, and it will often lead to discovering new sounds you might not have found before.
Here’s my way of approaching G.A.S. that keeps me out of trouble. I look at the cost, and as long as I’m not dipping into savings, taking anything away from my family, or missing bills then it’s alright to do in moderation. Luckily the used gear market is pretty prevalent right now, along with excellent return programs at a lot of major stores (along with ordering direct from companies). It’s a good way to test out gear, and if you don’t like it return it for shipping costs. There are also companies out there that will let you try gear for a certain amount of time with a monthly subscription cost if you want to go that route. It’s possible to live with G.A.S. and not go broke. Balance is the key. If there’s ever a doubt, just remind yourself that there are a lot worse things you could be doing with your time and money 🙂
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to looking at delay’s….