GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) can prevent you from truly knowing your equipment. We all have the temptation: an interesting bass, a brand-new amp, a new pedal or some of the newest technology strings. I felt that way with strings on my double bass.
If you want an entertaining and crazy read, go to TalkBass.com and read the Gamut Guts thread from a decade ago, or the Spirocore thread. What I did was experiment with every single string under the sun and document my gig experience with them. I discovered many things, and learned a ton about string construction and how it relates to tone and durability. In the end, after thousands of dollars in strings and a gazillion gigs, I ended up playing Spirocore Mittels, the most popular jazz double bass string on the market. Nothing weird or esoteric. It was totally pedestrian, but great-sounding. There is a reason those strings are the most popular. They work. They sound great. They last a long time.
So after darn near a decade with them, I’ve bought set after set and worn them out. I’ve learned how they sound as they age over time, from their bright, midrange-empty brand-new phase, to the worn-in, thumpy, midrange-heavy sound they get right before they are just too shitty to play on one more gig. I have practiced on them on the same bass with a similar setup that whole time. I know how they respond when I use the bow one way or another, or slap them, or play this place or that on the string on that particular bass. I really KNOW them and that bass. I can predict how they will respond to the point where I no longer think about it. I cease thinking about the equipment and loose myself completely in the music. Which is the point; I’m more “musician” than “equipment owner.” That’s why I have this stuff in the first place.
I’ve had similar experiences with amplifiers and speakers and rosin and bows and effects pedals. When I find something that speaks to me, I try to live with it for a while and get its full understanding under my belt.
That doesn’t mean I don’t look for new stuff and ignore the latest greatest thing. Far from it. I work for Bass Gear Magazine after all, that’s kinda the point of it. The balance point is what I look for. Always searching for new sounds, new tech to either make what I do more precise or find an entirely new way to do something or even an entirely new sound. The distinction is, it’s always about the music and not just about the gear. What music can I make with this gear? What new sounds – or more precisely honed old sounds – are available here? Where can this get me that excites my muse in a new way? Will this inspire me to create something new?
Conversely, the things I tend to dismiss are things that seem like rehashes of what’s already been done, without any creative advancement. I already have a couple great Precision basses, I sure don’t need another one, unless you’ve done something spectacular like make a 5-string version of my ’62 that really lights up like it does. Or something like Marleaux’s Diva 5-string fretless that made me sit and get completely lost in it’s vibe creating new lines and fragments I never connected to before.
The upshot for me here is that I have learned to fully embrace music tools for a long period of time to truly incorporate them into my voice. To not be swayed by the temptation of GAS and lose track of what brought me my musical voice in the first place. My foundations. In addition, though I’m ever-mindful of the relentless advance of technology and creative invention, trying to constantly seek out the next inspiration that feeds my muse and pushes my musical life into a new and interesting place. In those occasions, I’ll get that thing, then learn it inside out until it, too, becomes yet another extension of my voice.