Rich G.A.S, Poor G.A.S.

Mar 10th, 2011
This post was originally written on the blog.
*G.A.S. - Gear acquisition syndrome, a fake disorder affecting guitarists everywhere, often used as an excuse to buy gear that sounds just as bad when we play it as the gear we have now.*

A hard-working man, with middle-class income, saves for an entire year to buy a $500 used guitar while a teenager with upper-class pedigree goes shopping for a USA Fender Stratocaster because his dad “wants him to have something decent”.

Seems  a bit unfair. But here we are.

We guitarists are a financially diverse group of people, drawn together by a few common threads. Love of tone, love of music, and the desire to express ourselves.

Those common threads distract us from our differences, but we are, in fact, very different. Especially when it comes to money.

For Those Without

My heart goes out to the guitar player who is struggling, playing the same entry level gear year after year, watching video after video about gear he’ll never be able to afford, dreaming of the day he can buy a $100 overdrive pedal.

You see, I still remember the nervous anxiety I felt  when I handed over $549 of my hard-earned cash for my first “real” guitar. It may be the cheapest guitar I own today, but that feeling, fear mixed with excitement, is still in the back of my mind.  I have gone through many different levels of what is “normal”, and my “normal” today is nothing like my “normal” of 15 years ago.

But I still remember, and will never forget, what it felt like to take that Mexican Stratocaster off the wall, play it for the first time, not entirely sure that I could afford it.

We Are Not The Same

In the real world, people who shop for next year’s Mercedes Benz, don’t often discuss cars with people who shop Craigslist for a used 1992 VW Golf. We stick to our own kind, rich with rich, poor with poor.

But everyday, in internet forums, bookstores, and guitar stores everywhere, rich, middle-class, and poor meet to discuss, read about, and play the same gear.

However, let us never forget, when we close our browsers, leave the guitar store, and put down the magazine, we go back to very, very different worlds. There is no “normal” that fits us all. Don’t ever, for even a second, let yourself start feeling as if you can’t be “normal” because you don’t have enough pedals, or a nice enough guitar.

This uncomfortable reality isn’t written about in magazines. Instead, we focus on the things we share, like the desire to express ourselves. While this makes it more comfortable for everyone, it also creates a false sense of what is “normal” for guitar players everywhere.

What Is Normal?

The ability to buy new gear, sell it, and buy more new gear is not normal. Because there is no normal. Trying to keep up with what you perceive as “normal” is  futile. Someone else’s “normal” will always be your “impossible” or maybe even “ridiculous”.

No, there is no “normal”, there is only reality.

In reality, some player have huge amounts of disposable income to buy new pedals, guitars and amps. They are the reason boutique gear makers stay in business. Plain and simple. Their money allows other people to do what they love.

In reality, some players have modest gear collections. They might not spend a ton of money on new gear, but there’s an awful lot of them out there, and when combined, their purchases help keep a lot of business open.

In reality some players are broke. They take trip after trip to the guitar store, playing the same guitars, looking at the same pedals, and never, never leaving with any of it. The guitar store is their Disneyland, because it’s a fantasy world filled with things that will never be real. Not for them.

Some of them are unemployed, some of them are disabled veterans, and some of them are just people who’ve had a combination of bad luck amplified by bad decisions. One person is broke after a terrible divorce left him with nothing, another is broke because cancer didn’t wait until he had healthcare.

This is reality. And it’s uncomfortable to think about. But here we are.

No Fix For Reality

We cannot flip a switch and make everything equal. Each of us has a different path to walk in this life. Trying to make everything fair and equal isn’t possible. But ignoring these differences, pretending they don’t exist, that is an injustice that we can do something about.


Whether you’re buying a new pedal, guitar, or amp, don’t ever forget that someone who loves music just as much as you might never afford that same gear. Never apologize for what you’re able to buy, but don’t take it for granted either. Be thankful for it, enjoy it as often as you can,  and most of all, use it to make the best music you can.

Someone else would do the same, if they could.