I’m probably not the best person to write this. After all, I am basking in the twilight of my Man Child years. That point in time where people no longer lecture you about your decisions, because you’re now just “That Guy.”
We’ve moved on to the digital age, and there’s a reason why Amazon has taken over nearly every aspect of our lives. You could blame it purely on capitalism. Yet that doesn’t stop me from buying some weird ass candy from Japan because somebody told me that it was the greatest thing ever.
We’re neck deep in this gluttony, and it’s over extending to our creative lives as well. I know SO MANY artists who are in this cycle of constantly buying shit that they don’t need. Whether it’s a $700 synth, a saxophone, a cello, a bass guitar, new plugins, a midi keyboard, etc. You get the idea. If you’re reading this, you’ve either done it, or you’re about to do it.
For me personally it was plug ins, and guitar pedals. Every single time I’d pay $60 dollars for a new pedal, thinking it was going to dramatically change my sound. That I’d be able to explore whole entire new landscapes–only to revert back to Fruity loops. Then the plugins I actually bought, one was The Sounds of India. And I have to ask, does any of my music sound anything like Indian music? The answer is no.
Why did I do it? Because I was really into the Blank Banshee song Cerulean. I thought the sitar that blended into the guitar in that track, was so fucking fantastic that I bought a $60 plugin that I never used. Then I remembered all The Beatles documentaries I’d watched where they went to India and how all of a sudden their music got all psychedelic from the Western/Eastern music fusion.
IF only my music could sound like THAT.
And that’s where the problem lies. Most of the time when somebody has a hankering for a new piece of gear 99.9999% of the time it’s because they want to sound like somebody else.
When I released my album, it was poorly received. One internet reviewer (who I paid) gave it a 1 out of 5 review. Which I agree with now in retrospect. Yet that review hurt so much at the time. That coupled with the fact I was ordered to go to rehab for my drinking, it was not the best time in my life.
In my therapy group there was one guy who took an interest in my music, and he listened to the whole album. He said he enjoyed it, all though he felt I hadn’t found my sound yet. And how could I have? I was buying stupid plugins trying to sound like every other person, when I had an entire DAW at my fingertips.
So when I quit buying plugins, started to explore the tools at my disposal–surprise I began to have a more coherent sound. A sound that was unique. A sound that was my own.
So before you buy that new piece of equipment, I have to ask: Have you explored all the possibilities your instrument provides? Did you try to write a song in a different key? Did you try to learn how to play it better? Is there a way to replicate the sound you want without needing to buy something?
And most importantly. Are you trying to sound like someone else?
There’s a reason popular genres always get stale. First there are the innovators, then there are the imitators, and then there are the record deals. It’s why music tourism is a thing. Why delve deep into a music genre when everybody is trying to sound the same? Why give that underground artist a chance when their music sounds like every other persons?
So for the answer to whether you should buy that gear or not. No. Not until you know every single nook and cranny in the gear you got. Not until you’ve worked on that piece of equipment for so long, that you are sicked and tired of looking at it. Because rock bands have been around forever and they’ve been doing just fine with a guitar, bass, and drums. If you can’t do more with an entire electronic orchestra at your fingertips–then I have two words for you.