What is Gear Acquisition Syndrome, also popularly known as GAS?
GAS is an inexplicable disorder affecting guitar players wherein the acquisition of new gear has no remote connection to one’s income, need or ability, and is the source of a deeply satisfying (read dopamine fuelled) high for the buyer. Only rivalled by a woman’s desire for shoes and bags, GAS is fast becoming an epidemic. Owning 10 distortion pedals that do exactly the same thing, some rivalling the price of a guitar, is perfectly justifiable in this world. The rarer an effect is the better. You need to wait 7 months before your custom made pedal can be ready for delivery? Cool. No problem. Hell I’ll even wait a year so I can make that youtube video and brag about the pedal to all my virtual guitar playing friends on my favourite guitar forum. The car needs new tires? It can wait. After all I am not getting any younger and I need to make my music happen now. Besides what could be cooler than uploading that video?
Another mysterious symptom of the disorder is that the lust for a piece of gear, the same lust that was all consuming before, vanishes within a day (sometimes less) of owning the hallowed item. This is soon replaced by another equally uncontrollable desire for the next ravishing piece of metal or wood to catch one’s fancy.
GAS is a serious problem. It can actually affect a guitarist’s playing abilities. What momentarily slips from the consciousness of the sufferer is that it doesn’t matter if bum notes have beautiful tone, they are still bum notes. What should be practice time is spent browsing lovingly through a multitude of online guitar stores and used gear forums. A good deal on a product is treated as a conquest and fills the buyer with a warm fuzzy feeling that can be accessed at any point of the day for the next week or so till the item arrives in the mail.
Every couple of months GAS abates for a while. Sanity returns and the sufferer actually makes some real progress with guitar playing. As every practice session is graced with a new pedal on the pedal board, our guitar player starts to think that all that money spent was worth it. After all it is not easy to find one’s sound. Why else would guys like Eddie Van Halen and Eric Johnson spend thousands of dollars modifying already top notch gear? At least I am not stupid enough to mortgage the house for a Dumble.
Our guitar player usually ends up building himself a pedal board that takes two, sometimes three, men to carry. Expensive cables, connectors and power sources only deplete the bank balance further. Sarcastic comments from band members when there is no space on tiny bar room stages for anyone besides the guitar player and his pedal board, are taken with the stoic fortitude of one destined for greatness. What do these fools know?
Every once in a while our guitar player surprises himself by discovering how great just his amp and guitar sound, without the aid of any pedals. Perhaps he even sells a few pedals to ease the guilt that this discovery brings. But then the inevitable question crops up once he tires of the stock guitar-amp sound – if these alnicos sound so great imagine what gibson burstbuckers would do for his sound! Or perhaps new tubes? Oh I know, even better, how about burstbuckers and new tubes!!
Another classic symptom of GAS is the digital-analog dilemma. Many sufferers typically alternate between the two set ups. My rig sure sounds great but I wish it didn’t take half an hour to set up and a pickup to haul. I know! How about I sell everything and get myself an AxeFx? Imagine the convenience of one effects rack and one amp, or maybe even no amp. How wonderful. So out go the pedals and amps so lovingly acquired. Maybe a year or two go by. And then the inevitable being-blown-away-by-someone-else’s-all analog-rig happens. Wow! Nothing can ever replace the air moving capacity of EL34s being driven by your favourite tube screamer. I was a fool to sell my amps and pedals. No matter, let me sell my AxeFx and get a Two Rock. I’ll keep buying pedals as and when I can. I’m sure I have the lava minis left over from my old pedal board. Oh great, that means I needn’t spend $200 buying a new set. Cool!
And so it goes. Guitar, amp, pedal and accessory companies know all about GAS. And they have an ever increasing forum to propagate its spread – guitar magazines, youtube, facebook, twitter, online contests and giveaways, music merchants, NAMM – the list increases every year. Without GAS one of the leading pedal makers in the world would be hard pressed to explain how it has so many different signature wah pedals that basically do exactly the same thing? Jerry Cantrell and Slash did not have signature wahs when they created their signature sounds. But of course our young guitar hero can hear the difference between the two signature wahs. Cantrell has that fat mid range blah blah blah…. Man I really should sell my slash signature and get the cantrell one. Imagine what that would do for my sound! Yeah.
As you have probably guessed by now – a lot of the stuff I have mentioned in this blog are direct excerpts from my life. If there was a rehab center for GAS I would check in. But then again guitar players are a quirky breed and the quest for tone is a life long one. That’s exactly why I just bought the Strymon Timeline last week. Now all I need is a MIDI controller for it. And I’d love to check out the new reverb pedal from TC Electronics – you know the one that has two more presets than my trusty Hall of Fame. Hmm maybe I should also start saving up for an Eventide……..
‘Originally published in the summer of 2012’