I have GAS!

Posted by Aaron Groombridge on

Gear Acquisition Syndrome

It started long ago...  It was a little unpleasant at first... It affected those around me...  But then it became totally unbearable.

Before I could record my latest idea, I had to have a better everything…  Better mic.. So I spent $3.5k on one of those… Better audio interface so I spent around $10k on three of those, better studio monitors/speakers/subs ($10k+ of there), better outboard compressors, eqs and pre amps so I spend many thousands on those, more flavours of microphones, more instruments, more types of guitars, more amps, more plugins, more samples, more virtual instruments, more acoustic treatment, more…. 

Then I realised… I wasn’t doing anything with it...  I had too much!   Too many options.  Too many decisions to make before hitting record…  Which guitar into which amp into which mic into which pre into which EQ into which compressor into which interface??  I hadn't even hit the DAW yet!  Which had hundreds of “THE BEST” audio plugins to choose from!

Gear Acquisition Syndrome is a curse, and it is typically a wet blanket for other issues...  If you are just getting started, read this and hopefully it will be some kind of immunisation against this costly addiction.

When I was working on my own stuff… It was a nightmare - I would get nothing done.  When I was recording other people, it was a breeze…  Why??  Because I had them for limited time and I had limited options.

When working with others I stay true to my long standing belief - Record it like it sounds and then massage it together as naturally as possible in the mix - Because I love recordings that sound like the real band playing with all the natural vibe.

When recording alone, I was acting completely differently.  I was treating each take like it was my last chance ever to get this right and if it didn’t sound perfect it would be a complete let down.  So I needed to have the perfect recording chain of gear and I needed to execute every take with perfect timing and intonation - I would literally loop record a riff 10-100 times!  I would even try each part as I went, so the song would sound amazing to me even when not finished.  I would get halfway through a song, get bored or start hating it because it was so unnatural and give up!

Compare that to recording other people - where I would typically record with a trustworthy mic for the given instrument, plugged directly into the interface, as clean as possible so I would not risk damaging a fantastic performance with a bad decision on the compressor or eq.  I would aim to grab 3 takes.  Make a note of the best one, and move on.  Then, when all done recording, I would take a break before I started mixing with fresh ears.

Eventually it dawned on me that I was treating myself differently to my clients.  I was giving myself the royal treatment, and getting nowhere, where as I was giving them the barebones and they were getting their songs back a week later, all mixed and happily moving on to the next thing.

These days I am taking a minimalist approach to recording and mixing - and I am getting WAY more out of it.  I have written and recorded more of my own songs in the last year than I had in the last 10 years!  Do they sound like the latest release from a big label artist in multi-million dollar studio?  No - They sound like the music I like from say 5 years ago and earlier.  Which is awesome, and totally respectable.

I still have GAS..  I still waste time researching gear and plugins…  But I am using all of my willpower to not spend anymore money, and use what I have!!

Yes, I have some awesome gear as a result, but I now prefer to use the basics to get the job done quickly.

The sounds that inspire you to write your music are the sounds you should be recording.  You know, when you are mucking around and the muse hits... Hit record then!

Spend less time buying and trying to reshape one of your sounds into something else.  Use what you have.. You need a computer, an OK mic ($199ish), an OK external pre-amp ($249ish), a mic stand and something to listen back on and the same attitude you had when getting to know your primary musical instrument.

If you just want to do the recording and let someone else do the mixing, hit up a friend or me, as it is alway good to get a fresh set of ears on your work.