Stop Buying New Gear and Just Do Your Hobby

Fight the GAS

Key Takeaways

  • Researching, buying, learning, and selling new gear is a distraction from what you really love to do. 
  • This affliction is known as Gear-Acquisition Syndrome or GAS.
  • Try taking a year off from new purchases and focus on learning how to use the gear you have to achieve better results.
A personal music studio with lots of equipment.

Thomas Litangen / Unsplash

Are you a musician? Photographer? A hobbyist or enthusiast of any kind? Then you may have heard of GAS, or Gear-Acquisition Syndrome, a semi-metaphorical compulsion that afflicts us, wastes our time and money, and distracts us from our passions. 

We'll use music as the example here, but the problem applies equally to any other field where you can buy gear. Even a knitter is tempted by that sweet-looking set of hardwood circular needles or a dozen skeins of new yarn, and so on.

Over on the Elektronauts forum, a friendly and helpful space for electronic musicians, a new thread has taken off. It's dedicated to not buying any new gear in 2022. Instead of walking the endless travelator of buying and selling, participants will use what they already have and go deep, learning their instruments and making music. 

"For instance, it's easy to get caught up buying way too much for every possibility, but in reality, our needs are often much more modest. I'm not a pro audio engineer, so I don't have the same needs as someone that does this 8-10 hours a day for a living," musician DimensionsTomorrow says in the Elektronauts forum. "In reality, I have at best 8-10 hours a week, so I should always keep that in mind. A much more modest setup is likely to produce much better results than having my attention divided among too many things, all of which need to be learned to be used properly."

GAS

It happens so fast. One moment you're googling to find out about playing an add 9th chord on a piano keyboard, then you see a neat grid controller that plays chords with a single key. Then, two hours later, you've researched every MIDI controller, moved up the ladder of features, and convinced yourself that you need the very best of them. 

Closeup on an XPro 2092

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

Then, when it arrives in the mail, you hook it up and learn the basics, but your heart is already set on the next new thing. Not only is this a waste of money, but it's also a waste of your time. 

"Then I started GASing… the research, the next great thing, the buying, returning or selling, YouTube-ing," says electronic musician Clarke_111.

That's time you could spend actually making music. And when you do make music, immersing yourself in the creative process instead of the consuming process, you probably feel great. Even if you don't end up with anything worth using, the process itself is nourishing in a way that shopping never is. 

Why Buy

There's a joke I've read a few times on various forums. In it, the teller half admits that their hobby is not music, but buying, selling, and arranging synthesizers, or collecting camera lenses, and so on. 

As a joke, it's more of a confession. With this level of awareness, why do we keep buying instead of just making music?

Partly because it's easier. At some point, your instrument will frustrate you. Maybe you can't play that chord progression or melody on your guitar. You could persevere or go shopping for a new guitar pedal. 

"A much more modest setup is likely to produce much better results than having my attention divided among too many things..."

Another part of the problem is the forums and the websites that cater to the hobby or profession. Take a look on YouTube, and the most popular channels are those that test and review gear, not the ones that teach you music theory. On forums, we discuss gear, not technique. If you take a look at any online guitar community, you'll learn that the secret to Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour's legendary sound is the exact model of fuzz pedal he uses and not his skill as a player. 

New gear promises to turn us into better musicians with no effort. The reality is that you just have another black box to distract you and make you feel guilty for not using it. 

"The real gratification we seek is artistic, it will take time, and it won't be magically granted to us by simply making a pledge. In the meantime, there will be that empty feeling only consumerism can fill. And we are experts at rationalizing our next purchase. Fight the urge!" elementary instrumental music teacher aMunchkinElfGraduate says in the forum. 

If this is familiar to you, you may want to join the pledge to go deeper, not wider. Instead of wasting time, money, and mental bandwidth on acquisition, we create and explore. And after a while, you may end up like a recovering addict, able to walk past the tobacconist or liquor store without feeling the urge to go in and buy.

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