Too Much Gear?

We’re fortunate to live in a time when recording gear is plentiful. And with prices lower than ever and quality at an all-time high, we’re sitting pretty. So it’s interesting to hear the occasional rumble about there being “too much gear available” — online forums have discussed this very topic, and we recently r
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We’re fortunate to live in a time when recording gear is plentiful. And with prices lower than ever and quality at an all-time high, we’re sitting pretty.

So it’s interesting to hear the occasional rumble about there being “too much gear available” — online forums have discussed this very topic, and we recently received letters about it from readers, as well.

Some maintain that better music was made when there were more gear limitations at work — the improved, more flexible tools we have available haven’t resulted in equally improved music or production quality.

One thought is that the gear limitations forced the user to be more creative and to achieve better results through “talent” and hard work — maybe things are just too easy now.

Others hold that having too much gear is actually a burden. More time is spent learning about and fooling with computers and audio toys than is actually put into making music.

A common problem is an overload of options leading to inability to make any kind of decision. And that can be a real issue, since with many of the tools we have today, we can put off making mixing and editing choices until the end of the process — and with so many choices, we never get to the end of the process.

On the other side of the coin, manufacturers are coming out with more new products than ever. Prices are down, quality is up, and we have more power in our studios than we could dream of just a few short years ago. We should take advantage of these tools, and strive for the best quality possible.

I have to admit, I was falling into the “frozen by the options” mode. One of the perques of my gig is that an incredible array of new gear comes through my door — and I’m not complaining! For a gear junkie like me, it’s pretty darn close to heaven. But it does lead to a problem: I spend as much time learning gear as I do actually using.

I solved the problem, and you can do the same. Here’s how:

Know when to say when. At some point, you have to stop and get to work. I do it by setting time limits — for an hour, I’ll read the manual and work the tutorials. After that, I’m getting to work on some music.

Lose the excess baggage. I’ve been seriously down-sizing my rig over the past few months. What I don’t use, I’m selling. It’s taking up space here, and someone else can put it to good use.

Keep your eye on the ball. It’s so easy to get distracted by the possibilities. Keep your focus on what you want and need to accomplish.

Don’t rely on the gear for inspiration. A new synth or effect can inspire ideas, so many times we rely on the gear to make us creative. Instead, look for your inner source of inspiration.

Buy the right gear. With all the choices out there, this is a tough one. And I’ve made my share of mistakes. Usually it’s because I’m thinking something like, “wow, if I buy this, I could produce the ultimate dance music tracks” when I don’t really work much on dance music, or thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if . . .” rather than focusing on what I truly need.

So to answer the question in the title of this editorial, no, we don’t have too much gear. There’s always room for more and better equipment that we can use to realize our musical visions. The key is to not fall into the “too many options” trap. Hopefully I’ve given you a few tips that will help avoid that trap. Good luck!

—Mitch Gallagher