Written by & under performance.

By Saleh Sabat

My name is Saleh. I’m an Electric guitar player, and I have G.A.S. I’ve had it since I was 13 years old, and it seems to be getting worse as I age.

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Ok ok, now that the giggling is over, let’s talk about what G.A.S. stands for. G.A.S. is an acronym for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Almost every famous electric guitar player has had some form of G.A.S. It’s the need to buy more stuff, whether you need it or not. If you’ve ever seen the movie Wayne’s World, you’ll recall the scene where Wayne (Mike Myers) is looking through the window of a guitar shop at a vintage white Fender Stratocaster, and he utters the phrase “She will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine!” Wayne was suffering from Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.).

What causes musicians to G.A.S. for more gear? The answer is pretty obvious. Discontentment is the underlying cause. Musicians become discontent when they see other musicians with “better” instruments, “better” accessories, etc. They think that by getting that “better” instrument, it will make them a “better” musician.

Is G.A.S. just specific to guitar players in general? Absolutely not. But from my experiences, I can tell you that guitar players (and many bass guitar players) have the worst cases of G.A.S. (no pun intended). Why is this?

The guitar has become the most iconic and popular instrument of all time. As well as the most easily accessible instrument (you can’t take a baby grand piano to the camp fire!). When it comes to the electric guitar, there are so many other factors besides just the guitar itself. For example, you have the amplifier, effects pedals/processors, string brands, cables, picks, and accessories. I’m going to hit on just some of the G.A.S. that I’ve struggled with in the past, and how I’ve (for the most part) conquered it.

I have to have this, because…..

It looks cool!

Have you ever seen a candy apple red guitar? Or a pedal that looks like a smily face? How about a black guitar that looks like a cross between an axe and a winged demon? Who cares how much it cost, how it sounds, how it plays, or what my mom will think about it. It looks absolutely awesome!

My favorite guitar player (at the time) is using it…..

This is where I tricked myself into thinking that if I had all the same equipment as my guitar hero, I would sound exactly like him. Years of meticulous training and perseverance could be bypassed simply by purchasing the right instrument. Hmmmm….

The extra money I should be saving is burning a hole in my pocket….

Fiscal responsibility is just as much of an art form as musicianship. However, it’s rarely practiced by young and occasionally starving musicians.

I don’t have as much stuff as the other guy I play with….

The whole “Keeping up with the Joneses” thing has unfortunately become a staple in our society. Everybody needs more/bigger/better.

I’ve grown out of what I’m currently using, and I’m ready to step up to a more professional level of gear….

This is a pretty common and legitimate answer. For me, this was my excuse just to buy yet another guitar.

As I mentioned earlier, I was 13 when I starting getting Gear Acquisition Syndrome. My teacher and mentor at the time invited me to gigs and sessions regularly. At one particular session, I was given the opportunity to play a guitar that belonged to one of the guitar players in the session. His guitar was very similar to mine in terms of design and feel. However, his guitar was “special!” It was GOOD! It was better than GOOD! In fact, it was the best playing and sounding guitar I had ever played! What was the difference?

About $2000 in price.

That night, I went home and told my parents that I needed a new guitar, and it was going to cost them $2000. That was thirteen years ago. They still haven’t bought me the $2000 guitar….

Over the years, I’ve learned how to cope with the Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and how to be content with what I have. I’ve come to realize that there are much more important things to being a musician than the stuff you have. True musicianship does not rely on the instrument’s quality or price. True musicianship does not rely on how much equipment the player has.

Being content with what you have is a state of mind. Obviously, this topic can apply to more areas in one’s life than just music. For me, I’m content with what I have now, which is a lot less than I used to have when I was younger (when I needed it). My contentment for what I currently have comes from the knowledge that I have a lot more than other people in this world do. I have freedom, a place to live, food to eat, a family that loves me, and a great job. What more do I really need?

Saleh Sabat is The Catoctin School of Music’s resident gear tech and pedal board extraordinaire. He also has a penchant for hummus and carrots.