"Good/Bad" Gear

  • Legend has it that any true guitar player has at least one steal of a purchase where they picked up a piece of gear for a song. Maybe it’s a ‘61 Gibson ES-335 they found at a neighbor’s estate sale or a vintage Marshall "Plexi" procured from a random lawn sale their friend forced them to check out. Do you have any?

    These serendipitous "gear" moments haven’t come my way yet. More often than I’d like to admit there are a lot of "bad" purchases made of guitars, pedals and amps bought because I didn’t do my homework. I saw the headlines: "an excellent overdrive pedal", "the perfect bedroom amp", or "the best solid body guitar in its class." All the reviews said these things were top drawer. The problem wasn’t the gear itself. No. It’s that the gear wasn’t compatible with my stuff!

    Been there?

    You could liken buying guitars, amps and pedals to buying a beautiful new Cadillac; it’s a great car by anyone’s standards with all the bells and whistles. But, if it doesn’t fit in your garage, it’s not useful. Same thing with gear. You really gotta know what gear you’re going to pair with this new item before you put down any money on it.

    The simple answer is to demo the gear with your existing rig. Exactly. Problem is, apart from burdening the music store staff with a mirrored recreation of this rig configuration, you’re left guessing.

    There’s another outlet though. And it’s a simple solution. Ask other players for their objective, practical input about a pedal or amp or guitar and let them also know what other gear you will be integrating with it. Look, some pedals can cost north of $500; a lot of them actually. The average price of a pedal now is ~$250! Amps are even more expensive! Guitars too! It’s a lot of money to throw down.

    Buying the "right" gear requires an understanding of all of the other components that will go with it. Looking at a Fender Stratocaster? Cool choice. But, if you own a Marshall Class V amp and expect to use it to copy the sounds of the Allman Brothers, you’re clearly looking at the wrong guitar. The Strat will struggle with the "fat" sounds you’re after – it’s possible but not straight forward – and that Marshall Class V amp doesn’t love the Strat’s single coil pickups, at least not to mimic Duane Allman or Dickie Bett’s famous sounds.

    What’s my point? I’m simply trying to help beginners and neophytes "look before they leap" into this world of "electrified guitar" and all its related gear so they ask the right questions before they buy their next pedal, amp or guitar.

    In essence, something might be "bad" for one player but "good" for another. Adding to your signal chain is delving into murky waters. What guitars, pedals and amps work well with each other is much the same as how Winston Churchill described Russia back in the Cold War days: It’s a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

    So how do you make smart purchase decisions so you don’t get punk’d buying that "bad" pedal, an amp that works poorly with any guitar-pedal combo you throw at it, or a guitar that sounded so good at the music shop but awful at home?

    Read the online reviews. Watch video demonstrations of that pedal. Hit the gear forums like and ask other guitar players for their feedback! That last bit of feedback is priceless.  

    Give the ShareMyGuitar community a whirl. There’s tens of thousands of us ready to help!

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