To Buy, Or Not To Buy: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Purchasing Music Gear

So you might be considering picking up some bargains in a seasonal sale, or just want to burn a hole in your pocket… but do you really need new music gear? G.W. Childs plays devil's advocate.  

Are you experiencing a lull in creativity? Has the regular solution to your creativity become purchasing new gear, software, sound libraries and anything else you feel will take you to the next level?

The pressure to spend money is everywhere, and it’s most oppressive when you feel that you need a plug-in or piece of gear that does something that the technology you currently have access to does not. To help you deduce whether a purchase is needed, I drew up a few things I ask myself, before I pull out the wallet.

1 - Do I Have Something That Does This Already?

Since the App Store landed in world economy, many smaller, more streamlined pieces of software have appeared that tackle one problem very elegantly, and that’s it. In some cases, you may have an app, DAW, or plug-in that already does what you’re after. A great way to determine if you already own something with pertinent capabilities? Go to the sales page of something you already have and take a look at its list of features. You may have missed something!

2 - Is it Just a Sound You’re After?

With the way art, music, photography and movies are advancing, it’s easy to think that a well produced patch bank holds the key to a particular ‘sound’. When, in reality, you have several other synths that are more than capable of re-creating the sound you’re after. For example: All you need is a synth with an LFO that can modulate a filter (which is all of them) to get a Wobble. 

Synthesizer patch banks evolve with the current trends like all other forms of entertainment. Just because you don’t have a bank that doesn’t match the sound you’re after, doesn’t mean that a synth that you own can’t do what you want.

3 - Is There Something I Need More?

If you’re a vocalist, why would you spend all your money on synths and effects when you don’t have a decent microphone? Are you settling for a cheaper alternative when you could just save for a few more weeks and get what will really help the situation? This question will almost always make you stop in your tracks, before pulling out the credit card because it forces you to check not only your resources, but also forces you to really look at the decision you’re making a little more tactically.

4 - Can I Combine Existing Resources to Create a Particular Sound?

Just because you don’t have one particular synth that doesn’t have a trance gate doesn’t mean that you don’t have the ability to make a trance gate. Combining certain synths with certain, or multiple effects always produces different, new results. Try combining some effects you haven’t tried before. Or, get to know underlying DAW features like Side-chaining and Automation within your existing software, functions that if learned, really can propel you to new levels of audio production.

5 - Did I Check The Library?

Especially where genres like EDM, Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Trance, Glitch-Hop, Drum and Bass, and so on are concerned, you don’t necessarily need a soft synth. In fact, if you’re just looking for something very particular, you might see if it exists within an online library, or a sample library you already own. There are many websites that offer access to their library with the ability to purchase individual loops, or sounds. Also, you may have a friend that would love to supply you with some smoking cool loops, patches, or even homemade effects that are truly original. All you have to do is give them a credit on your next single.

Closing Comments

So, there you go. A few tricks from one money minded musician to another. And, even this didn’t cost you a cent. We’re on a roll already! Music creation can be an expensive habit in a world that is rapidly costing more and more money to simply live. However, sound exists everywhere. Get to know your existing resources first, and foremost, and your resources really will take care of you.

Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like Lu... Read More

Discussion

Strumzilla
You're suggesting introspection and self awareness. This goes against every tenet of G.A.S. I can totally justify buying Ghost Writer because it had that Pink Floyd Echoes piano sound on it, and there is no possible way I could have created that sound in a pre-existing soft synth/plugin without opening one of them up and learning how to use them properly. And it was on sale too...
Bod
Here's my mantra that has worked a treat for years...

Do I want it?
Can I afford it?
Do I need it?
Will I use it?

Or - is it cheap enough on eBay to forget the mantra!

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