Welcome to Day 2 of 31 Days to Better Recordings!

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On Day 1 we looked at how to evaluate your gear and identify any needs you may have. However, I would be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t followup that discussion with a discussion about G.A.S., or Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

One of the most popular articles on Home Studio Corner is the one I wrote on Gear Acquisition Syndrome. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend it.

G.A.S. is simply on ongoing state of discontentment with your studio equipment. While I love to buy a new shiny piece of gear, that love for something new can quickly turn into an obsession.

As we talked about yesterday, it’s easy to confuse wants with needs. If left unchecked, G.A.S. can lead to months, even years of studio upgrades…but no music.

It would be like a painter who is constantly buying new brushes, paints, canvases, etc., but never actually paints a painting. Remember, the gear is simply a set of tools. If you’re not using your tools to create anything, you’re missing the point.

The end goal isn’t to have a really killer studio setup; it’s to create really killer recordings.

My buddy Ben Gortmaker recorded his entire album using GarageBand, the free recording software that comes pre-installed on Apple computers. His album sounds amazing. Yes, you should use good equipment, but never assume that you must have top-of-the-line equipment to produce quality music. (Hear it for yourself, listen to the Ben Gortmaker Podcast.)

I’m not condemning you if you want to buy new gear. I’ve got a studio full of lots of cool stuff. However, if you’re procrastinating creativity in order to acquire a few new pieces of gear, I think you need to re-evaluate things.

Day 2 Challenge

In the comments below, answer these two questions:

  1. What single piece of gear are you really excited about getting next?
  2. What creative endeavors are you actively working on right now, rather than waiting until you have that piece of gear? (If you don’t have any, come up with one and tell us what you’re going to do.)
  • CameronN

     I am really excited about getting another mic stand. Sounds lame, right? Why I am excited is because I will be able to record drums with stereo overheads and a guitar amp at the same time. I have recorded and mixed 9 out of the 10 songs in my album.

    • Now THAT’s a gear purchase I can get excited about. 🙂

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  • R.j CE

    honestly…. having surf this website, made me think twice about what to get next, or if i should even get a new gear (in a good way)..i am currently writing/working on a new song, and i do have that problem where i’ll have a great idea,then end up procrastinating but i’ll stop doin that LOL.
    i have a condenserMIC,mboxmini/proToolsLE as of right now. what should i get next??. kinda in a dilemma hahah.

  • Dar

    I would love to have a new vocal mic. Forgot to add to Day 1 that I have 2 Samson condenser mics (C02) with pop filter. But I’d like to get another vocal mic.
    Currently working on my original songs. I’m in a band and we’re getting our next project ready for recording.

  • Durwood

    A late post. I’m content to finish my EP (5 songs) with the actual recording gear I have, but need another external hard drive. I’m using an older Lacie that too slow for my needs. Any suggestions, anyone?

  • abel mendoza

    1. a pair of small condenser mics. maybe neumann km 184.
    2. im working on covering songs that i like and try to make it sound the closest possible to the original,and having friends coming over to sing them since im not a singer =(.

  • I have more than 1 single piece of gear that I’m excited about getting. First up is the Motif XS7. Next up would be a quality pair of active monitors so I no longer have to hear the noise generated from my outdated amp which powers a pair of old ’70’s stereo speakers. Oh, I also hope to get a quality effects bundle.

  • Joe R.

    My next piece of gear is the Axiom Pro MIDI controller.

    I am looking forward to getting it (my wife dont know it yet, but shes getting it for me for Christmas)But it is certainly not slowing me down on my project.

    This piece of gear will not enhance the quality of the CD… It just gives you more control over your DAW
    Check out the Video:

  • Michael

    I have limit myself to one piece of new equipment per year. I will buy a group of things such as a group of plugs that are similar but it has to be within that years budget. I create a list of things to research throughout the year but the limit is cooked down to one. This years options are: Nice Pre-Amp or Subwoofer or Accoustic treatments for the studio. Haven’t decided which yet but I think I finally have enough experience to distinguish a really good pre-amp sound and its value after using so much bailing wire and paper-clips for so long.

  • I’ve got gas but im a full time original muso so not much gets bought anyway, next bit of gear would be an Rode NTK or Classic 2 and maybe a Joe meek Twin Q or some other nice channel strip.
    Im currently recording my duo/band Swoon 2nd Album, i’ve got an amazing singer, decent guitars, great drum kits and bass setups and a decent room so sounds are good at source ive just got get them into bits and bytes, i’ve only got the nice room for a few more weeks so having the deadline is really great for productivity, before i move back into a 3*3*3 office at home 🙁

  • Arjun Ramesh

    I guess I suffer from a bit of Gear Acquisition Syndrome lately. I recently purchased Avid Strike 1.5, as I needed a program that would produce professional drum sounds. However, I have already found a few not-so-user-friendly problems with it and I started setting my eyes on Toontrack’s EZDrummer, as it has the ease of use that I was looking for. I found a great deal for both pieces of software, but I really have to learn to control myself.

    As far as projects go, currently I am not working on any. This is also a problem, as money is going out and none coming in. I have a few prospects that I can follow up with and I plan on doing so this week to at least get going on it. I am just a bit worried that I would not be able to produce the quality of drum tracks that I have in mind with Strike.

    However, I have to learn to work with it and see what I can come up with.

  • I really am looking forward to getting the Mbox (3).
    Been having some troubble with M-Powered and have found several people having more stable work enviroments after going from M-Powered to LE on the same computer. I bet it`s the AVID drivers.
    I have been missing the extra inputs and outputs for some time, also having to use the less than stellar Yamaha preamps through extra cables into the USB soundcard has been a pain. Also the onborad DSP in the new MBOX is enticing since I record vocals for both myself, my band and several other projects. Some Reverb with zero latency recording sounds like a dream.

    I am currently working on recording 10 songs for my band, KASBAH. Also I`m working with a young NOrwegian Rapper who`s been invited to the US to work with some bigshots. He`s bringing several of my beats and compositions with him, so we want to record his vocals over them before he leaves. (Also so I have proof of doing them first, should they turn out to be jerks..)

  • Listen

    Been there done that; had to have this, had to have that – it certainly does not equate to getting anything musically done. Is it safe to say you do run out of G.A.S with some experience and maturity. I really wonder how much stuff people got in their “studio” and never use it????

  • Matt

    I’m very thankful for what I have right now. I have all that I need. If, I were going to purchase something, it would be something that would make my mix sound more like a pro mix. I’ve been told that summing amps make a big difference in your mix. Currently, I use Digital Performer and I mix everything “in the box” and use the “bounce” command to create my master two-track mix.

    I am currently working on getting my playing / writing chops back. I have laid down a basic, very rough, demo of a new song. Now, I would like to do a proper recording of the song using real drums and instruments all recorded here in my home studio.

  • well i was always waiting to buy a mixer or control surface to mix. but im over that now. i use my mouse ( cause anyways i mix “in the box”)

  • John Tetlow

    Hi

    I’ve just acquired a Roland VS 2480 but without any manuals or CDs to help with how to use it! So my next project is to find out how to use it and then hopefully start recording some music

  • 1. A new backup VO microphone.
    2. Looking to film and produce a 30sec commercial for National TV on the subject “May 21, 2011”

  • Doug

    Joe,
    I guess that I have the worst case of G.A.S. you could imagine. However, I did read your article and quit buying gear, for the most part.

    1.What single piece of gear are you really excited about getting next?

    I think that I’m excited about getting a microphone preamp. I’ve read a lot about them and it sounds like a great piece of equipment to own. Still unsure which one to buy because I don’t want to spend a fortune.

    2.What creative endeavors are you actively working on right now, rather than waiting until you have that piece of gear?

    Right now, I’m really struggling with equipment. My M-Audio Axiom 49 died last week (blue screen of death). I bought an Akai MPK49, but just could not get it to work with my system. I took it back to Guitar Center and bought an Axiom Pro 49, but ever since I hooked it up, Pro Tools 8.04 is very sluggish and takes forever to open. Don’t know what the problem is right now, but I’ll keep working on it. Anybody have any ideas? Thanks in advance…

  • Francisco Arbolay

    Hi guys. The single piece that Im exited to buy next is a Gibson Les Paul guitar. But Im not a great guitar player.. so isn’t something that I urgently need. Now, Im starting to work on my band’s demo. Since Im the drummer, I will do all my tracks using midi files because I dont have a decent room to record a drum kit. I have to admit that I was one of the G.A.S. dudes in the past. I was obsessed on buying new gear and never doing nothing at all with it but stare at it all day and night. I ended selling all my stuff and just kept my laptop and my Mbox 2. Now that I feel like I have all that I REALLY need to make good records, Im trying to avoid getting the GAS again.. LOL

  • Carlos

    My way to control GAS was to buy cheap gear and make a list of what was really needed so now I have a list of gear that I want to buy but that I’m just going to when I need it, so when my cheap gear is not enough for my skill. I do really want a new bass guitar although that is kind of out of the scope of this debate.
    New computer would be nice to because I’m a really heavy user not only on music stuff.

    Right now I’m not really doing much until October 15 when I finish my masters degree still I’m here learning about recording and I really want to improve my bass skills.

  • Frank Adrian

    Sorry I’m late commenting, but I spent most of yesterday recording and mixing demos for my band. You see, that’s how we work these days – if we have song ideas, we record them and pass around .mp3s and, when we get to rehearsal, we’re ready to go. That means that I’m recording at least an evening or two a week. I really have very little time to muck about with gear other than maybe trying new mikes when I record vocals.

    The latest thing major that I did with gear was to replace a two-input audio interface with a four-input one of higher quality and put a preamp in front of one of the inputs. That took about a half-hour’s worth of time to screw them into the rack and connect cables – then it was back to really working.

    My absolutely latest gear acquisition? Yesterday, my wife wanted me to recycle an old cookie sheet. I decided to put a cable tie through a hole in it and now I have a really interesting clangy percussion instrument that I can play with a mallet or a hard stick. I used it on the latest demo I was recording for the band.

    I do think that there will be a major gear acquisition sometime in the next few years, though. My last child is moving out of the house in two years. At that point, we’ll probably be looking to downsize the house and one of my main criteria will be a place with a set of rooms that can be converted to a more formal studio. Now *thats* a major gear acquisition…

  • Marc Lapointe

    I ran out of GAS when I ran out of money. I think the GAS contributed to the later 🙂

  • Aubert

    1. Still dont know what kind, brand o model but i really need monitors and i want to by something prety good so ill wait to have more $ a few months maybe

    2. im working on my knowlege about frequencies, thats something im realy worried about on my life at this point!
    so im mixing many sounds with direfent freq to hear how it works together

  • HectorG

    Man! This is a very big issue for me I suffer from G.A.S. almost constantly everyday I get a new magazine, read a new article or whatever it just raises up the need for me to buy something new, I hope that in a near future I can tame that beast. Also cause I realized that I have more than what I need to get great recordings.

    In relation to what am I working on right now, Im starting a very big project of a friend of mine, its a solo album but I think its gonna be a big one, specially cause its in spanish. And for myself Im trying to acquire the LA Scoring Strings for my Film Scoring Work.

    -HectorG

  • Simo

    I’m excited about the mic I’m buying next month, sE4400, and right now I’m working on my songs, recording guitars and vocals and producing a couple of songs from a friend of mine…I’m not really procrastinating creativity waiting for a piece of gear, just waiting to treat a room with proper acoustic treatment, think it’s the only good reason to wait a while…

  • My next piece of gear im exicited of getting is the M-Audio ProFire 2626. It will be my first time being able to actually multi track a drum kit.

    What I am working on right now is Acoustic guitar covers of my favorite song. Trying to get great sounding recording with my TLM103. The next piece of gear will actually be the last piece of my puzzle to be able to record my Band without being in a fully developed recording studio. Yes I can use the 4 Mic pre’s that are on my 003r bu I need more that Overheads, snare and Kick. Im sure you can get a decent sound with 4 pre’s but I would like to have some control over my sound.

  • i’m not sure exactly when i am getting them, but i am excited about eventually getting some decent studio monitors. when i get those, i can further work on my current project, ‘lover-hater-sinner-saint,’ which is a full-length album that i have written all the parts for and i will preform all the parts on the record itself.

  • Great topic Joe… And some really good responses! Because I mainly track drums, I’d like to have another mic preamp… Right now I’m using the Profire 2626, but at times I’m wishing I had more mic inputs… Any recommendations is appreciated! Other than that I love the wish list feature on sweetwaters website- perfect for gift ideas!

    • Scott

      Something like a Presonus Digimax or the M-Audio Octane would be good for this. A cheaper option would be the Behringer ADA8000. All of these are 8 channel preamps the can be connected to the Profire 2626 via ADAT Lightpipe.

  • Scott

    I don’t really have one piece that I’m looking forward too. I really hope to put together a rig for recording drums, so I guess it would be a combination of a Presonus FireStudio and the Shure PG Drum Mic Kit.

    I’m currently in the Preproduction stages of my next EP.

  • Larry Couch

    Oh, I can definitely relate to GAS problems. I really think that now that I have my own computer that can handle the task, I’m really looking forward to buying (or building) a desk to work on. I would like a new looper and vocal harmonizer, but that’s for playing live.
    The main project coming up is to record a demo of various live and studio stuff to market myself. I also have some ideas that need better demos.

  • Bob Sorace

    I can say that after buying a new interface, my G.A.S. has been put to bed for awhile. I still go through the catalogs, but I’ve realized that I really can create some pretty good stuff with what I have. I’m good for now, a ram upgrade would help alot, but that’s gotten so cheap these days I just need to go do it.

    I can’t say I’m excited about it, but I need a power conditioner. however, I will be doing backflips when the power goes out and everything survives a power spike! I really need a bass as well, but since I’ve got access to one, the priority gets pushed back, like today when I bought a new skateboard (picture the wifes eyes rolling!)

    Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on two new songs, and re-mixing some older stuff since HSC has shown me the light! Then I’ll post them on facebook to see how they fare.

  • Will

    Having just spent $430 on Logic 9 I won’t be purchasing any more gear anytime soon… but next on the list is studio monitors!

    A friend and I are all set to record our original music now, so that’s the next project – two acoustics and two vocals. Just need to find a day when we’re both free for a couple of hours…

  • mark b

    i would like a firewire 800 interface. with 8 xlr inputs. i would like to be able to record a full drumset with at least 6 mics.

    i’ll make due with the Lexicon Lambda i have for now. i’ll just find a a way to make drum tracks sound good thru my 6 channel Behringer eurodesk for now.

    • rick

      Do they make a FW800 interface with 8 XLRs? The only FW800 I know of is the Fireface 800 and I think that’s 4 XLRs?

      • There’s not much that I know of in FW800. In case you didn’t know, you can simply get a 400 to 800 cable and run a 400 interface to your 800 port on your computer. That’s what I do with my 003.

        • There still aren’t any interfaces that run at FW800 speed. That includes the Fireface800.

          • mark b

            whoops. i’d seen the 8 pre FW rigs but never really checked closely enough to see that they weren’t FW800! well–whatever works. anyway it’s a future thing so maybe by then they’ll have what i really want! 🙂

            and thanks for the tip, Joe.

    • mark b

      oh yeah–i’m working on vocals for a friend’s tunes–he lives 5 1/2 hours from me–thank zeus for mediafire and skype. also puttering around with some guitar ideas of my own and getting set to work on the annual christmas album. after all i’ve learned here it should be the best one yet! thanks all.

  • Eric

    1) I’m not really lusting after any particular piece of gear right now except perhaps electronic drums
    2) I’m going to create backup vocal parts for my song Let it Go.

    • Hey I wrote a song earlier this year called Let It Go too, small world! 😉 Mine is just an acoustic/vocal…

  • Preshan

    I’m hoping to buy a decent mic in the near future, which I’m quite looking forward to. But I’m doing my best to keep busy working on my album in the meantime, as well as other songs for clients/friends.

  • I’m glad I don’t have G.A.S… unless it’s something I get from a yard sale for $20 or less, like the Oxygen 8 I got last weekend and it was even out of town while visiting my wife’s grandma.

    1. What single piece of gear are you really excited about getting next?

    Not really excited about getting anything yet. I still have to learn about the stuff I have right now. I’ve only skimmed the surface and I know I can milk them even more and get better results.

    2. What creative endeavors are you actively working on right now, rather than waiting until you have that piece of gear? (If you don’t have any, come up with one and tell us what you’re going to do.)

    Working on my next song and excited to apply new techniques I’ve learned from forums and critiques on my first recording (check out my reverbnation page). Once I get good results, I intend to re-visit old mixes and improve them with whatever software, gear and techniques in my current arsenal.

  • Everett Meloy

    G.A.S. Ahh had it but ran out of gas. Just got tired of the newest is never the newest, better to live and learn what you got. I thought getting Logic would give me more options than I could ever wrap my head around would end G.A.S. and it did, well pretty much.
    The Ben Gortmaker pod cast was Brilliant, it was very humbling in what you think you need to record your vision. Bloody well done.
    I would like to get a preamp to mellow out the vocals before DAW.
    I am working on two recording projects, re-recording older songs I’ve written before I got G.A.S. fever and a project with a friend.

  • rick

    Hmmm… I am always waffling on what to buy and not buy. LOL.

    But really, I haven’t suffered from “true” G.A.S. in a while. I define “true” to be when you are seriously considering purchasing a product… I love to research gear and such but have learned much over the years not to pull the trigger until I can find bona fide needs in my rig that warrant something new, which almost never happens these days.

    But a couple weeks ago, I thought I really needed to improve my live rig. I was seriously looking to get a Motif XF. The want was quite strong, a solid week (which is a long time for me to still want something… usually I just say “I don’t really need that… NEXT!”).

    I do have a weekly gig, leading worship at my church. So it wasn’t like “well, for when I get another gig, I really need…”

    But when I started to really evaluate my true “needs” and even the purpose of what I was doing, it became apparent that my current rig (Triton used as a MIDI controller to control Motif Rack) was more than sufficient. I had also briefly thought about getting a Novation 61 SL MkII (I have the 25 SL MkII right now) to replace the Triton because that could double in both the live rig and my studio set up. But for now I have tabled that as well because I want to see what I can do with what I have.

    I am wanting to write more songs, as well as make decent demos. I was in Joe’s first Production Club, but I didn’t really get more than half way through it. I think I will start over, with a more simple goal of getting a decent piano/vocal sound, then adding more instruments in (trying to make a full band arrangement just got to be a bit much for me).

  • The only thing I’ve really got my eyes on at the moment is stuff for my electric guitar rig… a Blackstar HT Studio 20 amp head. I seemed to have tamed most of my G.A.S. as it pertains to studio stuff, just because I know I’m able to do so much more with what I have, and I’ve even found myself more productive with less stuff to noodle with. But my guitar-playing side of me hasn’t gotten that memo yet. 🙂

    Creatively, I’m a bit torn between finishing a bunch of new material I have in progress and working on recording others that are more or less done. I need to worry less about arrangements and having finalized versions and more about just taking a pass on a tune so I have *something* and just keep moving forward.

  • Al

    1.I had a plan to buy a 003 in the near future, because I use the original MBOX right now, and it doesn’t have MIDI in/out, also is not supported after ProTools 8.0.3
    On the other hand I’m afraid if 003 gets old and outdated in a year or two.
    So, I decided to go with Mbox 2, But I realized they are discontinued!
    And new MBOX is really a pissoff, imagine Mbox 2 is arround 450$ but the new one is 713$ (link : http://shop.avid.com/store/category.do?category=pt-mbox )
    My problem is 700somthing, it’s the fact that I have to pay for something that costs almost half of the real price.
    So….I think I have to forget about Avid AI products and go with something that is compatible with ProTools instead.

    2.Finishing unfinished projects with what I have right now.

  • 1. It may be a long time before I get any new gear. Most likely it will be Primacoustic Isoplanes and that purchase is for aesthetic reasons replacing the exposed fiberglass chunks under my monitors.
    A reamp box, load box and a stack of amps is what I’d really like!

    2. I’ve been slowly learning and trying to recreate some songs I like. It’s difficult but a worthwhile exercise.

  • 1. I really want and need the Novation SL MKII. I have no keyboard yet and I know it really tie my creativity.

    2. finish a lasting song succesfully

  • I’m definitely guilty of GAS without having anything to show for it — “I’ll start recording this song I wrote RIGHT AFTER get that preamp and mopads for my monitors” -ugh!

    1. thought the next gear buy might be a DI box, but on second thought the 2 hi-z guitar inputs on my Digimax 96k seem to be doing the job. maybe a patchbay someday, just so I can wire up the interface and have one front rack-facing place to plug stuff in. I’m lazy like that…
    2. I’m working on a bouncy song for 1HC right now, “Sellout Rag” (a yuppie laments his dead-end job)

  • babydufus

    well, i do love new gear and i can usually get a little inspiration of out what ever it is as it’s new and different. my problem is not so much as GAS as it is patience and exposure. what i mean is sometimes i lack the patience to learn how to use it properly or the exposure to someone who’ll spend the time to show me.
    next piece of gear? i really am looking to upgrade my current computer so i can run more tracks without having to freeze so many of them.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    I don’t think I have G.A.S per say but I do love free plugins and I think I put most of them to good use. I would love a Icon desk and a real grand piano etc. but that’s just dreaming so my most exiting future purchase will be an interface eventually.

    Since I have started the new term at collage I was informed that I have to produce an album by the end of the year (june) but I have no ideas at the moment of content. I was thinking soft-synth type of stuff (like daft punk’s emotion song) because I have no guitar/guitarist and I can’t sing.

    Any ideas fellow musicians/engineers?

    • I got the same problem with the vocals. I really can´t sing but I have to when I started with writing songs and recording my first ideas … so I will jump into it to fix my ideas. Later I will ask some vocalists to do it right and sing my stuff.

      If there is a technical possibility that we could share our data (wavs or aiffs), I would help you with the guitars.

      Any ideas of sharing data to work on a song with different DAWs at different places?

      • christopher [chrisw92]

        Its simple just share your project folder to something such as dropbox, as it includes the recorded audio files it would be easy to import the files into another DAW. but any changes within the DAW (Eq, compressor etc.) can’t be used unless you use the same DAW.

        unfortunately I am not allowed to collaborate with anyone on this project but thank you for the offer.

        • Ok. Thanx for your tips … In this direction I had thought, too …

          If you need just some tips and tricks about your guitar-recording you can just ask me …

  • Just jumped into your “31 days…”

    I have now started again with the home recording, after many years I had done no recordings.

    Now, I´m looking forward to my first and new mic I have ordered in the store yesterday (it´s a Rode NT1a). Once the mic is there, I will immediately start to record some of the ideas that surrounded in my head.

    My problem: I’m a guitarist, but no singer. It may sound funny, but it already cost me some courage to sing, cause my voice isn´t good enough in my opinion. So I don´t know if I can record some good sounding vocals. But for writing good songs I need some vocals. So I will probably have to force myself to sing.

  • FamousPatrick

    I think the only thing that I would really like in the near future would be the P-Solo preamp, but I have a lot of work maxing out what I have now first.

    I am working on recording a bunch of family favorites just as a vocal/acoustic guitar type collection, and also finishing the production on my old originals that have just got rough versions at present.

  • 1. M-Audio profire 2626, as my 8 inputs (Fast Track Ultra 8R) don’t leave much room for creative mic positioning while recording drums.

    2. Recording the new album of my band, fullcirclebroken.