You might like this.

Or you might hate it.

My buddy Kevin told me about a study done at Columbia University a few years ago called When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?

Here’s a summary of what they found:

Current psychological theory and research affirm the positive affective and motivational consequences of having personal choice. These findings have led to the popular notion that the more choice, the better-that the human ability to manage, and the human desire for, choice is unlimited. Findings from 3 experimental studies starkly challenge this implicit assumption that having more choices is necessarily more intrinsically motivating than having fewer. These experiments, which were conducted in both field and laboratory settings, show that people are more likely to purchase gourmet jams or chocolates or to undertake optional class essay assignments when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than a more extensive array of 24 or 30 choices. Moreover, participants actually reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections and wrote better essays when their original set of options had been limited. Implications for future research are discussed.

As Kevin said, “Basically, it blows the notion out of the water that more choices equal better performance. It actually shows the OPPOSITE.”

This goes hand-in-hand with what I’ve told you all along. More gear won’t make you better. Now it looks like it might actually make you WORSE.

Next time you wish you had more mics, preamps, plugins, etc. to choose from, remember — mo’ choices, mo’ problems.

“But Joe, how will I survive with only stock plugins?” you may ask.

Simple. Get REALLY good at making amazing mixes with ’em.

BAM. Threat neutralized.

Don’t just invest in gear. Invest in yourself.

You can start by becoming a VIP member. Monthly training sessions and exclusive discounts on my other products, all designed to make YOU better…with the gear you ALREADY OWN.

Sign up here:

P.S. I’m interviewing the Ronan Chris Murphy for VIP members next month. You’re gonna want to be in on that.

13 Responses to “Finally – Scientific Proof That You Don’t Need More Gear”

  1. Rob

    For around $1,000 I built a complete digital studio via ebay, including ProjectMix and ProTools filled with virtual sounds and mixing plug ins, plus a load of superior drummer plug ins, mics, passive monitors and a solid studio amplifier. I spend $100 total for a website for 3 years with full embedded audio and video I got for free online. To publish songs you now have soundcloud, myspace, mp3unsigned, facebook, etc, all for free. Still learning the products so the mixes arent great yet, its coming. However, in my closet, I have well over $10,000 in worthless ADAT machines, racks of processors, DATs, old Korg T keyboards, etc, etc.

    Point is in my little cheap $1,000 rig I have every thing I really need to create my own Led Zepplin 4, so unlike in the past, I have no more excuses, just got to put in the hard work and quit needing that one more thing.

  2. Kevin Blaine

    You know, it’s funny. I totally felt convicted of this, but not with GAS. I feel like this applies more for how much I actually record and pre-production. I am paralyzingly fearful of making an irreversible decision while recording that I can’t go back and fix/change/delete/mute later. I usually have far too many takes, tracks, plugins, and OPTIONS for my own good, and it leaves me with unfinished projects or projects that are years in the making. All because I have too much choice. I literally will “Well, what if….” an entire night away and end up not being productive in the slightest. Consequently, I’m less happy because I don’t have a finished product I’m proud of — either because I never finished the product to begin with OR I listen to the “finished” product with waivering ears: “Oh man, I SHOULD have done this. Why didn’t I do that? This mix is terrible!” And so starts the cycle again. Great post. Great study. Another great reason to spend time in pre-pro, make decisions, and stick with them.

    • Michael


      When I first got REAPER and became familiar with computer based recording I discovered a world of free plugins; there are some terrific ones out there and of course most are just OK.

      I spent hours and hours downloading, installing and trying each one. Eventually I got overwhelmed with what I could choose from. Then a though occurred: When I had hardware outboard gear how many of each did I have?

      Well, I couldn’t afford racks and racks of outboard gear like the pro studios; mine is just a home studio. So like most of us I had one of each outboard unit – compressor, eq, limiter, reverb, etc.

      I rethought my computer setup and decided to reduce plugins to a minimum, and got them down to my most favorite two of each type. I never use or need more than this in any recording project.

      Yeah, sometimes I read about a new nifty plugin and it’s difficult to pass it up, but I’d rather be working on a project than spending time checking out a new (software) gadget.

    • Joe Gilder

      He’s right, room acoustics are important. But I don’t quite follow how studio monitors will help with room acoustics. He mentions in passing at the end that you need to think about room acoustics and dampening reflections, but doesn’t really talk about HOW. Studio monitors won’t make recording better, you know?

  3. Michael Mucklow

    “Get REALLY good at making amazing mixes with ‘em.” – Absolutely true!

    Due to very tough financial conditions a couple of years ago I had to sell my really nice recording setup (Roland VS unit and outboard FX) and since then reinvest in mostly used lower end stuff.

    My first purchase was REAPER for $60.00, which I installed on a four year old HP laptop. My monitors – Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones – which I had left over and still use for final mixes. This is all the gear I had to finish an album I was in the middle of mixing when I sold the better gear.

    So I finished mixing that album using only the stock plugins that come with REAPER, plus one freebie mastering plugin I found at KVR; listening on my cans and a set of Klipsch computer speakers. That’s it.

    In 2011 I received a Best Producer NAMMY (Native American Music Award) nomination for this same album [released in 2010]. I think most people would not believe me if I told them what my recording/mixing/mastering setup was.

    Since then I’ve recorded/mixed/mastered two more albums with this same setup, except that I’ve added M-Audio AV40 monitors and a few more free plugins. We’ll see if these new releases garner any awards this year. I’m also currently mixing a new album due out this May – again – using this same setup, but I’ve been able to purchase the T-Racks3 plugin which I’m making good use of.

    I too was once a gear hog-snob…more was better…and better gear would make me a better mix engineer. But having opportunity to start over with next-to-nothing and hand-me-downs allowed me to develop a better skill, which is not limited by gear.

    Oh, the album mentioned above is Ancient Elements by Rushingwind & Mucklow which you listen to at

    Happy Mixing!

  4. Alex Grasley

    Thanks for the post Joe! That really helps keep things in perspective for someone who is constantly, and I mean constantly thinking about the next best gear purchase or upgrade. Now, granted, it hasn’t stopped me from making music, so you might say I have “high functioning GAS”, but its good to change my perspective and think a lot more about how I’m going to track the drums for my client’s album (they have two drummers and during several songs they play at the same time….:) )

  5. Eric Jean

    This is great Joe! More support for the idea that limiting one’s choices (e.g., plugins) can help to free one up to focus on the creative vision of the song or project.



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