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Other than budget or spouse that is. I've been buying instruments for over 40 years and cringe to think of the stuff I have bought and traded away. Saturday I ordered an Ibanez TMB35, a short scale 5 string that is only $250. Yesterday I canceled the order after finding out how hard it is to get decent strings for a short scale 5 string. Thinking back, that was a good thing. I've decided to self impose two rules for purchasing musical instruments.

1. For every item that comes in, two have to go out. If I want a new guitar: bass, electric or acoustic, I have to either sell or give away two. I have too much stuff. I don't need more items, I need more quality.

2. Any item I buy has to be at least as good as my best item of that type. I already have an Ibanez SR1405. Why make such a huge step down in quality? Yes the TMB35 is short scale, but could I really be happy with a $250 bass after playing $1400+ instruments? Just another item to stick in the closet.

There will be exceptions, like guitar pedals. Seriously, you cannot have too many guitar pedals. And they are small. Maybe a limit on how many duplicates. But, you have to keep it real.


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The only self-imposed purchasing rule I ever had was when I was spending most of my time touring, and stuff would get stolen. The rule was that any stolen item had to be replaced with something better.

Nowadays, the main constraint is deciding whether I want something, or need something. If it's need, out comes the credit card. If it's want, I think long and hard about it, and usually pass.

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First rule is that I can't have one like it already. It's not that I'm against upgrading a piece of gear, but if it works and I don't have a need for an upgrade, I restrain myself. It has to justify itself to me for other reasons than it has the latest hardware so it sounds a tiny bit better that what it might replace. Another rule is that I hardly ever sell anything, so I won't buy a $2,000 mic preamp thinking that I'll be able to sell something to cover it. Nope, cash only for new gadgets.

Example: I have an assortment of computer audio interfaces, none newer than about 5 years, the Mackie 1220 compact mixer with a Firewire interface goes back to 2004, the 1200F going back to 2007. I've been wanting a portable decent quality USB interface, one with at least 4 mic inputs and 4 monitor outputs, but then I ask myself:
"Self, what do you use to record in the field right now?" and the answer is almost always:
"A handheld TASCAM DR44WL or the small tabletop Korg MR-1000."
"What do you do with your recordings?"
"Maybe learn a tune or two, then delete the recording. Who wants to listen to all that chaos anyway?"

What about concert recordings? I used to get paid for that, but no longer. So what I have is just fine, and either (the Korg supplemented by a pair of Neumann KM84s (it has no built in mics) or the TASCAM will do just fine, particularly if I'm mixing the concert or there's no sound system.

But sometimes I get curious or supportive, and then there are no rules. I recently bought a Samar AL95. I haven't had occasion to use it yet, and probably won't, at least until I can invite some people over to play. But I like the design (there's some innovative stuff in there), I like the designer, and I want to be sure that he stays in business.

I stopped buying musical instruments years ago. I have more than I play, some are very nice, some are actually valuable. And I love them all.

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Rule #1 is that rules are made to be broken, sometimes.

Rule #2 is to buy at a price that allows me to sell for at least what I paid and hopefully more.
Buying and selling has been an income stream for decades and continues to this day

Rule #3 is don't be a collector. The instruments I keep must serve a purpose. I do have a backup guitar for my main gigger (Franken Strat, backup is a Franken Tele), everything else is something different that creates a different sound. So, nylon string, steel string acoustic, 12 string, 8 string lap steel, semi-hollow electric, hollowbody electric, fretted 4 string bass tuned EADG, fretless 4 string bass tuned BEAD, fretless banjo, etc.
Sometimes I will get something similar if I think it will be an upgrade. A few years back I sold my beloved 1970 Martin D-35 because I stopped playing it when the Rainsong OM1000 arrived. I don't miss it, the Rainsong is a better guitar for me in all respects.

That said, I have one indulgence - an early 60's Silvertone Danelectro Dolphin Nose U-1. This is the guitar I used to stare at in the Sears catalog when I was a kid. I REALLY wanted it and since if was under $40, I knew Mom and Dad could get me one. They never did, 4 kids and a bankruptcy prevent such indulgences. We always ate, had a decent home to live in, but no guitar.
Now I have one, it took some buying and selling to get it and get the missing parts for it (try and find an unbroken Silvertone plastic logo insert for a Dolphin Nose headstock!!!!).
It's really fun to play and sounds great, I suppose I could qualify it as a "different electric guitar" but that isn't really why I got it.

Rule #4 is be flexible. Two examples - One, I had opportunities to obtain a variety of reasonably priced microphones. I got more of them than I needed. Having tried them, I now have 4 that I don't think have earned the right to stay here. Somebody else could use them, so they will go away. Example two, I bought a Presonus Eureka channel strip a while back and having used it for a few things, I realized it is a great bang-for-the-buck unit if you can get a nice one around $200 (and you can!!!!). I have space in my rack and plan to using a second one, it should be here Saturday. Bought it on the Paypal "pay it off in six months with no interest" plan. It will be easy to pay that off in the time frame.

Rule #5 is to learn from your experiences and don't get stuck in a mindset. I've played many, many gigs with tube guitar amps. I've had a few gigs where tubes have ruined my experience, tubes have a life span and they can and will fail. I am in the process of testing my tube stash, when I've got that sussed out, all the tubes and my last 2 tube amps will be sold. I've also gigged a ton with solid state gear and the more recent stuff sounds more than decent. My track record with solid state gear indicates that it is much more reliable. At a gig, the best amp is the one that works. Honestly, I hardly ever use an amp at home.

Current projects include selling a backlog of surplus stuff and trolling the thrift stores for good flips. I am doing pretty well with the backlog and found a good flip this weekend, it's cleaned up and ready to be sold.

I don't have a rule for pedals, I don't have very many and don't plan on getting any more. I don't gig with any of them, possible exception being once in great while I will use my TC Electronics Flashback X4, both as a delay and for modulation.

And, them's the rules!


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My rules:

1) Do I need it or want it. In other words, will it help my career enough to cover its expense, or is it just a desire.

2) Is it worn out enough to warrant a replacement.

I've never been a gear collector. Years ago I bought gear because I wanted it and it collected dust. I decided instruments collecting dust must be sad, they want to be played, it's their purpose in 'life'.

I get joy out of playing the gear, especially gigging. I also enjoy writing aftermarket user styles for Band-in-a-Box. If the gear isn't going to get played and used, I have no use for it.

Often when I replace a piece of gear, if the old one is still usable, I'll donate it to a local organization that gives gear to students.

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I love and cherish my musical toys, but I really torture myself about spending money on things. I don't like to let go of stuff once I have it... so I better really want/need it, because I'll get attached. I've never had a gear purchase I've hated so much that I've thought "I will never use this again." My instinct tends to be much more "that could come in handy for something someday," much to my wife's chagrin -- she's also a musician, but she doesn't bat an eye to say something like "well, if I want a better Tele or a Strat, I can just trade in the Gretsch." In the meantime she's been trying to get us to unload the purple Squier Strat my brother got for Christmas in 2002. It's far and away the worst instrument we own, she has much better guitars, I do not play the guitar, and my brother lives in another state and hasn't played the guitar since, oh, 2004. But it has family history and what if I want a beater instrument to mess around with open tunings on? God, it's a sickness.

So this means that while there are a few basses I've lusted after over the years, my starter Beatle bass knockoff from Musician's Friend and my Mexi Fender Jazz are all I have, because I can do everything I really need to with them. The keyboards have come a lot more fast and furious, but they all do something different -- the Mojo "replaced" the Nord Electro, but now that I have a home studio it's great to have the Electro for playing sampled non-organ sounds, particularly Mellotron. When we get the A100 in the studio, the Mojo will be packed up and ready to go to gigs at all times (like my stage piano has been since we got the acoustic upright). I mostly use my Seaboard for synth stuff these days, but it's not the same thing as my Novation Ultranova, so they both stay. Obviously the Clavinet and the Wurlitzer stay. But as much as I've beat my Privia PX-3 stage piano to hell, and as sexy as a CP88 looks, the former still works, and the latter sounds like a lot of bread right now, so I won't be crossing that bridge until I have a really compelling reason.

Since we're getting the home studio together, that's where most of my gear purchases will be headed in the near future, I think, and I try to think in practical terms there, too -- you can never have too many SM57s, I suppose, but I try to think about different use cases for various condenser mic pairs and the kinds of colors I need for a simple home studio setup. Bang for buck without selling myself short. It's a balancing act. And hey... sometimes I splurge. We do the best we can. wink


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Don't buy something just because it is cheap (OK, sometimes someone will sell something worth more for a cheap price for whatever reason). My dad was in auto parts, my maternal grandfather was a mechanic - learned to buy GOOD tools that last instead of cheap stuff. Do have a little toolkit that was cheap in the bedroom for when I don't want to get the big (and heavy) one out of the car. Good tools will last longer than a lifetime. SnapOn didn't used to sell to the public (although they now do have an on-line store); but there are others with similar quality (like Xcelite in the electronic field, and the Craftsman tools back in the day when they were a Sears product, IDK about currently).

When buying technical products with lots of options, don't buy the "Pinto," (cheapest thing), nor the "Ferrari" (wow but really??). Get something in the upper middle. Products to be used until they need to be replaced should be bought on dollars/life, not just dollars. If the Pinto will need replacing in 2 years, the upper middle one may need replacing in 8 years; and be cheaper per year.

Don't buy "DJ" powered speakers. Low priced, but usually have a pronounced peak at some frequency that means I can't play without going mp mp mp FF mp (get the idea). OTOH, different speakers for different purposes. The big heavy ones only for something that will stay there and I don't have to move it often. As I get older and weaker this becomes more important.

I've already bought enough keyboards (and a grand piano) to WAY exceed my ability to play them. Therefore, I don't NEED another keyboard. And yes, I do have all three sizes of Kurzweil PC3. Probably wouldn't do that again, would be better to wait longer on some of them and get a later model. (But it is nice that I can backup the primary one, load it into the other two, and all three have the same sounds and setups in the same places).

I have way more than the average number of computers, but I do earn money with them. To be fair, I did spend 27 years making money servicing electronic musical products, knew all the dealers I worked with, and accumulated a BUNCH of gear (some of which has been sold). Only sale regret was selling the Gibson RD Artist Bass Guitar, but I got my price, and hands cramp enough I had stopped playing it (but it sounded SOOOOO good).

If a vendor gives me a lot of problems (in any of many ways), put them on the do NOT list. If anyone tele-markets me, NEVER do what they want.

From time to time, instead of selling something, give it to someone who can't afford to buy one.

If one controls their weight to stay about the same size, seldom used quality clothing will be OK for a long time. My tux was bought in 1987, and still fits. When I see an item at a really good price, even if out of season, get it then. Most recent is a genuine leather bomber jacket new that I paid about $30 for. Amazon listed it for $180, and the "advertised retail" was listed at $450. For day to day wear in my work, eBay provides name brand shirts and pants brand new for way under what they listed for (if it doesn't sell, many smaller store owners put stuff on eBay and lower the price till it does sell, to keep from having their local customers feel ripped off by the normal store prices. I've bought new Izod and Old Navy sports shirts for under $10, as an example. Not always a color/patter that I an thrilled with, but good enough to work in and hang around the house.


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Ferengi rule of acquisition number 3: Never spend more for an acquisition than you have to.

But seriously, lately I've been trying to do some moderate Marie Kondo'ing of my space. It pertains to both musical/audio gear and items like furniture, kitchen gadgets, and other everyday things. "Sparking joy" is certainly a reason something would get to stay or that I'd acquire it in the first place, but my principle is more that every item must justify its footprint in terms of workflow, a sonic character I can't live without, etc. In terms of synths, processors, etc., I want to have options but not option anxiety, and I want to feel inspired to create when I walk into my studio. (Especially with regard to video, so I can make more of them faster for these forums.)

I tend to research major purchases carefully, perhaps to a fault. For example, it's time to upgrade my late-2012 iMac, which was a top-end beast of a model at the time (four-core i7, SSD, and 32GB RAM) and I've been obsessively comparing benchmarks on the 2020 refresh — i7 vs i9 etc etc.

I also have a classic car problem, which is this whole other thing, so definitely any car in means a car out. Not that I'll be buying any more anytime soon given Covid (lack of) income.


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
For example, it's time to upgrade my late-2012 iMac, which was a top-end beast of a model at the time (four-core i7, SSD, and 32GB RAM) and I've been obsessively comparing benchmarks on the 2020 refresh — i7 vs i9 etc etc.

I was just about to pull the trigger for a Mac Mini to replace my Snow Leopard-bound dual Xeon. But with ARM coming up, no way. For me, a Mac update is at least two years off; meanwhile I'll use my 2013 MacBook Pro, which can still run Catalina...for what that's worth smile

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
For example, it's time to upgrade my late-2012 iMac, which was a top-end beast of a model at the time (four-core i7, SSD, and 32GB RAM) and I've been obsessively comparing benchmarks on the 2020 refresh — i7 vs i9 etc etc.

I was just about to pull the trigger for a Mac Mini to replace my Snow Leopard-bound dual Xeon. But with ARM coming up, no way. For me, a Mac update is at least two years off; meanwhile I'll use my 2013 MacBook Pro, which can still run Catalina...for what that's worth smile
That was my thought... then my 2014 MacBook Pro bit the dust. Fortunately, I’m in a very lucky position where my university job requires that I have a Mac, and so I get to spec what I want and the department buys it (the one that died belonged to my predecessor before I had it, so I’m actually impressed it lasted as long as it did, since he had some mental health issues and his equipment tended to show signs of, um, physical abuse).

Anyway, souped-up new MacBook and Catalina for me. Won’t get to check out ARM for a couple of years, probably. I love my day job for a lot of reasons, but never having to worry about having to shell out for a computer that can do heavy lifting for audio and video work is huge.


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If I really truly need it, I buy it.

If I can purchase something that works well used, I'll do it.

*Really funny t-shirts and exotic tasty food are exempt from this.

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Originally Posted by KenElevenShadows
*Really funny t-shirts and exotic tasty food are exempt from this.

Yes, used food is not worth the substantial difference in price...


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
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I wrote two articles about this a few years ago to clarify my own thinking. It is pretty much how I spend on things.

1. Evaluating Music Technology for Purchase

2. Long Term Investment

I am the guy who will wait years to get the thing I want rather than suffer through a mediocre thing. Applied over 20 years, I am now surrounded by all nice things in the studio... I would also rather have one exceptional item of a kind than three average variants. For instance, I have one bass guitar - but it is a Pete Skjold 5 string, custom made for me - it was on the dream list for almost a decade. I also place little to no value on vintage things. I prefer the best of what is currently available. That's what people used in the past - the best of what was available. I'd rather lean forward than look back, despite there being excellent things there. It's a personal aesthetic choice, not a statement of universal truth for others. I do have a tendency towards boutique. I will pay for human skill, expertise and aesthetics. I do believe there is a sufficiency in all things. It could be little or lots, but once reached, all desire for more vanishes. I keep thinking I'll buy the hi-hats that complete a set of Paiste cymbals on my drum set , but the Zildjian K's that I got on a crazy clearance sale sound great... The point of sufficiency has been reached, apparently.

But yeah, apparently I've thought about this a lot....

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I have a requirements , project based and goal setting approach.

I can be an early adopter if it makes a solid case. But I see no hurry to jump in.

So it depends what your goals and priorities are. Thats it in a nutshell.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Nowadays, the main constraint is deciding whether I want something, or need something. If it's need, out comes the credit card. If it's want, I think long and hard about it, and usually pass.
This.

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1) It has to have features that aren't already in another piece that I already have. While part of me wants to get a second EB5 or Les Paul bass to defret, I've never bought a duplicate.
2) Preferably American made; Canadian or Korean if necessary; prefer not Chinese. Yeah, call me a jingoist. Minor caveat: used gear might not fall into this, since the overseas company has already been paid, and aren't making anything from me at this point.
3) Preferably not in a black finish. Mostly because I already have enough black guitars already. Prefer a nice color for variety. This is the rule I break the most, as the instrument I want usually just happens to be black (My EB5 and TE202 are the most recent black instruments).

But as Kuru pointed out, rules are made to be broken.


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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by KenElevenShadows
*Really funny t-shirts and exotic tasty food are exempt from this.

Yes, used food is not worth the substantial difference in price...

Good point! Although I'm okay with taking fresh fruit after someone else has purchased it.

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Originally Posted by KenElevenShadows
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by KenElevenShadows
*Really funny t-shirts and exotic tasty food are exempt from this.

Yes, used food is not worth the substantial difference in price...

Good point! Although I'm okay with taking fresh fruit after someone else has purchased it.

Sure, but that is new fruit, not used. laugh


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Another thing that I try to do is honestly address the question "How much time will I spend with this?"


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Some purchases exceed our original intention - we make a usual purchase and get extraordinary value. These two are bulletproof and still working.

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Then there are the "cascading" decisions where one thing leads to another, and you end up ni a rabbit hole - I avoid these.

For example, the lack of latency with a Thunderbolt interface is a real treat. This straddles the need/want line, because it's easy to make an argument that I need the freedom not to have to concern myself with the latency involved in real time playing of VIs and guitars. But then Thunderbolt means a Thunderbolt-capable computer, and that's not exactly Windows' strong suit. So that would imply using the Mac more for music, but my Mac is old, and I would need new cables, and...yeah, USB is fine. smile

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I guess my only (recent) rule is don’t settle for something less than what you really need. The pain of paying for it should be relatively short compared to the time of actually living with it. Too many times I found myself wishing I had bought a better piece than what I actually took home.

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I have very different attitudes towards instruments than gear.

Instruments - it takes me a very long time to really bond with an instrument. Partly because I play a number of instruments and there's only so much time. Partly because I don't own any ultra-top-notch instruments and it just takes longer to produce the sounds I like and develop a good working feel for playing less-than-top-notch quality instruments. It can be done, 'tho - ask the nearest Beatle.

In terms of buying instruments, then, I do look for deals in a particular way - basically the models that do all the basics very well but forego the chrome and leather and gold-plating, etc. At the price point just before the tone is only going to get better marginally by spending more, but before all the sizzle items hike up the price.

Once I buy an instrument, it's a keeper for at least 10-15 years. Even if it's not very good - I'll still work with it to make of it what I can.

Gear - gear tends to come and go for me. Pre-amps, outboard rack units, interfaces, even mics, etc. So here I'm okay with buying used, selling it if I find I'm not using it, trying something else. Probably guitar pedals are the most characteristic item I consider "gear" in this way. Mics stick around longer, but still not forever. However, if I bought top level mics, they would probably stay forever.

So, yeah, If I bought top-notch stuff, things would be different. Things would be easier, too. But I like the rather handmade, homemade DIY approach of making less-than-stellar gear sing. Earn that tone. And find a more personal sound.

But I'd still wouldn't refuse a Two-Rock Bloomfield amp if someone just happened to give me one smile

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My rule of thumb when music was my primary source of income was, it had to pay for itself. Everything I ever bought, did. Lately I've picked up a few things that will never, ever, pay for themselves, but that's a luxury I earned.

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If I had to justify a purchase by it having to pay for itself, I would rarely purchase much of anything.

If I want it and will use it a lot, I'll consider purchasing it.

If I genuinely need it, I'll definitely purchase it.

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no


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Knowledge is not wisdom
Wisdom is not truth
Truth is not beauty
Beauty is not love
Love is not music
Music is the best!"
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More of everything.

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Originally Posted by ksoper
My rule of thumb when music was my primary source of income was, it had to pay for itself.

I understand that mindset, for sure. As a rule of thumb when travelling, I expected that what I would write on the plane with my laptop would pay for the flight. However, "pay for itself" could also mean in terms of time. If buying something saves me time, then it's saving me money, even though there may not be a 100% correlation.

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We have so much stuff generally that I came up with a new rule for any purchase. We need a place to put it. Too often, we buy something cool, bring it home, and look around and go, "uhm…" My music studio is no exception. I don't have room for more 'boards. If I get the Clav I've been wanting, I don't know where it will go yet. If someone gives me an OB-Xa (ha!) it was going on the Wurly, but now my Grandmother is there. idk


The great thing about music is that there's always something to learn. The frustrating thing about music is that there's always something to learn!
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 10,273
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MPN Advisory Board
10k Club
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 10,273
Likes: 175
Originally Posted by Joe Muscara
. If I get the Clav I've been wanting, I don't know where it will go yet.
I thought it went on top of your A 100?


"Information is not knowledge
Knowledge is not wisdom
Wisdom is not truth
Truth is not beauty
Beauty is not love
Love is not music
Music is the best!"
Frank Zappa
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