September 28, 2020

Music is a funny business. It can be one of the toughest ways to make money, yet instruments, PA gear, and recording equipment can be notoriously expensive. Plus, it seems the amount of gear you need to put together a great record or an awesome show gets to be more and more every year.

Go into a typical commercial or home recording studio or band rehearsal space, and you’re liable to lay eyes on thousands upon thousands of dollars of value.

But what if you don’t have the scratch to accumulate that much gear? You’ll have to make the most of what you've got. It turns out this is very doable.

Here are a few tips for making the most out of not much gear.

  • Maintenance – Sometimes gear piles up because other gear isn’t working well – for example headphones and mic cables. Instead of making purchases to solve problems, make sure your current gear is well maintained.
  • Know your instrument – Instruments can take up a lot of space and budget, but the more proficient you are with yours, the less you’ll have to buy new stuff to find new sounds. This includes everything from keyboards to guitars to drums, and especially software like DAWs and plugins. Not only should you take time out to fully explore the capabilities of your instruments, you should also regularly take lessons. This will help you discover new sounds and avenues you wouldn’t have thought of.
  • Focus – Being efficient and organized means you may not have to carry ten mic cables to your gig when four will do the trick or fill your closet with fifteen different mics when you only use five. The key here is deciding what your studio will do or what your live act will be and sticking to only the gear you need for that purpose – rather than trying to generalize and be ready for everything.
  • Get creative – Lots of gear can be used in super creative ways, allowing you to do a lot with very little. For example, you can make a whole record using just an acoustic guitar. It can serve as the rhythm section, extra harmonizer, lead track, and any number of musical roles.
  • Double duty – If you have a simple acoustic set up utilizing a powered speaker like Carvin Audio’s QX15A and you find yourself on a bigger stage in need of a monitor, guess what? The QX15A will serve in that capacity as well. This goes back to “know your instrument” – being well versed in everything your gear can do will help you avoid redundant purchases.

  • Play favorites – If you don’t have the luxury of keeping 12 guitars around, pick the favorite and milk it for everything it’s worth. Similarly, with synthesizers – the vast majority of sounds are available as soft synths, so you can stick with one main controller. Make it the one that has the best action.
  • Borrow – Sometimes you need something you don’t have, but you only need it once. You don’t really need to buy it if you’re only going to use it once. Instead, borrow it or rent it. You’ll be glad you saved the money and space.

There’s no getting around equipment in music – you’ll need some. And it’s ok, if you have the money and the room, to load yourself up with fancy toys and play to your heart’s content. But if you don’t, you can still make a ton of awesome music, and sometimes working around a limitation or two can cause great creativity.

So, don’t be afraid to do whatever you can with whatever you got!

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