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Randomization vs Gear Aquisition Syndrome

This past year in preparation for moving to a new place, I cleaned up some of the clutter I had accumulated in my life.  Among these things – old clothes, broken things that I never fixed and things in the back of the closet that I hadn’t touched for years.  However, I retained most of the music equipment, instruments, and music software.

I decided to hold onto these things because I wanted to hold onto the idea of recording music.  I wanted to hold onto all the beautiful combinations of instruments where I can forge out my musical identity unhindered and unafraid.  This presented a few problems, as we shall see.

  • Gear Aquisition Syndrome – this may mean different things to different people.  As of this moment for me, this phrase represents an avoidance technique whereby someone substitutes the purchase of an item for actually using it.  When the time comes to use the item, you magically find something else to buy.  I licked this problem years ago.  I stopped buying things but still retained almost everything I purchased.  I even selected a few items to either trash or share with my friends.  This brings us to our next problem…
  • Too Many Choices – yet another avoidance technique in which we simply overwhelm ourselves from ever getting out of the startup gate.  It seems so seductive to think that things will be easier when you have all these choices.  Years ago, I bought my very first guitar multi-effects unit and instantly I had very convenient access to many sounds.  Prior to that, I had a drawerful of pedals.  Something I noticed is that right around that time, my recording activity dropped off.  It was as if I was stunned.  It only got worse once I got the money to buy more multi-effects, more pedals, more instruments and then DAWs (96 tracks?  No problem!) and software.  Literally thousands of choices – which did not translate to thousands of songs.
  • These two things seem to feed each other.  I’d get paralyzed by the amount of choices I had and would buy something new and be even more paralyzed.  Crazy!

At some point a few years ago, I decided to set into motion some constraints.  Off the top of my head, I’d pull out two guitars and a bass and a few pedals (or VSTs) and leave everything else in closets or drawers.  I’d stick to the same equipment until I got bored with what I was doing and then call it a “project.”  I released a few more mini-albums.  This worked better but still presented some issues.  For one, I still knew that I had all that stuff in the closet and I was forgetting that some of it was even there.  Secondly, I still faced too many choices in all the options we have for writing songs – keys, number of verses, my backlog of lyrical and musical sketches that I have never stopped doing.

Around the same time, I started getting into GTD – Getting Things Done by David Allen.  It’s a system that helps you organize things into lists and helps you go back to those lists and be true to them.  It worked wonders at my job and with recent medical issues.  So I started putting musical activities – mostly tutorials and books –  into my lists.  I did OK with this for a while – it worked great for lyrics (I’d schedule object writing or writing prompts for each night) and remixing things in the can.  I was writing a set of lyrics every day earlier in 2016.  Lots of backlog.   Lots of archival releases.  Little in terms of new finished material.  What I found was that learning just for the sake of learning – without a real goal – can also be a bit boring.

Here’s what I am embarking on now –

  • Create lists for many if not all aspects of a song – bass sound choices, how many guitars, what key, song length, which midi controller…so many.  I came up with over 20 lists.
  • Weight the lists accordingly – so for instance, I have a great Aria bass, a decent Epiphone bass and some fretless and multi-stringed ones that I have limited facility on.  I also like synth bass.  So created a list that had ten occurrences of Aria, 6 of Epi, 3 synths and 1 of the rest.  I also included a line for 2 bass sounds and 3 bass sounds.
  • Plug these lists into
  • Schedule any learning, reading or recording time based on what I have randomized
  • Important list I have is “maximum tracks” – this should help me finish.

I committed to writing one song by the end of January.  Comment and wish me luck, please!



By Jimmy Lem

Things in my head that make it to my fingers.

For more Jimmy Lem -

4 replies on “Randomization vs Gear Aquisition Syndrome”

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