When to upgrade your equipment.

When it’s time to upgrade your musical equipment, are you the person that wait’s until your ability warrants the purchasing of an upgrade or do you go out and buy something high end in the hope that your music ability will grow into your purchase and make it a worthwhile investment?

Speaking from experience as a non-financially equipped musician, this can often be a tough question to answer, as money tends to dictate when and how much one can spend.

Though I have been a song writer/musician for the past 25+ years, the one area that gets neglected in my music life is upgrading my equipment. For various reasons, this part of my life has “so to speak” been left behind, [way behind]. At this stage, I am still using a very old pre XP P.C. [year 2000 with a ME O.P system on it], to record with. It was a throw away P.C, so I grabbed it and I find it records with virtually no noise compared to more recent P.C’S I have recorded on. [Good for now].

The amps I have used as well have been practice amps costing from $40 upto a lofty $100. Sound-wise, they are crappy. Again the purchasing of a quality amp wasn’t justifiable compared to what I was doing musically, so I continually resisted the temptation to buy a quality amp.

So, the question that I continually had to ask myself is “when is it time to update these tired old pieces of equipment”? My normal response to this is if it’s not broken and it’s doing the job you require it to do, then leave it for now and save the money for something else, that is more urgent. [Boring, I know, but having electricity on at home was kind’ve important]

Lately, I have been looking at buying for the first time, a mixing desk. I have looked at the bottom end of the scale up to $1000+ for this piece of equipment. I eventually settled on a 6 input Ashton mxl 6 mixer that cost me $35.

Not having much experience with this type equipment before, I felt more comfortable buying at the lower end of the price market and working my way up as I learn and understand how to use it.

The good thing about this decision was the seller also had an electric drum kit he was selling. It was a mid range Yamaha kit. Original selling price was $2000+. Admittingly it was approximately 8/9 years old, but he did throw in two extra kick pedals, one being a double kick and an amp and speakers to run it through. I bought that for $385, which included the mixer.

At this stage with our band “Mould” starting to make some movement in the live [homeshow] performance area, this I feel is the right time to make a few upgrades in my equipment department. The last thing you want to do when you perform live is to be under equipped for your show. In the last six weeks I have added to my equipment collection, an electric drum kit $350, a 6-channel mixer $35, an Ashton 80 watt guitar amp $140 and two days ago I also added a Roland 80 watt cube guitar amp $250, which goes along with two other amps $215 for the two I bought 3 months ago, with one cracking up the other week. [I am currently still using my very old P.C. for our home recordings].


Collectively I have spent about $1000 in the last 3 months on upgrading my music equipment [be-it on second hand equipment], but hopefully, there will be still plenty of life left in these instruments.

For myself these days, I’m not the type of person that will go and buy something brand new, even for my music. I still prefer to look for what I want and wait for that bargain to come along. It doesn’t hurt as much if what you buy isn’t quite what you expect it to be and you have only paid a fraction of the price. But that’s what works for me and that’s the best advice I can give, “do it your own way with what makes upgrading your equipment comfortable for you”.

If you like brand new, out of the box stuff and can afford it, then by all means go and get it and use it to it’s fullest capacity, otherwise, sit on what you have and when the time is right and a good opportunity comes along, then grab and use it also, to it’s fullest capacity.

Cheers and happy upgrading

Hi folks, my name is Darryl. By day I work as a cleaner/labourer, Currently recording a home produced LP with a friend. I have become a self taught multi instrumentalist, singer songwriter over a 25 year period. It didn't happen over night, but it did happen.

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Posted in composing, how to write a song, music, original music, songs, songwriting
4 comments on “When to upgrade your equipment.
  1. A great post – and something I’m relating to very much. GAS is a real sickness! I myself build a lot of my own equipment, as I can’t justify spending so much money on things that I’m not yet proficient in. My guitar is 25 years old and cost me my first ever weeks wages. I wouldn’t trade that in for anything in the world. My USB interface is second or third hand and my drum kit is largely home made or modified.

    If I had the money, I’m not sure I would do it any differently. My cheap quarter of a century old guitar has a better action than any Ibanez I’ve picked up and played. My USB interface is basic, but I can put down recordings without a hint of background noise. My drumkit is a work in progress, but so is my drumming!

    • darrylsteele says:

      heh Terriblemusician, nice to hear from you again. Glad you liked the post. I think there are plenty of lessons to be learnt in the spending of money on one’s interest/hobbie. You have done very well with your spending as well. I always think the journey is far more important than the pot of gold that isn’t always there.

      I’v seen the big expensive purchases on equipment with the expectations far exceeding the ability to justify the outlay. Unfortunately a $5000 P.A doesn’t look good setup to a crappy tv, but that’s what happens some times and if you can avoid the fantasy and except the reality of yourself, then avoiding these types of situations becomes more probable.

      Spending my hard earned cash on hell expensive equipment with no probable financial return for my musical effort over the years, just couldn’t be justified [thank god]. But my tight ass methods of keeping a lid on my instrument spending has, I beleave, kept my foot in the game and allowed me to continue with my passion without that heavy burden of justifying a high end purchase.

      As I wrote in my post, after 25+ years of playing my music to myself and a few willing friends, I have put myself in a position where I can justify some expenditure on my interest, but again I can only justify 2nd hand equipment [and bargains at that] as we are [new band I’m in “Mould”] still very average at what we do and we are only planning on playing to some friends in a homeshow environment. But these recent purchases have taken our band music to a whole new level sound wise and increased the enthusiasm to play better.

      When thinking about buying new equipment, patience is the key here and being honest with yourself as to where you really are in your musical journey.

      If I had the money, I am sure I would buy brand new, but that’s not to say I would be happier than what I am these days when hunting down a bargain and getting great value for money.

      Thanks for your post, hope to hear from you again. Darryl D-Structor

  2. Amen, dude! I, too, live in the cash-strapped end of musical production. These days, though, it’s not nearly so much of a concern. A lot of my favorite records were made in the early/mid 90s in small studios using ADATs. Just 44.1/16 with workhorse mics, and sound great. I think alot of musicians these days go for the approach you mention, where they just hope they’ll musically “grow into” an expensive collection of gear, and in doing so, can’t see the forest for the trees. Much better IMO to maximize your skill on the gear you have before getting the urge to upgrade.

    • darrylsteele says:

      Fully agree with you the bitter roost [interesting name] in maximizing ones skills with what you have in front of you before an upgrade.

      I have always done the cheap non spending version of instrument spending, except my electric guitar which was custom made costing me $1100 with a trade in on my old onyx, that was 25 years ago and I still use it today, but what came with that was a fear that my recordings where never up to standard compared to radio music, and they weren’t, and still aren’t, but I read an article about lo-fi music and it’s place in the music pea soup out there on the internet.

      I realised my crappy singing, crappy guitar playing and crappy recordings and crappy everything had a place out there in the music world even if I may occupy the bottom of the music barrel [maybe even under the barrel], and all of a sudden I felt very comfortable with the equipment I have been using from day dot without any significant upgrades. Now I go all out to use what ever resources I can get my hands on within “expenditure” reason to get my music out there and hopefully “through what I am doing” anyone else in the same situation to do the same.

      I will continue to look for the best bargains I can find for my music, but the secret to this I believe is research and some common sense. No point buying something even if its dirt cheap unless you have a plan to use it. Otherwise it may end up as a bookend.

      Cheers mate, thanks for your response. Darryl D-Structor

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