8 Artists Share Why They Love Used Gear

There are a lot of reasons to love used and vintage gear. Buying used is a great way to save money, find truly unique pieces of musical history, and not least of all, it's an environmentally friendly way to allocate your gear funds.

In the spirit of Earth Day, we asked 8 artists one simple question:

Why do you love used gear?
Here's what they had to say.

I started buying used 'cause I didn't have a lot of cash when I was starting out. I had $400 I'd saved from house painting, so I couldn't quite afford a Strat, but they had a '65 Jazzmaster for $300, so I went for that. Now, I buy old guitars hoping there's some songs in 'em—that's how I justify it, anyway. I never was drawn to mint condition stuff—rather, I like more beat up stuff, with more vibe, that's maybe a bit cheaper. Refinished is always good.

Photo by Cara Totman
Photo by Cara Totman

I started buying used 'cause I didn't have a lot of cash when I was starting out. I had $400 I'd saved from house painting, so I couldn't quite afford a Strat, but they had a '65 Jazzmaster for $300, so I went for that. Now, I buy old guitars hoping there's some songs in 'em—that's how I justify it, anyway. I never was drawn to mint condition stuff—rather, I like more beat up stuff, with more vibe, that's maybe a bit cheaper. Refinished is always good.

- J Mascis
Photo by Katrina Barber

The first pieces of gear I could afford were secondhand, usually Fender stuff: My ’93 MIJ Jazzmaster (still a ride-or-die), my first DeVille (RIP), and more half-busted pedals than I can count (with most still scattered around my basement studio). Other than a small handful of custom instruments, used is where I start when I need something new-to-me—especially if I can take home something from a friend or family member. My most-treasured item, for example, is my dad's old Farfisa. I’m deeply sentimental, so having pre-loved and recycled things is a no-duh. These days, I'm all about guitars that are kitschy, colorful, maybe even garish… much harder to find what I like in this sleek decade unless I'm designing with someone directly.

I get charmed by new guitars when I walk into guitar shops. I sometimes buy one because they look so pretty and sound so good in the store. All is well until I put the new guitar on stage in the middle of the band, next to my 1952 Esquire and 1954 Telecaster. It's then that I realize that there truly is no comparison. It's also unfair to compare, because vintage instruments have had a long time to come into their own.

I get charmed by new guitars when I walk into guitar centers. I sometimes buy one because they look so pretty and sound so good in the store. All is well until I put the new guitar on stage in the middle of the band, next to my 1952 Esquire and 1954 Telecaster. It's then that I realize that there truly is no comparison. It's also unfair to compare, because vintage instruments have had a long time to come into their own.

A reason why I collect old guitars is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things. Right now, I'm holding a 1960 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty, and as I look down upon it, every part and screw is, to me, a testament to its wonderful intelligent design. Every screw and nut, every knob and switch tip, every wire was made in America. It’s a testament to the fact that when we put our heads around it, we can actually build and design some really cool [stuff].

I love vintage gear because there are so many crazy, weirdo pedals that were created ahead of their time and have never been reissued or cloned. It’s good for the planet and energizing for your creative spirit to pick up an old pedal and breathe new life into it.

I love vintage gear because there are so many crazy weirdo pedals that were created ahead of their time and have never been reissued or cloned. It’s good for the planet and energizing for your creative spirit to pick up an old pedal and breathe new life into it.

There's something magical about an instrument that has been "broken in." Growing up playing violin in orchestras, I always preferred the warmer tone of the violins that have had the wood shaped by the environment and use. Same with pianos and acoustic guitars—there's just so much character. You can save money buying secondhand, and it also feels good knowing you're giving somebody else's discarded gear new life instead. I think that's so special!

Old gear has a story. To me, it’s always about the discourse with it rather than the feature set it presents. The fact that older electronic instruments tend to accumulate instability is a very welcome side effect in my way of making music.

Old gear has a story. To me, it’s always about the discourse with it rather than the feature set it presents. The fact that older electronic instruments tend to accumulate instability is a very welcome side effect in my way of making music.

Photo by Amy Harris

I find that certain vintage guitars, amps, microphones, et cetera are better than some built today. I’m not saying all are better, because I buy brand-new pieces too, but it’s very hard to beat a late-'50/'60s guitar or amp.

comments powered by Disqus