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Know Your Equipment

Bob Craypoe (also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist, and creator of the Punksters comic strip series.


Throughout the years, as a musician, I have purchased a lot of musical equipment. Some items I have kept right up until this day and other items I sold for the purpose of using the money to buy something else that I thought I needed more. Priorities change over time and sometimes we make bad purchasing decisions and so we get rid of the stuff we don’t use.

One thing is important though, regarding equipment and that is to really understand what you are either purchasing, considering purchasing and the equipment you have. Knowing your equipment can save you money as well as allow you to get the most from it.

Knowing What You Need

There are two categories regarding the purchasing of music equipment. The things you want and the things you need. For example, you need a sound system in order to play out. So you or your band mates will have to purchase one. Or maybe you all will have to pitch in. But you need to know what kind of system you will need.

As and example, I am a solo performer. I mostly sing and play guitar. I also don’t play very large venues. So technically, I don’t need a massive sound system. I use a powered mixer with just two speakers. I only use a few channels on the mixer. So anything beyond what I currently use would be overkill and more expensive.

Now your situation may be considerably different. You may have a full band. You may also have a very loud drummer, which means you are going to have to be able to match him in volume. You may also be wanting to play larger venues that take full bands. As a solo performer, I can play many of the smaller venues and still make good money. As a full band, you will have to play larger venues that can afford a large band in order for you each to be able to make decent money.

So what you need to do is assess what your musical goals are and then do some research on the equipment you think you might need to meet those goals. Making the right purchasing decision will save you money and will make you sound better. So step one is to know what you are looking for and know what you are buying.

Learning How to Use Your Equipment

Once you get that sound system, you need to learn how to get the best sound possible out of it. Or maybe you just purchased a new guitar effects unit. The same would be true regarding that or pretty much any other type of equipment you are using.

It is best that you have band rehearsals using the same equipment you intend to use playing out. That way you will know what settings work best before you even play at a venue. Otherwise, you will be spending a good portion of the night trying to tweak your sound at the gig.

I mostly practice with the use of an acoustic guitar. I play the guitar and sing without the use of a sound system. But I have practiced at home with the use of the sound system I use playing out. Then I wrote down the settings so that I can try to reproduce the sound at the venue when I play the gig.

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I generally have an idea as to the sound I am looking for. As a solo performer, I seek to have the fullest sound possible, due to the fact that I have no one else playing along with me to fill the sound. I play out with an acoustic guitar as well as an electric. The acoustic guitar provides a nice full sound without much tweaking but the electric takes a bit more effort to get a full sound.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

The first thing I do when I get a new piece of equipment is to look over the manual. Sometimes I will download the manual for a piece of equipment before I even buy it. It gives me an idea as to what it is capable of before I make that purchasing decision. Most manufacturers offer PDF manuals for their equipment on their websites, for download.

Since I often view the manuals before I even get the equipment, I usually know something about the capabilities available. So I can basically hit the ground running when I finally do get it. But once I receive the equipment, I spend a good amount of time experimenting with it. That way, I learn about its capabilities as well as its limitations.

Most often, before I make that final purchasing decision, I will watch a lot of demo videos for whatever piece of equipment it is. YouTube is full of demo videos for music equipment. I usually view them before I buy something. But I also view them even afterward because sometimes you can learn something more about the equipment from the way the person demonstrating it is using it. I often view more than one demo video because different people usually demonstrate and emphasize different features in their own videos.

After watching some of the demo videos, I will often try to recreate what they are doing if I find something they are doing to be interesting. So I will experiment with those sort of things. I have seen some pretty good demonstrations online that have provided a bit of inspiration.

How to Save Money by Knowing Your Equipment

Everybody wants to save money. There are a lot of ways to do that, regarding music equipment. You see, if you know your equipment and what it is capable of, you may discover that you don’t need to purchase something because the equipment you already have may be capable of doing it instead. Maybe not as well sometimes but maybe to a satisfactory degree. The experimentation process can help you to make that determination.

Learning what certain pieces of equipment are capable of before you buy it prevents you from purchasing the wrong equipment. You just have to know what you are looking to achieve. That will help you to make wise purchasing decisions.

If You don’t Use It, Sell It

Perhaps you have made some bad purchasing decisions. Or maybe you’ve purchased something new that either does things better or does more. I have had some pieces of equipment laying around not being used anymore. So I have sold them and used the money to buy the things I needed to achieve my various objectives. Sure, I took a loss on those things by selling them used but they were doing me no good by laying around gathering dust.

Priorities change over time. Maybe your musical goals have changed as well. You need the equipment necessary to meet those goals. Keeping old useless junk around won’t do that. It just takes up space and the money you could get by selling it could be used for better things.


So knowing your equipment can save you money and help you achieve certain objectives. You must learn the capabilities by experimenting with the equipment and you will also learn its limitations in the process as well. You will get the most out of the equipment you have and you will be able to achieve a better quality of sound. Read the manuals, experiment, read articles on it and watch demonstration videos online. You will be amazed by some of the ideas and inspiration you will find just by doing all of those things and knowing your equipment.

© 2020 Bob Craypoe

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