About two weeks ago, I loaned out Sara (my PG-20CE) to a friend of mine for a gig he had coming up. A good part of my evening was spent re-oiling the fretboard because it’s still super dry, re-positioning the nut, cleaning up the strings, tuning it back up, making sure it has a fresh 9V to power the Isys+ pickup and wiped the hardcase clean.
I like working maintenance on my guitars and if I could, I would do it more frequently. While I find it relaxing and in a sense therapeutic, that only goes as far as preparing the guitar. In most cases, I am quite averse having to loan out or have people borrow my gear.
Tonight, I want to talk about this and what I think should be good etiquette when it comes to gear.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of people who’re into borrowing gear. Be it for a gig, for practice – almost every imaginable reason that you can think of, it had been laid down in the name of borrowing gear. While this isn’t exactly a bad thing every time, there are times that it gets too annoying to hear. The guy who borrowed my acoustic tonight had been constantly borrowing it for his gigs. Now of course, he’s a good friend, an even better guitar player and since he is more pro than me (in the sense that he’s paid to do this and I’m not) I’d always felt that I should lend a hand whenever I am able. But this becomes too cumbersome at times, both for him and for myself.
I think this is now fairly common with musicians as far as borrowing goes. Sometimes, our gear breaks down in the middle of a gig and we’re forced to borrow from someone. That happens to everyone, although thankfully it hasn’t happened to me – yet. In the few times that technical difficulties arise, I am fortunate enough to have my wits with my friends and cooperative techs helping me while I am onstage. It’s not like I can get off the stage mid song just because I have to fix something.
Of course I dread the day that a piece of my gear (like a pedal or more horrifyingly, my power supply) gets busted mid set that I have to borrow from someone. Although I have done my fair share of borrowing – I think I’d gone on a gig that I’d left a cable and had to ask a favor from someone to borrow theirs. During my younger years, I borrowed stuff like effects pedals and other things. One thing I never really borrow is the actual instrument, although I have gone that route as well.
But friends, this shouldn’t always be so. While I believe that many people are kind and generous, and should always be so towards others, I also believe we have to put some of the work in as well. In my part, I should’ve been more responsible in checking my gear and making sure everything is packed in the car before I even left the house. However, it had become a fairly pervasive attitude to just depend on others to borrow stuff.
I’d gone on numerous gigs wherein band members (mostly the ones we do not know personally) would show up at a venue and then someone – usually a bassist or a guitarist, would come up to random people to borrow cables, effects, straps and in some cases, the guitar itself. These bands are usually kids, I think in highschool (when highschool was actually a thing here) or college or something. Fairly understandable given that instruments can’t quite be had on a fixed allowance. However…
I think this is unacceptable as a long term habit.
How the hell can one be a musician, be in a band, playing gigs and not have their own gear? I just don’t understand it.
I place part of the blame with local rehearsal studios that loan out various pieces of gear for those who do not have their own. It’s a good business model in a sense so that anyone who wants to walk in can tinker and play some, albeit with mostly crappy rental gear. I think these kids (they mostly are, and I’ll cover that in a bit) simply came together to learn a few songs while not having their own stuff, secure in the knowledge that the rehearsal space will lend them the gear they need. They are following Dave Grohl’s famous advice to go out and play and suck and all that.
They go to find gigs and sign up without a single piece of gear on them (thankfully, the good lot are able to at least shell out a pick) and go “bahala na” (come what may) and borrow from random strangers. Usually, these kids would hound you after a set going “good job!” or “nice set!” and then lay out their predicament (this is getting scarce nowadays since etiquette had become a rarity) and borrow. Some are courteous even if turned away, yet some have the gall of getting mad if not allowed with their request.
But children, listen to me – how can you be a musician without an instrument? Effects, I can kind of understand because they’re expensive. Cables and straps, sure you could be careless enough to leave them at home. But a goddamn guitar? A goddamn set of cymbals or even frickin sticks?
You can never be a musician without your own instrument. Of course you can learn by borrowing an instrument, which is a very common practice among those starting out. As time goes on though, it is but natural that one acquires his / her own gear to work with and improve on. There’s simply no going around it since technical and mechanical skill in music requires a lot of time invested in terms of learning and actual practice.
You could have the requisite skills, you could have the chops to outshred everyone. But if you don’t have your own guitar to shred with, you may as well be playing air guitar solos while the crown looks on.
So children, invest in your gear. If you don’t have your own gear, don’t go out getting gigs. You don’t have a place in that venue, and as a performer if you don’t have anything to perform with and you’d best be in your bedroom not getting in the way of anyone. People may say that this sounds all harsh and hard but it’s the damn truth.
On a more personal note, I very rarely borrow stuff. When I was younger and had no income, yeah I was into borrowing but only to try things out. I remember clearly the times that I borrowed a good friend’s Korg AX1500G (when it was still new so you guess when this was) just so I can experience it, and record a song with it. I only borrowed it for a night and after I was done with it, I made sure to clean it up and brought it right back to the guy. It just happened to be the case that that friend of mine is sort of well to do and his folks give him the stuff he needs. Sure, not everyone (myself included) is not that lucky. However, I was lucky enough in the sense that my old man owned an electric guitar and bass that I was able to learn with. After some years of working with his stuff, I was finally able to get my own stuff with my own money and the rest is history.
If you’re borrowing stuff, take good care of it and make sure to return it promptly. One of the reasons I do not readily allow people to borrow my gear (unless I very personally know them) is because I’m afraid my gear will come back and either be damaged or have some issues that were not present when I loaned it out. See, I’m very particular in that manner – I like my gear to be in tiptop shape and be in as good a condition, aesthetically, as possible. I mean yeah, I get the rage with relic stuff and I’m currently having my Kramer Striker go that route, but for most other pieces of gear, I want them spic and span.
The other reason I don’t like having people borrow my stuff is that as a musician, I feel like my instrument is a very personal piece of property. Not a lot of people think it to be so, especially for the casual musicians. But for those who’re more seriously into it, instruments are almost like family.
Keep all this in mind the next time you want to borrow an instrument or a piece of gear from someone.