How to Search the Internet – Every purchase I make I try to research first. Now, I’m not talking about spending days or weeks struggling over a purchase (which I feel is extremely counterproductive) but I at least need to see which retailers are offering a product and at what price. This is fairly easily accomplished by a simple search for a product name in Google or Yahoo. But what about finding product reviews? A secondary search including the name of the product and the term “review” can often turn up some valuable information you might have otherwise missed.
How to Interpret a Review – Reviews can be double edged swords. On the one hand, you have consumer reviews which are somewhat anonymous in nature and you never know the experience or agenda the reviewer might have. On the other, professional reviews whose opinions may be slightly influenced by advertising dollars. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Most of the glowing consumer reviews are written by people with a small frame of reference. Of course their new gear sounds fantastic because they have nothing else to compare it to! I would always look for the negative points in consumer reviews as these tend to be more honest. In pro reviews, you really must interpret terms. Warm might be a nice way to describe dull and articulate might mean brittle. Balancing the information from both sources is important.
When to Send Bad Gear Back – I can’t count the number of times I’ve read impressions from people who point out 50 flaws on a guitar and the money they spent trying to fix them. You really have to do your best to ignore the new toy excitement and examine the build quality and playability objectively. While pickups and electronics can be easily and cheaply replaced, a poorly aligned bridge or neck pocket are money pits. Additionally, make sure you only support internet retailers who have a detailed return policy. Many nowadays will even refund return shipping. If you receive a dog of a guitar, send it back and ask for a new one or your money back!
When Not to Mess with a Good Thing – I must admit I’m a tweakaholic always tinkering with guitars. But there have been more than a few occasions when an “upgrade” was really more of a side grade. A single guitar can’t do it all. Strats do their thing well and LPs do their thing well. But a Strat won’t ever sound exactly like an LP and vice versa. With the money you spent experimenting and trying to mod that Strat, you probably could’ve bought an LP styled guitar to fill that tonal void.
When To Turn Off the Computer – In the words of Frank Zappa, “Shut up and play yer guitar!” Refocus all that energy you spend drooling over gear and chatting on discussion boards every day and practice. You’d be surprised and how much better your tone gets by putting in an extra 30 minutes to an hour every day practicing.