The Ultimate Debate: How Many Guitars is Too Many?

We are happy to see you took a little break from scrolling through the Sweetwater and Guitar Center websites. You may also close the eBay and Craigslist tabs and stick around for a few moments because if you are reading this, you may have gone overboard with your guitar accumulation problem and ended up with too many guitars. Are you sure you need all of them?

How many guitars you need is relative to what kind of guitarist you are and what you do in life. For example, guitar collectors and professional players use more guitars than beginners or enthusiasts, and metal guitar players are more prone to buying more equipment than blues guitarists.

In this article, we will learn what is a justifiable guitar purchase and what would be a total waste of money. We will also help you diagnose yourself for G.A.S.!

Do I have too many guitars?

According to my daily guitar forum cycle, many of us guitar players (including myself) have accumulated an exaggerated amount of guitars. Unfortunately, only some of these guitars are used daily, while the others catch rust and dust hanging on the wall or forgotten in some attic or closet. 

It made me think. Do I really need all of these guitars? Maybe the world could benefit more from the existence of these dust catchers if they were in others’ hands? They could serve some guitarless kid. They could go on tours, see the world, meet new faces.

On the other hand, having an army of guitars makes me limitless when it comes to choosing the right sound for something. And like a kid in a toy shop, I love having so many guitars to choose from. The question is, where do I draw the line? These guitars require frequent maintenance, take up a huge amount of space and cost quite a lot of money. However, I did manage to come up with a few more logical reasons for having that extra guitar. Let’s explore them:

A broad sounscape

Guitars are not universal. Each has its musical affiliation, so having a few extra guitars will help you broaden your soundscape. For example, a Stratocaster is great for funk and classic rock, while an ESP packed with a set of EMG pickups will be an excellent guitar for metal.

For professional guitar players, who must be musically limber, having a few guitars to choose from is essential. A typical workday might start with some funk in the afternoon rehearsal and continue with rocking at the evening gig. Every style might require a different type of setup, and having a few guitars to choose from will make this job much simpler.

As a pro, you would need no more than 4-5 guitars to provide your clients with everything they need – one acoustic, one classical, and 2-3 electric guitars. Having one single-coil guitar and one humbucker guitar will cover 99% of the contemporary musical soundscape. 

Different tunings

Another good reason for buying an extra guitar is if you are playing a lot with different tunning. It may surprise you, but a guitar should be set up according to how it is tuned. Drop tunings or any other types of tunning won’t function flawlessly unless the guitar is adjusted accordingly.

Make sure to update your guitar technician about the current tuning you use, your preferred strings’ gauge, and the even brand of the strings you use, as they all will affect the guitar’s setup.

Live shows

If you perform regularly, you might need an extra guitar for several reasons:

  • Never screw up a show – when you are on stage, everything moves fast. Every song is performed only once, and you got only one shot of playing it right. So what will you do if a string breaks in the middle of a song? You don’t have time to replace it before the song ends. You can’t hold everyone off until you put a new string on, not to mention that doing it on stage can be pretty awkward.

    To counter that problem, you got two options. You can put on a fresh set of strings before every show, or you can simply bring a backup guitar. Don’t forget to tune and ready your backup guitar as well. You want to be able to pull it out, plug and play as fast as possible.

  • Guitar cycle – a guitar requires maintenance whether you leave it in the case or play it daily. In addition, live performances, rehearsals, and van trips will further promote the wear and tear of your guitar. It will be much more comfortable having at least two guitars to cycle when one of them is sent to a setup.

  • Broad soundscape – As already mentioned in an earlier section, an extra guitar will help you be more versatile and provide a better service to your clients. You will need at least 2-3 guitars (a single-coil guitar and a humbucker guitar are a must) for a broad enough soundscape fit for professional work.

Guitar for travel, the beach, or the park

Have you ever gone on a vacation and wished you had brought your guitar with you? It certainly happened to me more than once, and it always sucked!

Obviously, you shouldn’t bring your expensive guitars with you when traveling. You won’t always have a safe place to store them. They might suffer weather damage or just get mishandled by the chauffeur or the airport ground crew.

What you need to do is to get a guitar just for traveling. You can either get a cheap classical guitar that you wouldn’t mind if it gets damaged or stolen or invest a few hundred dollars in a good small guitar with a collapsable neck.

Journey Instruments Carbon Fiber Travel Guitar
Traveler EG-1 Custom electric guitar
Travelcaster Deluxe electric guitar

G.A.S – guitar acquisition syndrome

What is G.A.S? 

G.A.S, also known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is a psychological condition in which the subject feels an uncontrolled urge to buy and own more musical equipment as an accelerator and trigger for happiness and inspiration.

For many musicians, It might even result in spending money one does not have or purchasing unnecessary equipment. That urge is directed by the belief that having more stuff will make one a better player.

Signs you may be suffering from G.A.S

  • Browser history – Take a look at your browser history. If it is filled with guitar forums, online music shops, Craigslist, and eBay, you might just be afflicted by G.A.S.
  • Money – How much time has passed since your last purchase, and was it something you needed? Be honest, did you really need it? If you spend money you don’t have on gear you don’t really need, it might be a sign, Sherlock.
  • Dissatisfaction – How do you feel? Are you happy with what you have, or are you in a constant and relentless search for more stuff? Constant dissatisfaction is a strong indicator for G.A.S.
  • Playing vs. purchasing equipment – Take a moment to see how much time you put into practicing guitar. If you spend more time looking at guitars online, you might want to work on your priorities.
  • Guilt – How do you feel after purchasing that new pedal you’ve put your eyes on? Do you feel like you’ve made a calculated and necessary purchase, or do you feel like you were driven by uncontrolled emotion?
  • Let’s count together – Go and count your guitars and pedals. You don’t need anyone else to tell you if you got too much stuff. You’ve probably realized it by now. Go and put some of this equipment up for sale.

Does G.A.S. come from pure consumerism, or does it actually serves a purpose?

It may surprise you, but purchasing a piece of equipment may help you to further commit to your goal. You will try to “justify” your purchase by practicing more and becoming a better player. 

The leading expert on G.A.S. is probably Dr. Jan Herbs, author of the Gear Acquisition Syndrome study, and this is what he has to say about the difference between the materialistic and the spiritual aspects of G.A.S:

“In the main conclusions of our book, we looked at it from various perspectives – especially from a musical development and learning perspective. Developing and progressing as a player is usually accompanied by updates and upgrades in gear. As you progress, you find out what instruments are out there, what gear is out there and what other people have played.”

Wow, buying more stuff can really help us progress musically. Hearing Dr. Herbs speaking like that is certainly uplifting (and it kinda makes me want to reach a few checkout pages), but don’t you think you’ll get better by simply buying more.

Related article:

How many guitars do I really need?

How many guitars you need depends on a few things, how much time you play guitar, what type of guitarist you are, and whether you play guitar for a living. Let’s divide guitarists into three groups and come up with a rough estimation of how many guitars is reasonable to have.

The beginner

If you just started playing guitar and you’re already digging through guitar forums and online shops, looking for the ultimate overdrive pedal or whatever, you got it all wrong, my friend. Don’t buy stuff just to feed your illusion of being something you are not. Acquire the skill first and then buy the guitar you deserve.

Remember, the beginning is always the hardest. Don’t get discouraged. Put in the time, train your ears and hands, and discipline your mind. This is the only way of making genuine progress in music, and this is what sets apart true musicians and wannabes.

Related articles:

Guitar enthusiasts and collectors

We all love guitars, but for some of us, turning that hobby into a profession would be wrong. Not to mention that playing guitar is not so profitable, even if you are a professional. Maybe making money in another way would be more logical in your situation.

It, of course, doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your love for guitars. You can have a home studio with a few guitars, a nice pedal collection, and even a recording station. But where do you draw the line? When do you stop accumulating gear? And how many guitars are enough?

In my opinion, if buying a new guitar is making you feel good and you can withstand it financially, there is no reason not to treat yourself. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and turn from collecting to hoarding.

The professional guitar player

If you are a professional guitar player and you stumble upon a new piece of equipment that would make your life easier, do not hesitate. Go and buy whatever you need without feeling guilty. A carpenter works with saws, a painter needs brushes, and you need guitars, pedals, and amplifiers in order to provide your clients with good service.

Author’s note: As a professional guitarist, I get to perform a lot, around 100-150 shows a year. For every show, I used to carry my heavy Twin Reverb combo amp from my apartment to the car, from the car to the van, and onto the stage. That’s a lot of carrying! I even got myself a little carriage at some point, but it was still exhausting, especially when I had to carry a pedalboard and 2-3 guitars as well.

I recently bought the Iridium amp simulator by Strymon, and I couldn’t be happier. Now I can roam amp-free through every venue without straining a muscle – worth every dollar.

When we talk about guitars specifically, a professional guitar player can manage with just a few guitars. The bare minimum would be one acoustic, one classical, and 2-3 electric guitars, preferably one single-coil guitar, one humbucker guitar, and maybe a Telecaster or a P90 guitar. Of course, having a few more axes in your arsenal wouldn’t hurt anyone. Just make sure you don’t exaggerate, and that you really use them. Otherwise, consider selling a few.

Related article:

Gon Zadok

Gon Zadok is a Tel Aviv-based session player, recording artist, and independent producer for Simply and local artists. He plays various instruments, including guitar, bass, synths, and ukulele. Gon studied music at Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Israel and music production at SAE Institute in Berlin, Germany.

Recent Posts