Dear reader, I don’t know you personally, but if you are even only a bit similar to me, then your home place, your studio, well, wherever you play music… must be a place full of percussion instruments and useless accessories. Am I right?
Tell me, how often have you thought:
- If I only had that cymbal…. I would play jazz much better with my drums!
- If I only had that set of mallets… they would surely change my Bach performances with the marimba!
- If I only had a Musser vibraphone… then my jazz improvisations would certainly make more sense!
- If I only had a new audio interface… the quality of my videos on YouTube would surely improve!
Truth is that 99% of the times you think “if I only had….” you are only trying to find an excuse to loose your time, instead of:
Having better equipment and accessories doesn’t make you a better percussionist, I can tell you. Study, discipline, perseverance: these are the things that make you a better percussionist. (See my first “educational” video – Yes, I’m educating you!)
Let’s talk about it.
I decided to write about this topic after having read a post published some time ago on the great percussion blog percussiondeconstruction.com, by Michael Bettine. The post title was “The Nature of Creativity” – part 3.
Michael explained how having many instruments is not enough to be a musician and the first two sentences used to start his post were eye-opening, from this point of view:
the essence of music tells us that we are the true instruments. It doesn’t matter what equipment we have.
This made me immediately think about all the many “musical objects” – term that include all the musical instruments themselves, drumsticks, music softwares, apps, music scores, music stands etc etc… – I have.
How many of these objects have I ever really used? How many of those I could easily live without? How often I bought copies of the same instrument only because I was driven by the same model made by a different brand?
And above all: how many of the things that take room where I live and study – my home place – are really worth the money I spent to buy them?
THE EVER GREEN MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS INDUSTRY
The industry of “musical objects” is really wide and it grows wider every year. I’m sure that only ten years ago all this choice wouldn’t be possible. While I leaf through the different music magazines, I find brands I had never heard before! Not to mention all the new models coming from the old brands.
Am I old with 27 years? I don’t think so… it’s the musical instruments industry that is “ever green”.
I also remember when, as a child, I used to consume the same magazines full of adverts and I used to dream, before going to bed, that I had this or that drums, cymbals of any sort and all the models of drumsticks existing on Earth.
A dream, or maybe a nightmare under other points of view, which evolved by replacing my “desired objects” according to how my artistic interest was changing and evolving.
Drums and cymbals became marimbas, vibraphones, timpani, latin-american percussion and later midi keyboards, audio interfaces, electronic devices of every possible sort.
All in all, the more my musical interests were growing and expanding, the less money I had in my wallet, as I bought many things I could have easily got along without.
But money stays scrap paper at the end of the day, whereas time, the time I’ve been fooling around with all this nonsense, won’t get back to me.
That is lost forever.
Only a couple of months ago – and I’m a bit ashamed of this – I took a decision. The heads of my jazz drums had to get renewed. In that moment I was playing heads I wasn’t fully satisfied with.
Therefore, I fell into the usual sweet temptations. I remember I spent hours and hours watching videos – reviews on YouTube and reading articles, posts and comments on a number of specialized forums in order to find out which head could be the PERFECT one!
Such a long time lost, so much rubbish I have read and seen. I realized I was behaving like a fool, exactly like when I was 16 and I was dreaming on having double-bass drums, 10 toms, 15 cymbals etc.
Well, I told myself, let’s put a lid on this. So I woke up and decided: I’ll choose a brand and focus on one, maximum two models. And guess what I finally took? Some super common coated Remo Ambassador, which I am actually very happy with.
In short: I decided to apply this “minimalistic” philosophy to the rest of my equipment and musical accessories. To give you an example, I make a small list of brands that I’m using at the minute:
- Marimba and vibraphone: Yamaha;
- Sticks and mallets: Vic Firth;
- Timpani mallets: Knauer;
- Timpani: Ajax – Majestic;
- Skins: Remo;
- Drums: Tama;
- Cymbals: Zildjian;
- Latin american percussion: LP.
This doesn’t mean I spit on the other brands. Mine is only a choice I felt I had to make.
My thought is: am I happy with what I already have? If the answer is yes, when and if I’ll have to replace a piece or buy new similar instruments I will consider the same brand.
This way I can now read in peace the catalog of those and ONLY those brands you can read above.
I finish off with one last comment. In the same post by Michael Bettine there was a link to a video about a small part of one of the (really) SOLO percussionist Fritz Hauser shows. I suggest you to have a look at that because it’s very interesting. You can watch it right here:
As you can see… there is a man with his drum. And this is the show.
Well, but how does this fit with the subject “better equipment vs better musician”?
It fits because if you watch Hauser, you can’t ignore how this percussionist got till the point of making a show, making music, making beauty, with only one instrument. Basic, elementary, and essential. A drum, with a beautiful sound, I recognize.
I’m not saying that we all should throw our marimba, cymbals and all the percussion we have, away. I’m only saying that we should consider more often the essential and avoid the unnecessary.
We should focus on music rather than on our musical equipment.
See you next time!
Question: have you ever thought about focusing only on certain brands when you buy percussion instruments and accessories, while excluding many others in advance? Leave a comment.