There Is No ‘Better,’ Just ‘Different’

This weekend has seen the NAMM show happening in California. And all the drum/cymbal/percussion companies are showing off their new wares. So this is a good time to talk about all the instruments we use. There is a prevailing sort of relationship with our gear where we often say one thing is better than another. “Pearl drums are better than Ludwig,” or, “Sabian is better than Zildjian,” etc. Now all of this sort of thinking is fueled by the glossy drum magazines and the ads in them proclaiming gear that is bigger, better, best. But that's a fallacy we buy into.

What is the best gear for you?

Ponder this for the moment: what is the best gear for you? There is no one answer to this. The answer for you might be: the least expensive, the loudest, the shiniest, the sturdiest, the prettiest, the most sensitive, etc. We each have different needs. What I need in a drum or cymbal is probably different than what you need. 

My criteria for a drum is that it is round, and when I put my choice of head on it that I can get the sound I need/want. My criteria for a cymbal is that it produces the sound I need for the music I am doing. Nowhere do I look at who makes it or where it comes from. That is immaterial as far as the end result—the music. Does the music care if I am playing Pearl, or TAMA, or Ludwig, or Craviatto drums? Not in the least. The music, and listeners, only care that I am producing the right sound, at the right time, for the music that is being played.

This is not to say that I don't prefer some brands over others. I have found some brands that tend to produce, or allow me to easily produce, the sounds I want more than others. There are some drums that I prefer the features, like throw offs, hardware, etc. to other brands, but I never prefer something at the sacrifice of the sound. And just because one thing works well for me doesn't mean that it will be right for you. 

We all have different needs and different expectations.
That is why artist endorsements, and the ads/publicity around them are a double edged sword: they can possibly point the way to a sound you can use, but they can't be taken at face value—“I need this because (famous drummer) plays them!” In buying into that myth you do both yourself, and the music, a disservice. This gets particularly sticky when an artist you admire, and perhaps play the same gear as, switches endorsements. Does that invalidate your choice to play the gear you have? Do you now dump things and procure the new stuff? Or do you just play what you want/need to create the sounds you need no matter what the gear is?

Ponder this the next time you feel influenced to buy something because someone you admire is playing it…

~ MB


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