Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's a Poor Workman Who Blames His Tools


Shortly after I bought a set of budget tabla, I came across an important bit of advice: Do not buy cheap tabla; it's too hard to get a sound and you will be quickly discouraged. OK, there are other reasons my tabla playing is seriously limited, but the sound quality of the cheap drums dampened my enthusiasm. Still, we ought not to blame our tools for a job poorly done.

Even marginal drums and cymbals can produce usable sounds. Of course drums are easier than cymbals as they can be retuned and you can try different heads and various damping approaches. With cymbals, you just have to go digging around. There are lots of sounds in there and while it may not be your ideal choice, there should be at least one that will be suitable.

On the other hand, quality tools are always a joy. When I was first acquiring professional grade drums, I thought in terms of a small business. For example, if I were starting a pizzeria, should I look around for a cheap beater of a pizza oven or should I invest in the best quality? If I want the best quality results, I need to start with quality ‘ingredients’. Many of my musical peers back in the day complained about their instruments and were apparently jealous of my 'good fortune'. But I noticed that they all drove fine cars, took frequent vacations, and other niceties. That was their priority. Mine was to improve the standard of my 'business' by investing in quality tools. The vacations could wait.

The investment paid off both practically and emotionally. My drums were easy to set up and easy to tune, and they stayed in place and in tune throughout the gig. They looked and sounded great and were easy to play, and that was a constant source of joy. There's nothing worse than trying to cope with poor sounding drums that require constant tweaking and adjusting. And if they're ugly as well? Let's not go there.

Good sound leads to less frustration, less frustration makes me happier, and a happier me is a better me -- one who is more likely to play well and to get asked back.

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