Answering equipment questions

March 24, 2014

I attended a small jazz festival a number of years ago, which included student workshops with some of the festival’s headline artists. Unsurprisingly, some of the first questions asked in these workshops were about the artists’ equipment choices.

The responses varied widely. A few of the artists were excited to talk about their instruments, mouthpieces, and so forth, and to offer glowing testimonials.

Others responded less enthusiastically. One of the festival’s biggest-name artists mocked a student for even asking the question. The student slumped down into his seat as one of his idols berated him in front of everyone.

But I was especially impressed by one artist in particular, whose equipment choices are well-known and widely-imitated. “Well, I use _____, _____, and _____,” he explained, “but there are a lot of really good options out there, and what works for me doesn’t work for everybody. Plus, you should know that lots of music stores sell equipment with this brand name, but it’s not really the same product anymore as the one I bought decades ago.” Then he moved onto another question.

Photo, Laurie Samet
Photo, Laurie Samet

I thought this was a very effective, responsible, and respectful way to answer the question: he didn’t make the student feel bad for asking, and he didn’t encourage the student to buy something specific that might not really be a fit. I also admired the brevity and matter-of-factness of his answer—it cast the question as what it ought to be: a curiosity, rather than something of great importance.

Comments

  1. Amy Meyers

    I totally agree with this! I use a mouthpiece that was recommended to me by someone to address a specific problem I was having with articulation and pitch, but I don’t personally know anyone else who uses this mouthpiece. It works great for me but apparently isn’t a top pick. The only problem with this is that I am trying to make the switch to synthetic reeds and have not found any comments with my setup – not to mention my usual cane reeds not being on any of the strength charts. Anyways – I’m an amateur, but a pretty good one, and I’m proof positive that the right match is much more important than some name brand or copying someone else!

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