Why I don’t list my equipment

July 6, 2009

Many musicians are eager to tell you what equipment they use. They list their equipment on their websites, in the signature lines of their forum postings, and so on. I don’t.

I’m rarely impressed with what I see on fellow woodwind players’ lists. Ownership of impressive equipment (assuming the gear is, in fact, paid for?) does not make a fine player. Ownership of unimpressive equipment seems, well, like it’s not worth boasting about.

Some musicians seem to see their equipment listing as a service to the musical community, as though others will benefit from knowing what instruments they play. Buying instruments, mouthpieces, reeds, and so forth just because another player uses them—even a truly fine player—is much like buying the same shoes your favorite basketball player wears. No doubt they are fine shoes, but they might not suit your feet, your ability level, your playing surface, or your personal sense of style. Equipment listings are especially hazardous to younger beginners, who may be easily convinced that owning certain equipment will solve their problems, or who may ill-advisedly buy equipment that isn’t a good fit for them.

I do think that honest reviews of equipment can be useful, especially if they identify and address the characteristics of an instrument or accessory that might make it a good fit for one player and a poor fit for another.

In cases where an official endorsement deal is in place, it may be appropriate to acknowledge that commitment. Take note that it is the player who endorses the gear, not the other way around; I can’t count the number of  musicians’ websites that claim something like, “Bret Pimentel is endorsed by Such-and-such Saxophone Neckstraps.” Wrong.

What if, instead of listing our personal brand loyalties, we listed something useful for our young students or fans to emulate: lists of the scales and arpeggios we can play, perhaps, or how many hours we have spent practicing our long tones?

Comments

  1. Geoff Allen

    Ha ha. Very nice. I like your suggestion.

    Joe Blow is fond of playing Lydian dominant scales and has spent countless hours practicing long tones.

    is way more interesting than

    Joe Blow plays a Yamaha whatever, an Otto Link 7* mouthpiece, and La Voz reeds that he hand picks from the factory.

    Reply

  2. Jason Passmore

    Bret,

    It’s interesting that you write this article. I have notice that the ones who are into buying the most expensive equipment and bragging about it are the ones who are not struggling in the music industry. I always tell my students to buy what works for them. Personally, I would love to have a sliver plated Mark VI tenor, but I refuse to pay $10,000 for it!

    Reply

  3. […] a second series called the “Equipment Choices” series. I’ve been inspired by Bret Pimentel’s admonition that equipment lists don’t really do much good if they don’t come with an […]

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