The topic of purchasing music gear is one that merits serious discussion in the world of pro musicians. If you're a musician, there is a good chance you may have experienced what many call "Gear Acquisition Syndrome." This quirky nickname is basically a humorous way of saying that you really want to buy more stuff with which to make music with.
Of course, if music is truly your profession, there is an absolutely legitimate need for high-quality gear. Playing on student-level instruments results in a noticeable quality dip. Playing on well-made, top of the line gear results in ease of playing and generally more consistency of performance.
In the music business, there are those who insist on getting the absolute best gear, and there are those who insist that gear doesn't really matter all that much in the end. This post is not intended to declare which side I think is right, but to seriously pose the question of how gear does affect our performance. More importantly, I want to pose the question to every musician out there: where do you stand on the issue and why?
We all know the faux-pas where a big name artist has a Q&A session and someone inevitably asks, "what mouthpiece do you play?" While that situation may not be the time to ask, I think it would be naive to say that the question is irrelevant. To say that gear doesn't matter at all would be the equivalent of saying that it doesn't matter what kind of engine your car has. My car would have no shot at competing in a professional racing environment, just like a student-level saxophone does not have the capabilities of singing at a professional level.
My personal stance on this issue is that professional musicians need professional gear, but that once you find the gear you like, the effort is mainly done through practicing and honing the craft. As a composer, I often find myself looking around at different MIDI sample libraries. I currently have a solid collection of MIDI sampling instruments, but there are collections out there that trump mine in sound quality. However, those collections happen to cost a lot of money, and the ones that I have are more than enough for the purposes I am using them for. Unless a gig comes my way that pays a lot of money, I can't justify upgrading just yet. I can get great sounds with what I have. To upgrade would be fun, but not really necessary.
The same goes with saxophone gear. I have professional quality gear that suits my needs very well. If I want to improve as a saxophonist, that work is done through practicing. However, if I wanted a bigger or brighter tone, experimenting with mouthpieces and reeds would help me to find the sound I want. In some ways, a setup can limit or help a musician. But if I'm not being too picky, I can get a professional sound on the gear I have.
And I certainly wouldn't want to imply that my opinion is the correct opinion. In this post, my intention is to spark some thought about how far to go with this topic of gear. My hope is that the quest of great gear doesn't get in the way of our overall goal of achieving good music, and that bad gear doesn't limit that goal, either.
is a saxophonist/composer residing in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.