I could easily just post this video and leave it at that. (You may have to scroll down a bit. Look for the video with Linda Perry):
“One day I had (Cheap Trick guitarist) Rick Neilson in here, and he picked up this guitar that had just, that same day, that same set up, I couldn’t get a guitar tone from, because of the player. Right? I was just like, “what is wrong?” And I’d go play it and I’m like, “it sounds awesome…(she hesitates, like ‘it’s awesome but lacks something’) I don’t get it. I don’t understand. And then the guy I’m recording in the band, just like, “I don’t understand,” and then we’re done, and then Rick Neilson came over and I had the same set up. He picked it up, and I’m just like putting record on, and he’s playing this guitar, and it was like, “What did you do? What did you do?” And I came running out like, “What did you do?” “I didn’t do anything.” “You didn’t touch anything?” “No,” And it’s the player. It’s the player that makes the tone. Same with drums. You can have the same drum tone, same everything, and a bad player will make it sound bad, and a good player will make it sound good. A bad player always—you know when you’re working with a bad player because you have to work harder at getting a sound. But you know, definitely, when you’re working with a great player, because a great player makes everything sound good.
This is what I tell my students, my friends, my fellow musicians all the time. You are the music. It doesn’t matter what the gear is. Whether you have a $6,000 Craviatto/DW/SONOR drum kit, or you pick up an old used Pearl kit for $200 on Craigslist, you’ve got to play it and bring the music from inside you that make any sort of magic happen. That new drum kit or ride cymbal won’t make you a better drummer. Only you can do that.
I’m not saying to settle for cheap instruments, but don’t get hung up on the need to always have something else, something better. The best instrument is always the one right in front of you. I’ve heard great musicians make killer music on lesser gear, while not so greats failed to be exciting with top of the line ultra expensive gear.
He’s another story, this time about American jazz/improv drummer Gerry Hemingway. This is from the notes from the album You Be, by the trio he often plays in, BassDrumBone. They were on a European tour and were scheduled to record a new album for a small European label:
“You Be” was recorded in the fall of 1985 at the famous Ludwigsberg studio in Germany and is the third recording of BassDrumBone. Our producer, Stephen Meyner, had overlooked that I don’t travel with a drum set, so when we arrived, I was faced with rummaging through the closets and basement of the studio trying scare up something resembling a trapset. In the end you would never know it, but if you had a look at what I taped together out of microphone stands and toilet paper rolls, you would be amused. Another one of those “challenges”of being an improvisor.
Listening to the recording, you really would never know what he had to play on was less than great gear. If you are any sort of traveling drummer, especially going over seas, you have encountered all sorts of rental drums/cymbals/percussion. Some of it is great. Some of it is not so great. But you make music out of it.
When I was performing in Australia earlier this year, I just brought a suitcase of small percussion and mallets with me. I had given the festival a list of gear I’d like, and also had Paiste provide the Gongs I needed. I had picked out my Gong choices from a list of what they had available there, but none of them were the type/sizes I use in my own set up. Also, while I had wanted a small, symphonic type bass drum, I was always provided with a muffled rock kit bass drum. I took all this as a challenge and made the best music I could.
Work with the gear you have to make the music you hear inside. A real artist can get magic from anything. Be that artist…
Articles Origin: The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth