My Gear and Equipment Philosophy
This page is intended to provide a little info on some of the gear I use and my philosophy on tone.
I certainly believe and have experienced first hand that most of your (own) tone comes from you…(meaning you will generally sound like yourself despite the gear). Still the % percentage that comes from the gear is really important to me…and fun… and I sincerely believe the relationship between the player and his tools are the catalyst in determining how much of the players true spirit is transmitted in his expression.
My 10-15% GEAR
The first 85-90% of your tone can be achieved by any number of gear means. My interest is in the last 10-15% of tonal refinement… that is where I exist. This is where alot of professional musicians spend their time. The last inch of the mile I like to call it…. It is a world of tonal subtleties that are not subtle in the least. It’s an awesome journey….and while it may always lead you back to your own heart and hands, it puts great tools in those hands and it introduces you to the unique genius, passion, geekery and craftsmanship of some truly great human beings. It’s super cool to be a musician today.
A word about ’boutique’ gear.
I am a bit of a gear nerd or guitar geek. I have a bonafide love for well-made, extraordinary, unique and specific gear and have an extensive history in that industry. Sometimes it is called ’boutique’ which is OK, but totally incomplete in my view, and that is not what I consider it. If you hang around the gear scene long enough you discover alot of boutique gear is average or below average, often as a result of limited experience by independent builders. One common and big mis-perception is that ‘small builders’ by default provide more attention to quality details. It is an inexperienced myth that sometimes runs rampant on gear forums.
While it can be true that small builders provide excellent craftsmanship and build quality or attention to detail on occasion, it is in fact, less common. As a rule, highly integral established companies are far more consistent with attention to quality and detail. But neither buying from an established builder nor an independent builder will guarantee us a specific quality standard simply by default. It is always company specific and as of late I have seen previously well-intended small companies sellout their standards of quality for a bit more margin and eventually begin to lose trust.
For most, ’boutique’, in a real time sense just means small, home-based with considerable less resources and less experience ‘as a company’. Some boutique builders have a single passionate and knowledgeable craftsman behind the product, but no one to implement them properly and consistently. Many are still developing their basic processes, supply sources etc. and are working through basic manufacturing issues that have been overcome and improved upon by those already established. The higher cost and slower turnaround time often associated with many ’boutique’ builders (home-based pickup, guitar, pedal and amp builders) is rarely due to the highest quality, but rather higher labor and material costs for which they are subject to as well as poorly organized business models or lack of systems that the customer is subjected to. Not to mention many of these builders are part-time, spare time, hobbyist types. This often adds up to long wait times, ’boutique’ prices and average or below average consistency and quality…despite any current ‘buzz’ around the product. Most of us who have been in the gig for awhile have had our experiences with this type of builder.
So why ’boutique gear then? … If you put in the effort of listening and observing …really listening and really observing, you tune-in to a narrow band of gloriously cool gear for which a unique builder, tone and extreme high quality exist together. Along with good customer relations. These craftsman are both well established companies and lesser known independent builders. Some work out of huge manufacturing plants, some out of small warehouses or even garages or sheds. These are rarely the gear flavor of the month but rather old long time established companies with 3-4 ‘classic’s. I do my best to support these entities and you will find some of that info available in my gear list. High functioning, tonal integrity, first-class working gear in real-time and high quality in real-time together. Not collector stuff for collectors sake. I think it is important to use the very best tools you can. If music is your passion, then so should your tone be. If tone is your passion, then so should be the equipment for which it is generated and expressed. As pure, clean, present and intentional as possible.
I don’t advocate ‘expensive’ equipment, but rather well made and handcrafted, well intended equipment. I think if you care enough about your craft, you also care enough about those who support the craft and your own tonal colors and textures. More times than not, that next level quality comes at a price, as it should. And I find that once you shift the way you look at things, you see that high-end handmade gear is not expensive, but rather cheaply made gear is cheap despite how it sounds. In this day and age of cheap and fast…many musicians have developed what I consider a lopsided perception about gear cost and true long term quality.
I like to support the small business craftsman or musician and I like to support my own unique tonal needs. Some players tell me they cannot afford ‘the equipment they want’, I understand, but I feel that you cannot afford not to start, at the very least, to intend and begin the process of acquiring it. I encourage those who have a vision for their music or equipment to honor it. Save for it, work overtime, sell off old gear, barter, stay up later, get up earlier… whatever it takes. It’s a game changer one way or the other. I won’t take a rigid position on what gear is best but rather only what works for me today. I think our live tones and recorded tones should be the dominant voice that speaks for us anyway. We all have to make those distinctions for ourselves and then make adjustments as we evolve, refine or re-invent our sound. In the end there is no way around that effort. Personally I am grateful to be a participant in it all. RG