My next-door neighbor collects guitars. Like, lots of guitars. As in a straight out of Spinal Tap, “Don’t even look at it.” type guitar collection. He claims that with deforestation and the decline in wood quality globally, his guitars represent a smart investment as they will only go up in value. While this may indeed be true, it is also total, self-serving B.S., especially since he would need to (gasp!) SELL THEM to reap the rewards. I do not disparage this behavior at all. I will just point out the real reason he collects guitars here for posterity:
Because he can and because he wants to.
In my mind, this is enough of a justification but if Elizabeth Warren learns about his collection, she will likely disapprove and mandate guitar redistribution so he created this rationale to justify what he wanted to do. My dad did the same thing when he bought his first Mercedes—“I just want a safe, reliable vehicle because I travel so much.” Yeah right.
Anyway, to me, a larger question is WHY he wants all these guitars. I am not at all looking for justification of the need—if he wants them and can afford them, he should buy them. But I would like to gain an understanding of what the primary reason he needs so many guitars really is other than keeping someone else from owning them, as I often point out to him. Whenever we go out to dinner or meet in the yard while cutting the grass, once we are done complaining about our non-musician neighbors, we will invariably talk gear. In all the years I have known him, the question of why we would buy gear has never come up, because among musicians, this is sort of sacred and inalienable. No one even thinks to ask the question and frankly, it would probably be dangerous or at a minimum, damaging to the relationship.
However, since I have become involved with Noble & Cooley, I actually think about this a lot. My reflections on the topic stem from two separate areas 1) We have a number of players in our family who own a TON of Noble & Cooley gear and 2) It is possible to buy pretty damn good sounding drums inexpensively these days. So it makes me wonder, why do people buy way more gear than they need and why do they spend a lot of money on expensive brands such as ours when they can get something good for a lot less?
I think it comes down to this. As musicians, we spend an incredible amount of time with our instruments and they are our primary means of getting our particular voice communicated. Well-crafted instruments are essentially better tools for helping us do that. But also the tone, the feel of the instrument and the sounds coming from it inspires us to create. And even among the best quality instruments, different models offer different tones, feel and playability. So for a particular setting or genre, or even individual song, we want different things and the more gear we have, the more options we have in getting what is just right for a particular setting. You can actually see this routinely at any major concert, as most guitar players switch out between songs, and it isn’t just to avoid tuning on stage.
Another thing happens by changing out gear and I don’t fully get why it happens, but it does. Each instrument brings out something different in all of us. We play differently on a Strat than a Les Paul, a Precision vs. a Warwick, a Supraphonic rather than one of Ron Dunnett’s magical creations, the Horizon series vs. the CD Maples and so on. All of these instruments inspire us differently, so we create differently, and it expands our playing and helps our art.
For many players out there, it’s hard enough to afford even one premium instrument and it can be difficult to justify the expenditure. For those, I will offer a personal case to help with the financial justification—I bought my CD Maples kit 25 years ago. I can’t remember exactly what I paid, but let’s say it was $2500. Divide that by 25 and that’s $100 per year. Guaranteed, I spent more than that on heads every year (yes, I change them). I definitely break more than that in cymbals and sticks every year. The drums still sound and look terrific, and I have decades of music memories with them. I have never stopped being blown away at how awesome they sound, and they made playing more enjoyable during that entire time. Had I not bought them, I would have sacrificed all of this to save $50 per year. Not worth it.
So if you’re thinking about purchasing any premium item for anything that you love doing, it is worth keeping this little analysis in mind. You can also combine it with my neighbor’s rationale and you will look downright intelligent for buying a premium drum set. Only you will know the real reason:
Because you can and because you want to.