How Important Is It To Play On a Fine Instrument?

An upright bass player I used to play with told me that his teacher owned a $40,000 bow. A bow! The guy said that’s why he drove a beater car, because all his payola went into the bow. And of course, we all know about Stradivarius violins. When sound quality is your top priority (and you have money), no amount seems too high a price. See Neil Pert’s new drum set in the video below for an example of a fine (and expensive!) instrument.

Photo of double bass bow
double bass bow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I also like the punk rock ethic. Forget all that. Just get something that makes a sound and go for it. Gypsy jazz and flamenco  virtuoso Alfonso Ponticelli made himself a cigar-box guitar and played that during both informal jams and higher-profile performances. Violinist Joshua Bell played his Stradivarius in a DC subway and was almost thoroughly ignored. A good lesson to remember. It’s most important to have an instrument to play on. Period.

My advice is to buy an instrument (or amp, or microphone, stereo, etc.) that is of the highest quality you can afford. Not only will it produce good sound (given that you’re technique is solid), it’ll be a joy to play. You’ll rejoice and marvel to have that object in your hands. Playing an instrument that’s also a piece of visual art is particularly satisfying, especially if the artwork is personal.

Here’s rock icon Neil Pert (chief writer and drummer for Rush), introducing his latest drumset, built by DW Drums out of a single 1,500 year old tree. Pretty incredible. I’d hate to have to pay for it, but then, if I had Neil Pert’s bank (and his chops!), it would be money well spent.

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