[Harp-L] To Gear Or Not To Gear

I saw a post yesterday by someone who says gear is not insignificant in the scheme of things. (Sorry friend, I already deleted your post and I do not recall who you are.)

Well, I'm one of those boneheads who buttons alot of my posts with "It's not about gear." And yet I've been raving about my Suzuki Fire Breath harps because they have improved my sound and technique.

What gives?

Well, I think the reason I insist on repeating the dreaded It's Not About Gear reminder is because too many new players get caught up in the gear before they can play much at all. It's like a skier who has gone down the Donald Duck slope a couple of times and now goes out and buys $4G worth of --- well, gear.

Worse, it also reminds me of people who want to write screenplays, so they go out and buy seven books on the subject, read two of them, go out and buy a screenplay formatting program, take a course, buy some more books, go to a ton of movies ("research") and never quite get around to actually writing a screenplay. Getting caught in the gear scene too early is a great way to put off getting good forever.

(Off topic: If you want to write screenplays, write for at least a year, and finish several screenplays, before you look at a single book on the subject. That's when those books become helpful.)

I had an amusing trick that got me work on a number of occasions. That is, until fairly recently I used funky, busted up cigar boxes to carry my harps in, and when I'd show up to do something for a guy I hadn't worked for before, I'd make sure he'd see that. It always elicited a comment, as in "So and so, (his usual harmonica player) has this elaborate harmonica box that cost a month's pay and really looks cool." I'd say, "Yeah, I like those." It's true, too, I do. But then I'd play and I'd naturally play my best, and if that gave the producer the impression that I was a better choice for harmonica player than the other guy, the producer'd look at that box and get the message that it isn't about the box it's about how you play what's inside.

Heart-warming as that homily is, it still says It's About The Gear, of course. I just used ugly, funky ol' gear, the cigar box, to increase the contrast between myself and the guy who was competing for my grocery payment. (I now use a small, gorgeous little metal box that held four expensive steak knives bought by my wife. It holds 12 harps and looks chic. I'm not a savage, after all, though you couldn't tell it by looking at me.)

And I don't doubt that the exact right mic and PA or amp improves your presentation, if you've got something to present. Hell, I play a great 1970 Martin D-18 and STILL lust after a thousand better acoustic steel string guitars. And I'm pissed as hell that I can't get a Suzuki Firebreath in B for a project that needs it, even though I have other B harps. Believe me, people who say stuff like "Hemingway didn't need a word processor" do not get invited over to my backyard.

And I have to presume that most of youse guys and goils who have questions about amplifiers and pedals are excellent musicians for whom the right answers will kick it up a notch.

But I STILL think it's important that crabby dudes such as myself keep the notion of It's Not About Gear in the mix for those newer players who read these posts and get the idea that gear is what's going to make them a good musician.

So I'll stick to my guns and split the difference at the same time, whatever that means. Advice to newer harps players: learn how to get beautiful single notes, learn how to play great melodies, learn how to swing. Then the best gear will do you some serious good.

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