Skill level vs Gear level

Old Drummer

Very well Known Member
Jan 14, 2019
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My concern is when people succumb to the consumer society fiction that buying expensive things makes them better than people who buy less expensive things. I don't believe that those who buy expensive houses, cars, clothes, smartphones, etc. merit elevated social status or the ego enhancement that often accompanies it. A person's worth is independent of what they buy, even of what they can afford to buy. Too many people don't understand this. This is sad, and it's especially sad when parents raise their children this way. Although I do think that beginners need decent equipment to learn on, parents who overspend on their children's musical gear or anything else are instilling empty values into their kids.

On the flip side, I have no qualms about paying for quality when users benefit from quality. This is probably the situation of most members of this forum. We aren't merely consumers but are also craftspeople who actually use the gear we own. When as craftspeople we recognize that better gear will help us improve, then by all means better gear is warranted.

But even we need to be careful about confusing our values. To use myself as an example, I'm feeling some pressure to buy a snare to replace my Gretsch Catalina Maple. The pressure, though, isn't coming from me but from reading that my snare is crappy and needs to be upgraded. If this is true, I can't hear it. After I replaced the batter head and clipped a few snare wires, I don't have a problem with my snare. Probably it could be improved, and I did prefer the old Premier 2000 I used to play, but I don't have a problem with this snare. Since the pressure to replace my snare isn't coming from my assessment of it but from external opinions that make for the status ranking of snares and their users, I figure I need to resist the pressure to buy a "better" one.

Though for some reason I have a more finicky ear for cymbals, and at this point have four rides for one stand plus two other cymbals without stands. I may even buy more. But this is OK because I'm enough of a crafts-person to appreciate the differences among cymbals and be able to use them. Add that I'm market savvy enough not to have lost money in the aggregate buying and selling cymbals.

So I say that as long as a person is buying quality that they understand from the standpoint of use, go for it, just be careful about buying for status enhancement. Indeed, doing that can bite a person in the south end. Little is more embarrassing for craftspeople than to have skills inferior to their tools.

Finally--and this takes the cake--beyond a point reached fairly quickly, the quality/price graph isn't even always linear. Simply because you pay more doesn't mean that you get more useful quality. The marketers want you to believe this, but it's not always true. Drummers are paying three times as much for hats than I have in my old New Beats, and I'm not convinced that they're getting better quality hats.

As long as you can appreciate what you buy from the standpoint of a crafts-person, I say go for it. Just be careful about being tricked into buying for status enhancement.


DFO Master
May 31, 2006
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San Luis Obispo,Ca
I’ve never been a real gear snob. My current favorite reinforces that. ‘70’s Gretsch toms. ‘58 Ludwig mahogany bass and snare. Orphans, nobody wanted them. Patch things up, recovered them and really enjoying playing them! I’d offer them for free as part, and nobody wanted them.


Dec 24, 2015
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In Front of My Computer

It's so good.

Now, let me clarify, just because that steel Sensitone is inexpensive doesn't mean it's not a high quality drum. I think we need to distinguish between gear that is pro level quality and gear that is just expensive.

I personally think that one day Sensitones are going to be held in the same reverence as Supraphonics. Not just great snares for the money. Great snares.