Why I buy equipment beyond my skill level…

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I have a reputation as a gear snob. I’m ok with it, but it’s not 100% about being a snob.

If I’m being honest, I’m probably only an intermediate level guitar player, but I try to buy expert level gear. I barely qualify as being able to play keys, but I’m eyeing a new professional level Roland keyboard. So why invest in equipment beyond my skill level?

A few reasons actually:
1. I know what I want — I put a lot of effort into researching equipment long before I make a purchase. I don’t want to have to replace it. I want it to sound good. Professional equipment offers me the peace of mind that those things will happen.

2. I know I’ll grow into it — I’ve picked up a number of instruments over the years. I know that I have the discipline to stick with an instrument and to develop my craft. That being the case, its kinda like self-fulfilling prophecy – I’m going to be good enough to play at an expert level, I might as well buy it now.

3. The quality of your gear will affect how you sound — I was once told that just because you play quality equipment, it doesn’t make you sound good. You have to have the talent to back it up. BUT. I firmly believe that even if you’re a talented musician, if your gear sounds like crap, you won’t sound good either.

4. Also, I’m a gear snob.

More things they never told you about being a drummer…

1. Everyone will think they can play drums too, and will want to play yours — It might as well be scientific law: If you have a drumset, all the people around you will want to play it. For a while, you’ll be glad to oblige, but after three or four years of it you’ll start coming up with reasons why they can’t. Eventually you’ll just tell them no.

2. Work isn’t as plentiful for drummers as guitarists — I am still trying to wrap my head around this. Guitar players are a dime a dozen. I mean, I’m a drummer and I play guitar well enough to work and teach it. Despite the fact that there is so much competition, there’s still a lot more work playing guitar.

3. A lot of musicians can’t speak drummer — This can be quite entertaining at times actually. I worked with one band leader that would beat box the parts he wanted me to play. It made my job much easier as he left little to the imagination and it allowed me to deliver exactly what he wanted. Other band leaders will stumble through their explanation. “Just do like a double kick thing and play a lot of cymbal and make sure the snare is real solid…” I usually just stare back with a blank expression to make them feel a little dumb. Works every time.

4.  Drumming is a great workout — Playing drums requires full motion movement of all four limbs. A good session has often caused me to break a sweat and get the heart rate going. Consider it a bonus.


5 non-musical items to make your music career easier…

As musicians, we put a lot of thought into our equipment. What we probably don’t think about is the auxiliary items that make our music career easier. Most of this stuff is actually pretty easy to come by. Here’s a quick list of must buy items that will make your music career a little easier.

1. A quality backpack — I listed this one first very much on purpose. Obviously, it has to be the easiest way to carry all your stuff. Currently, my bag is packed with teaching materials, a drum practice pad, drum sticks, guitar picks, a capo, sharpie markers, credit card reader, phone chargers, business cards, and several of item number 2 from this list. I personally opted for a Dakine brand backpack. They’re a snowboard company, so there’s a bunch of pockets and straps, but there are probably many much better bags to choose from, but be prepared to spend $100.

2. Small storage tins/containers — I use several of these for various purposes. This first started thanks to a sore throat. I had a day of singing ahead of me, and I needed plenty of tea. I don’t know if you drink tea, but tea bags themselves are not especially resilient against a full backpack. So I stored them in an old Altoids tin. I use another tin for guitar picks and yet another for various small items like my credit card reader and SD cards.

3. A quality hot/cold travel mug — Plastic. Insulated. Dishwasher/microwave safe. I think Tervis is the leading company out there for something like this. If you can’t figure out the benefit of having one of these around, then you have a problem.

4. A gig-box — I’ve gone through a few of these over the years. My advice is to go to your local home-improvement store and look for the portable tool boxes. These will run the gamut in size, sturdiness, and price. I only have one and I switch out what I’m carrying based on the gig. They are great for cables, earbuds, tools, batteries, deodorant, food, a flashlight, hair product, and other loose equipment.

5. A notepad — This might seem a little silly. I mean. It’s a notepad, but between scheduling, band meetings, song ideas, new equipment you have to check out, phone numbers, emails, and websites there’s so much information to keep up with, and you won’t always have time to type it into your smart phone. I always keep mine handy for meetings and have even been known to take mine to dinner if I think anything of importance is going to be discussed.

Out with the old, in with the new (2014)…

Wow. December has finally come to a close and while it brought me a lot of work, I’m ready for life to level back out. For a long time, I refused to make New Year’s resolutions. I have officially decided to end that streak.

I have several 2015 goals, but I only plan to share my professional goals with you:

1. Perform more — There’s so much to say about this, the only good place to start is the end. I plan to spend more time playing on stage or in the studio. I’ve already started lining stuff up and I’m working towards even more.

2. Get better at playing piano — I started playing piano my senior year of high school. I know a lot of the theory, but when I sit at a keyboard, I get a case of stupid fingers. At the end of the day, I just want to play with passable skill, but I also realize what’s passable skill for me is probably proficient to a lot of people.

3. Learn lighting — I know. This is a blog about music/musicianship/music-industry/equipment/sound. BUT. I earn a decent paycheck working in production and lighting is a big part of that. It’s just another skill-set that makes me that much more valuable.

So lets hear it. Share your music goals in the comments.

What has Justin been up to..?

Some of you might have noticed that my blog posts have dropped off a fair bit. The last time this happened, I was taking a sabbatical from being a musician after a rather exhausting departure from my previous band and finishing up my college education. Now, I’m working more that I have in the last few years which has made it hard to post anything on ProMusicianBlog. Today is my first full day off since Thanksgiving.

I’m not necessarily getting extra work as a musician, although if I sought it out a little more fervently there would be plenty to do. I am still keeping time with my guitar/drum students which has been a huge blessing, but this Christmas season has kept me busy as a sound engineer and media technician for Christmas concerts, dinners/speaking events, and school/children’s productions. I’ve been doing a little bit of everything from audio/visual install to programing visual production elements to mixing practices and production.

In my spare time I have been trying to do some writing; Not for the blog obviously. Between students I sometimes have 30 minutes to an hour of free time which I have often used to put the pen to the paper and get out some lyrical work. Most of what I’ve been writing has a Texas-country feel, but I’m dabbling in a few other genres as well.

I’m planning after the new year starts, when things settle down a bit to get more work on stage, in the studio and behind my computer. I’m also looking to collaborate with some film-makers for audio post-production; mixing and/or adding a score. I do have some work already lined up record and spend a little time on the road with my good friends and former bandmates: Brackston (Twitter handle: @MegladonVs You can read his musings at brackstonnutt.wordpress.com) and Guy (Twitter handle: @greenguraff)

In the event that I don’t get to post again before the end of the year: Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. Enjoy some time with your friends and family.