I was watching a two-part video series a couple of weeks ago where Premier Guitar was interviewing Keith Urban’s guitar tech about Keith’s rig (Part I is here). During part two of the series, the guitar tech said something that struck me as he and the interviewer were talking about Keith’s compressor pedals. Keith uses four different compressors, and the tech was in the middle of describing how Keith sometimes uses them in combination. In the middle of his explanation, he sort of stumbled, then said, “…like they say, there’s really no wrong way to do this. If it sounds cool, then it’s right.”
I always say a corollary to that to myself: If it moves you, then go with it. But I think I’m going to use “If it sounds cool, then it’s right” from now on. And really, that’s the point about any gear we buy. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to gear and gear combinations. If it pleases you, then it’s right… for you. Of course, listen to constructive input from other people, but in the end, it’s on you to find the tone that fits you. No one else can do that for you, which reminds me of another saying that I used when working with teenagers years ago and giving a talk on peer pressure:
The only real freedom we have is our freedom to choose; unfortunately, we often choose to give up that freedom in exchange for acceptance.
I know I’m getting philosophical, but to me, conviction, personal power, feeling strong, what have you, come from our freedom of choice. We lose our personal power when we give up our freedom to choose. For instance, how many times have we all fallen prey to hero-worship and get gear that our idols use, only to find that it just doesn’t work for us? How many of us have been on the forums and have blindly purchased gear based upon the hype built around it? There’s a reason why there’s so much practically brand-new stuff up on The Gear Page’s Emporium on a constant basis: People have fallen for the hype, then get the gear and realize it’s not for them. I’ve committed this error enough times myself to always qualify my recommendations with something akin to “try before you buy.”
Freedom of choice is crux of this article and what the saying, “If it sounds cool, then it’s right” is all about – at least to me. Where we are in life is the result of the choices we make; congruently, our tone is the result of the choices we’ve made in gear. Some choices are not as positively productive as others, but that’s life. And that’s how we learn.