Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

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.

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kiyosakiBack in the late 90’s and into the turn of the century, I got swept up in the craze of Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” I soaked up what he was saying like a sponge. It made so much sense to me! I was hooked, and proceeded to buy all his books, and two of his board games! I wanted to learn how to get out of the rat race and get on my way to real financial freedom. I even went so far as creating my own business that was actually a great idea. Then reality struck. My business failed because of my inexperience and ignorance of running a business. I couldn’t keep up with my expenses. I sometimes couldn’t make payroll. It was tough!

Even still, I kept on buying Kiyosaki’s books. But by about the fourth book, I realized he was saying the same damn thing that he had said in the previous books, only rephrasing the message so it sounded different. That was also when I came to the realization that he perhaps Kiyosaki was just a front man, and that his “advice” wasn’t all that sound. What he was really after in getting rich was to sell more fucking books and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” paraphernalia!

It was like this personal development seminar company that I got involved with in the early 90’s. They had three courses: Basic, Advanced, and Leaderhip, plus a satellite seminar for couples. I took the Basic and Advanced and my wife and I did the couples course. Those three courses changed our lives forever! And for the good. But then we both realized that what the company was really after was getting people to take the courses, and go through all of them, then recruit more people! They weren’t really interested in creating leaders. They were interested in filling up the classes! Needless to say, I divorced myself from this organization once I realized what they were up to. I’m not the only one who became enlightened to this, as the company is no longer in existence.

I shared this with you because while I learned a great deal from reading through Kiyosaki’s books and attending these seminars, they ultimately led me to one ultimate truth: I am responsible for my success. Only I can make the choices to excel at something or remain in obscurity. I can pray as much as I want, and dream and scheme till the end of my days; but in the end, I’m responsible for where I take myself in life.

So what does all this have to do with the title of this article? I shared these two experiences because despite the fact that they ultimately turned out to be somewhat fraudulent, they did have a lot of great material. Common to them both was this concept of “You get what you pay for…” Within that context, both stressed that we should beware of “free advice.” Free costs nothing, and in many cases, it’s very appealing. But blindly heeding free advice is essentially putting your success into another person’s hands, and not taking the responsibility for it. Yeah, free is good, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without a cost down the line.

This concept of free advice applies to buying gear. Like most gear sluts, I hang out in a few online forums to see what people are playing, and to engage in conversations. It’s great fun. But one thing I’ve noticed a lot in the forums is the plethora of free advice saying that things like “X cable is better because it has the lowest capacitance. You should get this.”

One thing I’ve learned in writing this blog for the past couple of years is to avoid giving advice. I’ll make suggestions for sure, and if asked, will say what I do to approach a particular problem. Usually, I’ll just tell people to try out a bunch of gear to see what they like because everyone’s idea of good tone varies from person to person, and tone being subjective pretty much behooves the buyer to “try before you buy.”

What sparked the idea of this article was a comment a reader left on my review about the Roland CE-5 Chorus: “I find it amusing that every other guitar player says that a pedal is better solely because it is analog, regardless if they actually own an analog pedal or not. I’d like to blind-test these people and see if the can actually tell the difference between a digital and an analog pedal. Maybe you can blind-test yourself, you maybe pleasantly surprise at the result. Well, unless you are Eric Johnson anyways…

That got me to thinking about all the free advice that’s out there regarding gear. I’m not saying you should ignore it. But use the free advice you get as reference points rather than guides. Make decisions based upon your own research. Even with the reviews I give here, remember, they’re my personal opinions. Ultimately, you have to make the choice. But if you go in blindly, and you’re disappointed with what you get well, you read the title…

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