Who is Your Audience?

My [super expensive] guitar cable gives me a woody. Just waiting to finalize my pedal needs and I’m making sure my whole signal chain is [super expensive guitar cable]. Having [fancy amp builder guy] wire my new … combo with [super expensive cables] too. If you’re going to spend a couple grand on a guitar, a couple grand on an amp, and 200-500 per pedal, why skimp on what carries your signal? That’s my philosophy. 1

The quote above can be found in endless iterations across guitar message boards.  For every one person asking for an affordable & reliable option for ANY piece of gear, there are five or so snobs trying to say their preferred brand is definitively better than the competition – and attempting to substitute a lesser option will make you a failure at guitar.  You may as well quit now and take up knitting.

I’m not trying to debate whether you can hear the difference between a cheap and expensive cable 2 or whether spending more money results in more reliable equipment.  Nor am I saying you need to buy all inexpensive gear.

I simple want to ask, who is listening and will they care?

If your audience is this guy, please leave this post and go back to debating the tonal differences between Energizer and Duracell batteries.

vintage-computer-geek

If your audience is real people who like music, I must reiterate my previous question… will they care?

Obviously good gear will result in less headaches due to malfunction and probably better playing due to setup, responsiveness of controls, etc.  But there’s a clear tipping point where that no longer matters and simply turns into obsession.  When you start to a/b test 6″ patch cables, you’re probably at that point.

These minor details that only you 3 notice do not come through when you’re being mic’d and run into a PA.  They do not come through after an engineer has added compression and reverb and EQ in the mix.  They do not come through to 99.99999999999999% of people who listen to music.

And the more we all obsess over these details, the less time we’re spending on the aspects of guitar that people actually notice.  Melody, song structure, chord progressions, songwriting.

The more time we spend worrying about these details, and associating with others who do the same, the less perspective we have on what really matters in our playing.  We forget what people actually like to hear.  We stop noticing the areas of our songwriting or technique that need improvement.  We forget that changing up a strumming pattern is infinitely more noticeable to our audience than changing to a brand of buffer with a higher/lower input impedance.

So next time you’re trying to decide on any new gear, ask these questions:

  • Is it reasonably well built?
  • Does it sound good to me?
  • Does it fit my playing?
  • Is it worth the money?

Let someone else obsess over all the insignificant details.  Just worry about making better guitar noises.

  1. this quote has been edited to protect the bands involved – no disrespect
  2. science be damned!
  3. and a small crowd of elitist weirdos online
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