Is being over-educated about gear good, or bad?

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I think that the idea of "knowledge is power" is good in theory, but I wonder if players becoming so educated about gear is a good or bad thing. Until the advent of drum magazines (which really didn't exist until 1977), local and regional drum shows, and ultimately the internet, information and marketing and shared experiences had been very limited. Few drummers really knew - or cared - what edges were about, how plies and hardware affect a drum's sound, and there wasn't the pre-occupation with where a drum is made, or who makes the shells and parts. Companies certainly weren't forthcoming with such information, not because it was a big secret, but because drummers weren't really interested enough at the time, and such explanations and specifications would have seemed like so much gobbledygook. Consider that some companies didn't even tell you that their 'metal' snares were brass, where today, shell material would probably be the first thing we'd want to know about a snare!

On the whole, I'll agree that the drum specification awareness and a certain amount of industry knowledge has helped us make better decisions about the gear we use. But I also think that the sheer amount of information available gets in the way of making (formerly basic) choices such as, 'does the drum sound good?'

The over-educated drummer today is concerned with edges, shell material/thickness/construction, heads, wires, throwoffs, hoop type/material/thickness, lug mass, lug gaskets, number of lugs, washers (nylon of metal), vent or no vent, the difference in sound between lacquer finish or wrap, and whether the wrap is glued or taped. And that's just the snare!

Yet none of those things were important - or even known - to the vast majority of drummers until fairly recently. Never once did I ask about any of those aspects when checking out a snare. I asked for a stick - and it didn't matter what size or whether it was nylon tip or not - hit the drum, and I either liked it, or I didn't. I never asked to try a different tuning, or see how it sounded with a different head, or questioned what it was made of, etc. If I liked it, I bought it! Or in most cases, just drooled over it because I couldn't afford it.

But I have become overly-aware of how the different aspects of a drum can affect its sound and playability, and now there are many things I 'need' to know before I can simply hit the drum, heaven forfend that I might decide with my ears if it sounds good or not. Sometimes that knowledge prevents me from even bothering, and it takes a lot of willpower and letting-go to get over it and discover some great-sounding, but specification deficient drums. Am I not supposed to like certain drums because they don't spec well, or are a 'budget' line? Conversely, should I automatically buy anything with exacting, well-researched specs and meticulous craftsmanship? Does that mean the drum sounds good?

I started by saying knowledge is power, but I wonder if ignorance is bliss at times. I miss going into the music store, tapping on pretty drums and shiny cymbals, and liking them all without question.

Anyway, just pondering on a Saturday morning as a categorize a bunch of gear I picked up on the road this year. Probably none of this is important.

Bermuda
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
I think having a certain amount of knowledge,gets you in the ball park,and gives you the power to make an informed deciscion.You don't need to memorize the spare parts ans specs catalog of the close to 100 drum companies,not including custom and boutique drum smiths products.

Take the brass snare drum you mentioned.The uninitiated can easily over pay for a brass drum,especially a used one.Various drum makers offer different brass shelled drums at various price points,which can confuse both rookie and seasoned drummers alike.

Some basic knowledge limits the chance of making a bad purchase,but your ear and a clear buget should the real deciding factor.I've always said here,buy with your ears.But having said that,sometimes that's just not possible,so....see above.

The vintage drum market is a totally different,and quite the opposite,where a lot of info and experience,sometimes can never be enough.The chances of learning something different everyday also ,seems to happen with greater frequency,and what you would swear to the day before,just isn't the right answer anymore.

Steve B
 

AirborneSFC

Gold Member
You make a great point. I always tell drummers who ask me what they should get to listen to their ears. My first few drum kits I always purchased by ear. Even now I just bought what I thought sounded best. Not in a recorded situation but rather just sitting behind a kit and having a go.

If more people did this I am sure they would be surprised to find that some of the details they are hung up over are not the biggest things in the end.

Manny
 

opentune

Platinum Member
There is nothing wrong with getting educated on a subject, especially when buying. Indeed knowledge is power there. But it can also be a handicap when it takes the 'fun' out of something.

By getting on this site I've gotten to learn about, appreciate, (and buy), more gear, especially vintage stuff (where you really need some knowledge or history at least). Yet there is still nothing that thrills me more than getting a nice no-name or cheapo item that for one reason or another sounds simply awesome to me, and better yet competes with any 'name' item for sound and more so is even fun to play. This really came to light when I got a 1960's MIJ 'Coronet' for $60, and realized it sounded better than my Gretsch Catalina (just wasn't built as well).

It blows up or at least challenges all the 'common knowledge'.
 

dmacc

Platinum Member
This is an outstanding question. I think I remain in the minority when I say I simply don't give much attention to the hows and the whys in the manner in which things are made.

The end game to me is all about the sound and feel of the product.

I've stated in various other posts when the topic has been focused on the way the product is built, that I leave that stuff to people like Andy. I simply don't care. I couldn't tell you much about the construction of the shells. Other than a 30 degree edge which is supposedly a big factor in the end sound, I don't know much more than that.

I will lump cymbals into the same category. The sound and feel rule. I couldn't begin to tell you what the alloy is in the few dozen cymbals I own. I don't really care either. All that matters to me is that I love to play them.

Hardware has been so over thought that it became over engineered. Too heavy for my tastes..

I am glad the amount of available information on everything is available for those who find it important and interesting. When it comes to me, it largely falls on deaf ears.

My focus is on the improvements I need to make on my own musical journey, not the gear I am using. This assumes though that I am using the gear that makes me excited to play.

So, to answer the question - to me it doesn't matter how much information there is. Good for those that are interested and neither good or bad for someone like me.
 
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Caz

Senior Member
It probably is a good idea to be well informed before buying any product in general, so that you can get what suits you best. But gear is the least of my worries, it's learning how to play the stuff!
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
I think the core question is " Is it possible to be over-educated about gear ". I say no.

A secondary question is " Is it possible that being educated about gear is 'bad' ".

I say yes to this - if knowledge is used in an attempt to beat another person down in a futile one-upmanship argument.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Does Bobdadrummer have an advantage over us all when it comes to buying a new car, being he is a mechanic? I see no problem knowing as much as possible, as long as it doesn't get in the way of common sense. As for drums, sound is obviously the most important thing and we can get that without knowing how many plies or the type of wood, just by using our ears. When it comes to hardware we might want to know that our snare stand isn't made of pot metal. So there are degrees.
 

AirborneSFC

Gold Member
Does Bobdadrummer have an advantage over us all when it comes to buying a new car, being he is a mechanic? I see no problem knowing as much as possible, as long as it doesn't get in the way of common sense. As for drums, sound is obviously the most important thing and we can get that without knowing how many plies or the type of wood, just by using our ears. When it comes to hardware we might want to know that our snare stand isn't made of pot metal. So there are degrees.
I agree 100% that knowledge is power. Especially in regards to knowing a good deal vs. getting ripped off. I really feel bad for the younger guys coming up or the folks with more money than sense. I think for most of us its a journey. Most of us have also gone through the gear lust. These days I just try to focus on getting the best sounds and perform the best I can with what I have :)
 

FoolInTheRain

Senior Member
It's hard to say because we can all only speak for ourselves. In my case, the times that I've been too into gear have been the times that my progress went completely ignored...or I regressed. I believe there's a happy medium, I just have no clue where it is. So I try to focus as little as possible on gear and as much as I can on my technique and finding time to practice.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
Over the last decade or two it seems all the major manufacturers have tried to turn every single element of a drumset into come kind of special commodity to be expanded, improved, or upgraded. Be it the number of threads on the tension rod, or the day of the week the tree had been cut down, no detail has been overlooked in the attempt to add more bullet points to the spec sheet.

While that increased focus on all of the individual parts has probably contributed to an increase in overall quality (be it construction or sonic) of the whole drumset, it has led to consumers expecting a high degree of information, even when in many cases I think it leads to more confusion than anything else.

It was bad enough when kits started getting the "rock" or "jazz" label, but now it's pretty common to see guys completely paralyzed over choosing a tom with an 8" or 9" depth, or five or six plies, worried that if they make the "wrong" choice the kit will be useless.

So I have mixed feelings. Sure, it's nice to know more about what is really going on in the set, but you really have to temper that knowledge of the specs with some actual hands-on experience, sometimes even to the point of (gasp!) ignoring some of the gobbledegook and just picking a nice looking and nice sounding set of drums.
 

drstrangefunk

Senior Member
actually this is a good'n Bermuda.

and while there is such thing as an educated fool i would not relegate this topic to that category.

to me this topic is more akin to I"ve Been Playing For So Long...Can I Even Listen To Music Without Analyzing It Anymore ?

yes i remember when Drum and Keyboard and Bass Player came out. and instruction on audio tape. (Star Licks was still about 10 years off).

but there's a lot to be said for experience. experience will tell you things like just because it sounds good here doesn't mean it's gonna sound good at x venue or y studio. especially if you're experienced enough to have first hand knowledge of what x venue and y studio actually sound like in the real world.

on the other hand, as you mentioned...sometimes we get wary of trying new things....but on the other hand....sometimes time and experience will allow us to give life to our pet dreams ambitions and theories that we have amassed over the years and often wondered why nobody ever came out with a w or invented a q addition to an existing item. so your experience allows you to advance the art form.

me personally i'm glad that you Bermuda and your experience guided me to my APX 20" Crash. i never would have considered that size, but now i'm really digging it. at first i thought it sounded exactly like my Giant Beat 20" only not as refined. but now i'm starting to dig the APX more than the Giant Beat.

and for that, I Thank You Bermuda.
 

CCdrummer

Senior Member
I think its easy with all the information out there to become "gear obsessed", and to spend too much time looking for those drums or accessories that are going to make everything just right.

I realized this when I asked my teacher for his opinion on what was the best practice pad, and he said, "I don't know, I usually just grab whatever they have at the second hand store". This guys has been was formally trained in drums and music for at least four years, and he pretty much dominates the local music scene, playing in a variety of different types of bands.

My point is, that he focused more on playing and practicing, rather than what he was playing or practicing on.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
While that increased focus on all of the individual parts has probably contributed to an increase in overall quality (be it construction or sonic) of the whole drumset, it has led to consumers expecting a high degree of information, even when in many cases I think it leads to more confusion than anything else.

It was bad enough when kits started getting the "rock" or "jazz" label, but now it's pretty common to see guys completely paralyzed over choosing a tom with an 8" or 9" depth, or five or six plies, worried that if they make the "wrong" choice the kit will be useless.
That's what I'm talking about. I think knowing things is basically good, but there comes a point where too much information, not correctly prioritized, can get in the way of what should be a simple decision when purchasing gear: does it sound good, and/or does it serve the intended purpose.

A certain amount of informed research is always a good idea, but placing too much emphasis on specs, or sometimes a company's mission statement, clouds one's ability to hit a drum or cymbal with a stick, or pick up and examine a piece of hardware, and make a decision.

Does a drummer really know what he's getting when ordering a walnut stave snare with dual 45° edges, low mass lugs, die-cast hoops, Purseound wires, and a Trick throwoff? Or does he just perceive that as a drum that will sound great, because he thinks he knows what it takes to accomplish that?

I suppose this conversation has a little something to do with buying drums and cymbals without hearing them, because the specs and craftsmanship are so cogently marketed to drummers who 'know' what it takes to make a great product.

I dunno, I think drummers should hand-pick any gear that makes a sound, and if they l;ike that sound, it shouldn't matter what company's name is on it, or where it was made, or if it's a Keller shell with World Max hardware... etc.

Bermuda
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Does Bobdadrummer have an advantage over us all when it comes to buying a new car, being he is a mechanic? I see no problem knowing as much as possible, as long as it doesn't get in the way of common sense.
This summarises it for me.

Even then, whose common sense? It depends on your hobbies - some people are right into collecting.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I do think this is an interesting topic.

When I was working after school in a drum shop in the late 80's, the old timers would talk about how it used be, when they just had drums. People came in and picked out whatever based on color and maybe sizes. What the drums were made of just didn't cross anyone's mind.

And it's funny now that so many people lust after vintage gear claiming it has a superior sound or was made better, or whatever, when at the time it was new, no one cared what it was made out of.

And to me, the funniest is always the 80's version of the Tama Imperial Star. It was used on numerous albums and tours by many multi-platinum bands, and the sets themselves sold very well as a pro kit. Yet, Tama never said what it made out of. These days, one could never have such a popular selling kit and have it appear on numerous popular records without telling anyone what wood it was made from.

Obviously, knowledge is power, and it's not bad to be educated. But I think Winston Wolf nails it on the head:

.. it has led to consumers expecting a high degree of information, even when in many cases I think it leads to more confusion than anything else.

It was bad enough when kits started getting the "rock" or "jazz" label, but now it's pretty common to see guys completely paralyzed over choosing a tom with an 8" or 9" depth, or five or six plies, worried that if they make the "wrong" choice the kit will be useless.
Too many people get caught up in the facts, without realizing, it's just information, and not a degree of "right" vs "wrong" or "good" vs "bad."

And even information does not tell a whole story anymore.
A top of the line all maple kit and a cheap made-in-china maple kit might have all the similar specs, but the construction is different, the quality is different and they're not necessarily equal.

Much like how in late 80's, Pearl had the BLX line, which spec wise, was nearly identical to the Yamaha recording custom. But sonically, they did not sound identical.
 
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Duck Tape

Platinum Member
A long while back I visited this forum, and reading through a couple of threads I thought 'wow, these guys are nerds'. Then I decided I wanted new stuff so I signed up, started coming here everyday, and here I am - being nerdy too. I think this is a phase, but the genuine and practical knowledge will stay with me. Besides, we all need our little things to obsess over. If it wasn't this it would be something else.

The only time gear fixation is silly to me - when a drummer has lots of expensive gear and loves talking about it in painful detail but he isn't actually any good at playing drums.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Too many people get caught up in the facts, without realizing, it's just information, and not a degree of "right" vs "wrong" or "good" vs "bad."
True. Bermuda talked about prioritising information. It can be difficult to know what's really important and what's just being touted as important by someone with a particular focus.

The only time gear fixation is silly to me - when a drummer has lots of expensive gear and loves talking about it in painful detail but he isn't actually any good at playing drums.
I don't see an issue there either. Their main hobby is collecting and playing is secondary. Why not, if they have the money, space and inclination? Drum kits are beautiful, captivating objects.

Collectors probably play a role in keeping the creaky wheels of drumming commerce turning, more so than someone like Charlie Watts with his ancient Gretsch.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
The only time gear fixation is silly to me - when a drummer has lots of expensive gear and loves talking about it in painful detail but he isn't actually any good at playing drums.
Trust me, these are the people that allow all drum companies to stay in business. lol
 
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