My Rough Approach to Gear Review (so far…)

I’m not an expert, but I’m working on it.

The business and blogging gurus of the world might tell me not to mention that, to present what I know with confidence, and avoid acknowledging gaps by way of intentional omission… But I’m not going to do that.

The entire point of this blog is exploration. I aim to chronicle the things I learn while I’m learning them, to share experiences and ideas and insights in whatever forms they come, however imperfect they might be – and by doing so, encourage you to do the same. Not for the sake of reputation, clout, or anything of the sort – but rather for the noble pursuit of knowledge, and owning the roughshod, meandering path that such pursuit includes.

As I wander my way into doing more “gear review” type posts, I’m met with a fair amount of imposter syndrome. I don’t run a studio. I don’t work for a drum company. I’ve had a relatively cool collection over my life, but there’s a TON I don’t know… But this is my place to explore and share, right?

With that in mind, I wanted to address the how and why of these “reviews,” partly to explain myself, but mostly to answer my own question: “why write reviews when I feel underqualified?”

Why?

First and foremost, gear is cool.

It’s not the whole story, of course, and cool shit won’t make you a better player. By the same token, a great player can make just about anything sound awesome. Still, though, gear choices say a lot about a drummer, and the modular nature of the instrument(s) mean we have a ton of freedom to change things around, swap out snare drums, add cymbals, whatever…

If you follow my Instagram, you know I love to mix and match the gear I own in as many permutations as possible. It’s interesting to see how changing a setup changes my playing, how the voices on the kit affect the choices I make…

This means I always want to try new things and new equipment – and so, even on a budget, the collection keeps expanding.

The more “stuff” I have, the more I learn about the subtle differences, the practical applications, the artistry involved in their creation… And it’s all involved in the grand process of becoming the drummer I want to be… So why not write about it too?

A Loose Approach

As I mentioned in a recent snare drum review, I’m not really a tinkerer type… I love to play, and I love to mix and match, but I’m not the kind of drummer to go through all the possible head combinations, tuning ranges, do microphone shootouts and room tests to find the best use of a particular wood type…

Instead, I “review” pieces of gear I own, and describe them in the configurations I use. It’s terribly personal, I know, but just maybe it’s enough information to help others or guide some buying decisions – that’s not really what it’s about, though. I guess it’s about chronicling my own journey, and trying my damnedest to articulate the often loose ideas that surround timbre, feel, and other nameless musical qualities.

Forced Learning

Even more importantly, these gear reviews are practice – a reason to get familiar with the format and the vocabulary… It’s a way of forcing myself to compare fine details, to really think about plies and metals and hoops and cymbal thickness… To make myself really notice how each piece behaves in a truly unique way.

By taking the less tangible qualities of an instrument to the page, I force myself to give them names – and to recognize the things I like and don’t like. To articulate what works for me.┬áIt’s a reason to make qualitative comparisons, learn about company histories, and above all, to dig deeper into understanding just how all these tubes and discs really work.

Lean In

Again, I face a ton of imposter syndrom when writing “reviews.” So, as a way of facing fear or beating back those demons, I’m trying to do it anyway.

It’s always a challenge. I always feel like I’m not being clinical enough, like I don’t know enough about the products, like I’m not providing a truly thorough rundown for any would-be reader… But that’s ok. I’m doing it because I feel like I suck at it, and pressing through is the only way to get better.

Hell, the imposter syndrome is probably why I feel the need to explain myself…

 

Regardless of why, I’m going to keep at it. I haven’t done many, and I’ve got plenty of other pieces in the collection to take a stab at. I’ll get better as I go, and that’s the whole schtick – to learn by doing, and make the attempts even when they don’t seem good enough. We’re all learning, and if I can teach a little through the process, I’m doing something for myself and for the drumming community at large.

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