I'm a sax player. And like most sax players, I love looking at new equipment when it comes out. Reeds, mouthpieces, necks, pads, microphone systems, you name it, I've probably looked at it lovingly, thinking that just buying that thing would take my playing to the next level.
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I caught myself this morning looking longingly at the new Theo Wanne Mantra tenor sax range and wondering if I should consider selling my beloved P. Mauriat in favor of a Mantra. Mind you, I've only had my current horn for about two years.
And I'm not alone. Most professional players are almost legendary in their pursuit of the ultimate sound. Legend has it that Michael Brecker, probably the greatest tenor player of our age, collected hundreds of mouthpieces in his search for excellence. He also purchased and later resold hundreds of saxophones, always returning to his original instrument.
In most circles, this is known as GAS, short for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.
See, it's much easier to believe that simply buying the right mouthpiece, crook, reed, or horn will give you the perfect sound. But the truth is that the thing that most directly influences your music and your tone is ... you. That's right, the cat behind the horn has the greatest influence. Not the horn.
A beginner will sound just as bad on a vintage Selmer Mk VI as he will on a brand new Bundy II student horn. And Jeff Coffin or Chris Potter will blow you away on either horn. Because the critical instrument, the player himself, has been well-tuned in the latter cases.
Are you on a constant search for the ultimate answer to your leadership, business, or family issues? Do you think the answers lie in reading books?
Books are great, but only insomuch as they cause you to change yourself. Simply owning stacks of books sitting impressively on your shelves doesn't improve your situation one whit.
So focus on the piece of the puzzle where you can really effect great change. Don't change instruments, change the player.
And say goodbye to GAS.