Eric Clapton had ‘Blackie’, Willie Nelson had ‘Trigger’, George Harrison had ‘Lucy’ and B.B King had ‘Lucille’, just to name a few. These are some of the greatest musicians of our time and the names their respective instruments were given.
The relationship between a musician and his instrument can be quite obvious and at the same time reasonably mysterious. Such is the paradox that exists when it comes to the dynamics of the relationship between them. More often than not, it is a very intimate and personal equation that exists between the musician and his instrument.
Each instrument is different in terms of ‘playability’ and ‘feel’. Musicians being the picky and fussy lot we are, quickly get used to a particular one and many times find it rather unusual and difficult the perform without them. Well, come to think of it, it is the means of your expression! It better be exactly what you want……
When something acts as means/channel for our expression, undoubtedly we form a very special bond with it. Take the instance of a guitarist, for him/her, every aspect of the guitar becomes very critical when it comes to expression. The tone, action, sustain, etc. Also, with guitars, a lot of the tonal qualities depend on the type of wood used, the treatment, and a lot more. All these specific things are ensuring that the guitarist is exactly getting the sound he/she is looking for. Believe me when I say musicians are very particular about sound, as it is one the critical factors impacting the overall performance.
As a drummer here is my take on the situation. Firstly, every drummer is looking for a particular type of drum kit in order to complement the style or genre that is being played. So the picking and choosing begins right from the get go! A jazz drummer and a hard rock/heavy metal drummer may completely differ in terms of the drum kits they would choose. Starting with shell sizes, types of wood, type of drum heads, etc. You see, we are all looking for that perfect sound! Sometimes we are so used to our instrument that we are even willing to neglect certain malfunctions and imperfections that may have occurred over the years. Any change or correction of the fault and we may say ‘Errrm, sounds okay but still not the same! Know what I mean? Eehhh???
Not to forget, with years of playing a particular instrument, the player begins to understand in terms of sound, the sweet spot, the limits to which it can be pushed, what settings work, etc. Also, as the years go by the musician develops a sort of trust and level of comfort with the instrument and this is what it is all about. It is something like having your best friend around you to help express things from the inner most realms of your being. You have a very intimate and personal relationship with your best friend don’t you? You both know each other very well, each others’ strengths and weaknesses alike, right? The relationship is somewhat similar with your instrument.
Now why would you not want to be fussy and picky about your best friend? ☺