Why Don't More People Into Music Reproduction At Home Play Around With Musical Instruments

 In the pursuit of music reproduction in the home it is my firm belief that you must listen to live music every now & again so that you know & understand how real music,with real instruments,in real physical spaces sounds...
 With that as a foundation I used in judging equipment's "voice" I also believe that playing around with a musical instrument is an excellent way to gain first hand experience with musical sound...EVERY person that reads this can learn a few musical notes,on ANY musical instrument on the planet..For instance I play around with electric guitar.NO I can NOT play,but I can play the notes EFG,on first string & BCD on the second string...Now  I know those few notes & easily recognize them in any song..I am just this coming week going to start playing around with an electric keyboard....So I wonder,why don't more audiophiles simply play around with real instruments as part of their pursuit of honest reproduction in the home?Surely the education in reality is worth the $100.00 it takes to get an entry level guitar,keyboard,horn etc...

Showing 3 responses by frogman

Great topic. I agree wholeheartedly and happy to see so many comments supportive of your premise.

“Now I know those few notes & easily recognize them in any song.”

Then you have more talent (ears) than you give yourself credit for. Get yourself a good teacher!

**** I mastered the trumpet in 1967-1971 and was in the jazz band in high school ****

No offense, but I kinda doubt it (the “mastering” part).

**** “I love flamingo...“ ****

I love flamingo too 😊:


Btw, a new professional quality saxophone can be had for about $4,000 (and up, of course; much less for used).

Stringreen offers good advice re the value in taking a music history or appreciation course as an alternative; although not everyone will “lose interest“ in playing around with a musical instrument. Doing so may lead to a more in depth commitment to the instrument; and the value of a more causal acquaintance, as the OP suggests, is still very real. One does not have to preclude the other.

Like Stringreen I have been playing musical instruments since very young. Since age five in my case and professionally and exclusively as a profession for over forty years. I would like to offer some thoughts on the musician/audiophile issue as there are some misconceptions that get bandied about frequently.

The idea that musicians don’t care about the quality of reproduced sound is mistaken. Of course there are musicians that don’t particular care to devote the time or energy into assembling and maintaining an audiophile quality audio system. As has been pointed out, some musicians don’t have the means to do so. More importantly, many don’t (and I believe this may be an important reminder for SOME audiophiles) because when musicians listen to music the focus of their attention is usually on musical performance matters and not on matters of “sound”. Of course, sound is an important aspect of performance; but, only one aspect and there are more important considerations in music performance. Additionally, and this is why I don’t agree with a single one of Geoffkait’s assertions, musicians are usually too busy with not only performance considerations, but also musical instrument setup and “tweaking”. As a result there is little inclination, or time, to add one more thing (audio) to the list of things to obsess about. More on that momentarily.

Having said all that and to debunk the “musicians don’t care about audio” myth, based on my experience and that of many other colleagues, I can state unequivocally that as a percentage of the population of professional musicians, there are infinitely more musician/audiophiles out there than the percentage of audiophiles within the population of what could rightfully be called music lovers; never mind the general population.

Contrary to Geoff’s assertion there are, in fact, many parallels between being a musician and being an audiophile. Moreover, the idea that being a musician does not “in any way help when it comes to high end audio” is misguided and actually defies logic. Of course, this assumes that the goal of the audiophile is to achieve sound that best approximates the actual sound of live music and not simply sound that “sounds good” without the use of a reference other than that audiophile’s tastes and preferences.

Having been an audiophile almost as long as I have been a professional musician my experience has been that the level of changes and improvement in sound that we as audiophiles chase by way of the many tweaks, cables, vacuum tube changes, etc. are often far more obvious than the extremely subtle changes in sound (timbre, texture, speed, definition, etc.) that professional musicians concern themselves with when choosing equipment and its setup and tweaking. You think power cords make a difference? The very real difference they make is huge compared to the important difference resulting from whether a saxophone’s ligature (that little metal clamp that holds the reed in place) is plated with 14 vs 18 karat gold; or silver, or brass. Just one of the countless tweaks that an instrumentalist has to be sensitive to when setting up an instrument. Metal or plastic resonators on the pads? Metal or rubber mouthpiece? Which reed cut style? Was the cane for the reed grown in France or in Argentina? How tight or loose does the neck fit on the horn? Even the strap used to hang the horn from one’s neck can have a subtle effect on one’s tone; and these are the things that cause the more obvious differences in sound. Then you have the more ephemeral ones, like which mouthpiece causes one’s sound to project more than another. Two of the same model mouthpiece from the same manufacturer can sound identical heard up close, but heard twenty feet away may sound quite different with one sounding much more (or less) present or more focused. Same principles apply to all families of instruments in one way or another.

Then, you have performance related issues on a minuscule level that a musician has to have the ear for and be sensitive to. Intonation, timbral blend with other players, accuracy and flexibility with rhythm; just a few of countless considerations. You think it’s tricky setting up and correctly placing a subwoofer? Try having to take into account and adjust one’s playing on a moment’s notice to compensate for the time delay heard when having to play a unison line with a bass section situated forty feet away on the stage. The parallels are many.

And some wonder why some musicians don’t want to deal with audio?! Me? I guess I’m a glutton for punishment 😱

Best to all.