The Next Level
by, Mar-15-2011 at 2:50pm (1658 Views)
There has been some discussion about the progression of mandolin ownership. Starting on a beginners mandolin and upgrading to something better, but not too good lest we seem pretentious, and then upgrading from there to ďthe next levelĒ as soon as we deserve it, and can afford it, and so on. And lots of fascinating discussion occurs regarding what make and model of mandolin is appropriate to each level in the continuum from embryo to awesome.
Then the question as to whether this continuum ever ends. Does one always need an upgrade? Is there always a next level? When is good enough good enough? Indeed, when is enough even enough?
The thing is to ask ourselves, what are we in it for? There are no wrong answers, and no complete answers, and probably no single answer for any of us. But it is important to ask the question. And I need to keep asking myself, if only to remind myself of the answers. My answers. For me.
I am a player.
I am not a collector - so I don't need one of everything. I donít display them at home, I keep them in their cases except for the one I am playing. I rarely have more than one out at a time.
I am not an investor - so I don't care what they will be worth in the future. How an instrument might appreciate in the future does not in the least bit affect my purchase decision, or how I play or take care of them now.
I am not a dealer - so they are not for sale or trade. At any price. No trade up, no trade down, no.
I am not a curator - so I don't need to preserve an historical era, or protect the instrument from the exigencies of a normal playing life. I take good care of my instruments because I want them to be playable and I respect good working machinery, but I am not above playing hard under all kinds of circumstances and conditions, and customizing to meet my needs as I see them.
I am not a celebrity - so I don't need to own the best or brightest example of the luthiery arts. Heck most folks canít tell itís a mandolin, much less whether or not itís a fine mandolin.
I am not a combatant - so I donít need an better instrument than you. In fact, I donít spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of instrument you have.
I am not a showoff - so I don't need to impress anyone with the quality or value of my possessions. Nobody cares anyway.
I am not an ascetic - so I donít need to prove how modest an instrument I can get away with. I am not in the least ashamed of owning a nice instrument.
I am not a steward - so I donít spend much time worrying about what will happen to my mandolins after I pass on. I would like to see them in good hands, sure, but I am not going to sacrifice a single slice of the fun I have now in order to affect a future I wonít be around to appreciate.
I am a player. That means the most important thing to me is the music I am playing. The tunes, the jams, the sounds, the chords, the tradition, the musical friends, the musical communications between friends, between generations, between eras. The opportunity to participate in something beautiful, and perhaps transendent. This is my first love.
All the rest is of interest, certainly, but I know where my heart is, and more of it is in the music and less of it is in the paraphernalia.
One implication of being a player is that I already own mandolins fully capable of a lot more than I am personally capable of. At this point a better mandolin would not make me a better mandolinner. Of course this hasnít always been true. At some point back there my beginners instrument was limiting me. But that hasnít been true for many many years. None of my instruments limit me as much as my own genetics, time available, and lifestyle I have adopted.
And I have no illusions that this is going to change. Oh I will get marginally better at this or that, but I ainít never going to be good enough to NEED a better mandolin to express what I am capable of expressing. Any future purchase will be because its pretty, or unique, or looks like fun to own. Not to make any kind of improvement.
That is me. I make absolutely no comments about how you should be. You should be how you want to be. My point is that it is easier to be how you want to be if you know how you want to be.
And lest you ascribe to me some kind of zen like calm, let me assure you the opposite is quite true. There there are many pretty, unique, fun looking instruments out there that I lust after. Lust after! I just donít rationalize my lust by pretending another mandolin will make me better, or that I deserve something better, or that you will like me better, or that better has anything to do with it. I just want pretty things.