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The Gear Doesn’t Make the Player (*but always choose pro-grade)

“When the going gets weird, the weird go Pro.”

– Hunter S. Thompson

I’ll take pro-grade gear any day of the week over consumer-grade, mass-produced crap. Gear refers to the tools of our trade, whatever that may be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no elitist snob or materialistic label pusher. My brand loyalty is nil. Just keep making pro-grade gear that supports and serves the pro in me and we’ll get along just fine. If you get too clever with enhancements, or start skimping on materials or service, then peace out.

Brands must build from the “what have you done for me lately” demands of their market.

I’ll never cut corners when it comes to pro-grade gear. Other stuff like clothes and cars don’t  fall into the gear category for me. They are more like necessary evils, and typically the more basic, comfortable, and under-the-radar stealth, the better. I don’t race, or entertain in my car. 

I don’t model clothes, but I do entertain in them.

In our magazine cover debut as a family last month, I opted for an impossibly ill-fitting shirt from Target. Which beautifully complimented my choice cargo shorts from American Eagle. Those garments are filed in their own category of “Dad-Grade”.

For the right gear to find its way into my arsenal, it needs to meet high quality control standards. This comes from my past as a full-time, professional bassist (and current part-time status). I could never settle for sub-standard music gear, specifically guitars and amps. The audience deserves more than some rickity-ass, thin-sounding rig.

When the occasion comes to drop that low-D and let it ring, you’ll want a solid platform to support it. From the sustain of the wood, through your signal chain of gold-plated-tipped cabling, out through the pro-grade subs. Into the stomachs and hearts of those in attendance, including yourself.

You gotta feel it for your soul to hear it, otherwise you risk compromising authenticity. And would that be acceptable? Hell no it wouldn’t.

It all must ROCK. If it doesn’t, why bother? I don’t go to rock shows to watch artists tinkering with toys and shit. A gang of hipsters tweaking some circuit-bending gadgetry is another matter. That is riveting. In that case they’ve clearly defined and manifested their own definition of “pro-grade”. The inner-hipster in all of us likely still rocks some thrift-store chic whenever possible.

I love creating from a “less is more” headspace, and finding the unique voice of whatever instrument happens to be lying around. Sometimes that’s my daughter’s Kitty Keyboard, or Hello Kitty guitar. But when it comes to supporting my songs, or message, or my efficient transport from hither to yon, it has to be pro-grade all the way.

In my humble beginnings, bass playing only took a strap and a cord, plugged into a tiny practice amp. A few years later I was touring with a 900 watt Mo’Bass amp pushing two SWR bass cabinets, for a grand total of 1×15″, 5×10″ speakers, and 2 tweeters. The demands of your work require continual upgrades, and some times, downgrades.

  • Marathoners don’t wear some busted, TRAX tennis shoes.
  • Pro-guitarists don’t rock guitars with built in speakers from Best Buy.
  • Pro-travelers don’t grab some janky duffle bag and throw their overflow in a paper sac.
  • Pro-photographers don’t throw their gear together on their way to a shoot.


Pro-grade is a specialized delineation between us, and the masses. It is a state of mind, a standard.

At any of the crossroads of your day, when the options present themselves go pro-grade. If you want to be recognized as a pro, acquire, maintain, and most importantly beat the living crap out of your pro-grade gear.

What are some of your favorite tools of your trade? How do they support your dreams and creativity?

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3 Responses

  1. Great advice, as always, KC!

    When I worked in music, I often saw people use bottom-of-the-barrel gear, duct-taped together even if they could technically afford better. While there are always outliers, most of these duct-tapers were never going to make it (even if they were very talented) because they had a starving artist mentality. It sounds romantic, but you need to have a rockstar mentality to play the big stages. I’ve tried to work on this in my own life, making sure *I* believe I’m worth more because until that happens, no one else will.

    1. Yeah, in rare occasions you can hear kickass music come from shitty gear, but it's pretty rare. Obviously it's not just extended to music gear as you pointed out. It's about giving yourself the best possible shot at creating something of beauty and value that CONNECTS.

      much love, thanks for the comment!


  2. I’m in complete agreement. There is pleasure and inspiration in using the right tool for the task at hand, and in recognizing that whatever person or company made that tool brought their best efforts to its creation. I feel inspired to honor that in my daily use.

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