The online review, or the case of the disappearing opinion.

June 21, 2016

When each of us started playing the saxophone, it's highly probable that there was a player who inspired us with his or her sound.  As we mature, many of us went out to find the magic reed or horn, or of course mouthpiece to help us on our way.  How many jazz fans stared at the cover of Blue Train, and wondered how Trane got that brilliant sound on a ToneMaster?  How many folks bought Guardala's because they were enamored of Mike Brecker's sound and so on, ad nauseum?  


I think a healthy curiosity is a necessary component of development at any age in any pursuit.  Looking to the masters is how most all great artists developed.  However, since the era of high speed internet there is a new phenomenon that is slowly emerging as a force in this arena: the online review.  


I'm always for collaboration and sharing opinions, but in this day in age, it seems like consumers are less and less inclined to make a decision, unless at least a hundred strangers on the internet validate their opinions.  "Did it get good reviews?", "how many reviews does it have?"  "what did 'X' Blog or site have to say about it". Consumer reports are important but we are supposed to be artists, and to my way of thinking, artistry demands the courage to be yourself.  "Do you have any sound clips of this mouthpiece", "what does it sound like?"  These are questions I'm often unsure of how to answer.  


I know that I will sound more or less the same on most pieces (provided I finally found a good reed) and after hearing countless NYC professionals, so do most people.  The differences we experience are often very personal and experiential.  (As a side note, I once had a conversation with a friend who stated that a particular vintage of mouthpiece had 'no character'.  'People have character, not mouthpieces', was my reply).  What I'm leading up to is a very important, but sensitive issue: the opinion of a reviewer needs to be heard in the context in which the review was given.  


Not everybody's opinion can have the same level of expertise or discernment.  As younger people tend to take to the internet more naturally, there leaves a gap for older and more experienced players who view online forums with more than a little disdain.  Likewise, when a person offhandedly gives a restaurant a bad review online because they didn't like the food, most people take that review at face value.  Very rarely will somebody consider the reviewer's level of discernment or taste.  Not everybody likes high cuisine, or fashion or art. The customer who wants a classic fast food may not want his burger with a goose egg served on top with homemade mayonnaise ... 


Experience, taste, personality and so on all come into play when someone gives his opinion.  Take a chance!  Try something new! What works for one person may not necessarily work for you.  There's a reason there is more than one kind of saxophone, mouthpiece, reed, cars, shoes, pants etc etc etc. What do YOU think?









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