If you're like me, you can call to mind a few very pithy lessons you've learned that were so striking that they hammered their way into your brain and have stayed there for years. A lot of them are basic truths that you can apply to countless situations in your life where you need to make good decisions.
One of these truths hit me like a thunderbolt when I was young and it's been a guidepost for me ever since. I was in a conversation with a jeweler, an older man, talking about taste. He said, "Let me give you a word of advice. You need to decide whether you want fashion or style."
Of course, I had to ask what the difference was.
He explained that fashion is current; it reflects how you feel now, what's happening and trending, what's going on in the world you live in. Yes, fashions can change, but in their time frame they're the declaration of what matters and where you are. And a fashion that's out of its time frame is still a declaration.
Style, on the other hand, is relatively timeless; it is more reserved, more classic, less identifiable with a specific trend or a particular declaration. It's never going to be out there at the forefront of anything, but it's always going to be comfortable in any surroundings.
"Neither one is better than the other. It's not as though one is right and one is wrong," the jeweler told me, "but you need to make a choice or the design is going to be muddled and weak."
In the years since, I've found I could apply that little observation to choices about everything from cars to music genres, to haircuts, to neighborhoods -- even to personal relationships, sometimes. I can see some of that distinction even in thinking about why I like the role of the drummer, and why I've never felt the need to be a front man.
So in thinking about the look of your custom drums, think about not only how you want their appearance to speak for you, but also about how you want their appearance to represent you. Whether you intend to or not, the way you present yourself on stage and in person sends a message to your audience, even to your band -- it's your personal brand. And, like it or not, you're going to get judged by that presentation and how it fits the way the band presents itself, how it fits the music genre, how it fits the audience and venue. The look of your instruments plays a role in shaping your brand, just like the way you dress for a gig does.
So ... do you go for fashion or style? How do you want your drums to look, and what do you want them to say about you? The choice is completely up to you, but you do need to decide. And once you've made that decision, the visual design details will become a lot easier -- each specific option of finish, hardware, etc., will either keep you on the path or get you off track. Yes, you can go for a combination of design elements that doesn't have a clear character, but you'd be passing up a great opportunity to build your brand as a performer. Identifying fashion or style up front -- to define your design goal -- is an essential first step.
Jeff Hankin is the owner of Carolina Drumworks. Jeff is also a columnist and contributor to Not So Modern Drummer. You can visit his site at www.carolinadrumworks.com