The Etiquette of Sharing Instruments

My informant considers himself to be a musician and was an active member of his High School’s band and the community that surrounded it. In this group there are many well followed customs involving how you are to act when borrowing or otherwise using someone else’s instrument. While casual play on someone else’s instrument is acceptable it is important that you “actually play music with it” because it “would be disrespectful to just pick up someone else’s instrument and do nothing of value with it.” This is because in this community, your instrument is “almost an extension of you.” Understandably so, if someone were to take something this significant of yours and create unenjoyable music with it you may be offended. However, this is not that big of a deal, especially if it is a one time sort of thing. On the other side, the prospect of completely sharing an instrument with another band member would be “kind of ridiculous” to my informant and the members of his community, “even if it made sense logistically.” This is because, to them, “sharing an instrument is like sharing a toothbrush. Our instruments are very personal parts of our lives, so to give that to someone else would be a little uncomfortable.” Of course, this rule has exceptions. “One weird thing that would happen is that whenever people from the same section (for example the rhythm section or the brass section) would date, it would be alright for them to share instruments. Actually, that would be kind of considered sweet or cute.”

This reveals that in this community an instrument is more than just a tool. Rather, your personal instrument is to be treated as an extension to yourself. Whatever you or someone else does with that instrument reflects directly back to you. Because of this, members of this community are more protective of their instruments than you would ordinarily expect. I believe that this extreme protection over an instrument shows that in this community, the music you make and what you sue to make that music is a defining aspect of how you are viewed.