There are tons of good gear questions on this site. Gear questions are not about practice or theory (the formal title of this site) but this is the only technical music site (see note 1), so they end up here.

I am talking about questions like "What midi controller should I buy?" "How does MIDI work" or "How do I do X in this software?", etc. They are strictly gear related.

Questions specifically about instruments and hardware that relate to practicing, for example "What bow should I have my students use?", these answers are actually about playing/practicing, and create a grey area, but that is what moderation is for.

Just some thoughts. I think the community would be more focused on both sites if a line were drawn.

music.stackexchange.com, the URL is kinda hogging a very broad, too broad in my opinion, niche. Maybe we can keep it here, I think that is appropriate, it makes sense, but I am proposing that we create musicgear.stackexchange.com and offload seemingly off-topic but refugee questions about gear.

Disclosure: I just realized this site is in beta, that's what it says on the homepage, and I don't know what that means for if it is a good time to split a site. I am, by my own admission, not a SE META expert.

Disclosure: Yeah, I am new here, but I know these are defined in the scope as of now, and my question is simply "Should they be?" and I'm making points to support that they should not.

note 1: By technical I mean that the difference between this site and, say the music fan site, is that this is musician and craft oriented, whereas the other is fan oriented.

  • I'm quite sure that this has been previously discussed. I also see that some gear questions are qualified by 'off-topic'. But there are TONS of them on this site, and some of them are allowed to stay, so I'm really confused about whether or not the community thinks they belong here. I can't extrapolate a policy from the status quo, and that would suggest something needs to change. Jun 10 '15 at 19:31
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    Also we are going to graduate soon so we will be leaving beta soon.
    – Dom Mod
    Jun 10 '15 at 20:10
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    You should probably get to know the site and its scope before proposing breaking it apart. You can ask about the things that are confusing you rather than immediately deciding to chuck it out the window.
    – user28
    Jun 10 '15 at 22:13
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    @MatthewRead eh, when did I say that, chucking it out the window? You are taking it too seriously, it is even tagged with "discussion", and the question starts with "Should we..." Also, what objective criteria did you use to determine I should "get to know the site"? My rep? That's awful and upsets me. I could have VIEWED every question on here as far as you know. I did not, and don't claim to have, but I have read quite a few, and got a general impression of the balance of GEAR questions, which is not refuted by the others responding. Jun 10 '15 at 22:24
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    @MatthewRead Also, if someone who is familiar with EVERYTHING HERE posed the same question, how is the question MORE valuable? You are fundamentally making a personal and "usefulness of the question" judgement based solely on rep, which is antithetical to SE, as far as I understand. If you disagree, then please, what objective criteria did you use to judge my unfitness to ask this? Jun 10 '15 at 22:24
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    Did you see my quote from Dr Mayem in another comment here? In the short time I've been here, I independently drew the same connection, yet you somehow know that I'm unqualified to even suggest doing something about it? Jun 10 '15 at 23:27
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    You repeatedly indicated an unfamiliarity with our scope, our rules, and general SE guidelines -- whereas I said nothing about your rep. I think you should explore those things in order to provide founded criticisms or suggestions, not to somehow qualify yourself. My issue is with the content of your post, the suggestion that we split the site for specious reasons.
    – user28
    Jun 11 '15 at 3:59
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    Ah, now we are getting somewhere. So, you don't like the idea. So why don't you post the answer "No, we should not and here's why..."? Just because you have "issue with....the suggestion", that is, you don't like it, doesn't mean that I am unqualified or don't know what I'm talking about, but you are trying to bury the question, not answer it. Jun 11 '15 at 7:49
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    And I am quite familiar with the scope, and I think the way it is defined is a mess, so I'M SUGGESTING IT CHANGE. Your logic is: "This person thinks there's a reason to change the definition of our scope, therefore they must misunderstand the scope". That's ludicrous! Jun 11 '15 at 7:51
  • The existing answers are excellent and indicate where you have misunderstood. My comments do nothing to "bury" your post.
    – user28
    Jun 11 '15 at 15:27
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    The main reason why "What should I buy" question are off topic is because they are heavily Opinion based, which isn't in the scope of most Q&A Sites here. Where as "How would I do X in this software" questions would overlap with Super user. Similar things happen in Arqade computer game questions, this does cause a grey area. Jun 16 '15 at 9:02
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    There's no issue with gear questions, there's no problem to solve. I can't think of one single reason to even start discussing your ideas, let alone implement them. Your thoughts are interesting and welcome, but why even bother? We are doing great and will graduate soon. It's not clear where you got the impression that separation would improve the situation, other than your imagination. Jun 17 '15 at 0:53
  • @JCPedroza We discuss some discrete "issues" in one of the answers below, actually. Admittedly they are only observed, not proven with data, but perhaps they could be. Thanks for suggesting it's all in my head though, that's a very supportive attitude (tongue bitten). Isn't it possible that my general impression is a good enough reason to ask something on meta? Isn't it possible that the impression I get, the feeling I get, about the way these questions fit in might just be more than my imagination? Or are we back to the old "I don't agree so you must be imagining things" approach? Jun 17 '15 at 6:41
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    @WilburWhateley There's a complete lack of justification in your post. No origin, no direction. Only "what if we do this, just for the heck of it". You say that we "would be more focused", but you don't expand on why you think we need more focus, or why we lack focus in the current scope, so those words are pretty much meaningless. It's not even about agreement, we can't consider agreements and disagreements if you fail to provide the most basic of points for your suggestions. Just answer this: exactly what problem are you trying to solve? Jun 17 '15 at 7:25
  • @JCPedroza "You say that we "would be more focused", but you don't expand on why you think we need more focus, or why we lack focus in the current scope" - agreed, I only make those points based on personal observation. I will add more concrete example to illustrate the point I'm making. That data may take some time to aggregate... Jun 18 '15 at 18:31

IMHO there's no status quo:

  • "What midi controller should I buy?" is principally off-topic as a shopping question.

  • "How do I do X in this software?" may not be the most popular question here, but it is clearly on-topic, as long as the software is used to practice or perform music.

So I think that Music Gear site would be a strict subset of Music.SE. Given the traffic here is not terrifically large, having a new site doesn't sound like a good idea.

As a remark (thanks to Dom): The beta status is not that important, especially for a site that was already confirmed to eventually graduate.

  • Thanks, yo' ;) However I think that in defending the software question being on-topic, you defended the purchase questions also being on-topic because advice about which gear to buy is almost entirely based on how the user will 'practice' with it, it is not purely financial. Separate from that point, would "I want to play Viola, what instrument should I acquire (e.g. buy)?" be off topic? Do we differentiate "instruments" from "gear"? Jun 10 '15 at 20:42
  • Additionally, we have overloaded the word practice. From your response here, I infer that you mean practice like medicine. But I interpreted it as practice like technique, I'm going to "practice my scales", so I thought the site was about technique and theory, specifically about physically playing and music theory. Thus you see why I feel the gear questions, all of them, are off topic unless it is about playing technique. I don't disagree that music practice can encompass all things musically oriented, but that is just not how I interpreted the word. Jun 10 '15 at 20:44
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    @WilburWhateley your first comment doesn't really make sense. Asking how to use software is different then asking what software to buy just like how asking what equipment to buy is different then asking what to look for when buying equipment or how do I do this using this equipment. Thus in yo' is not equating them or saying they are the same and it's only really the what should I buy questions that are off-topic everything else is covered in the scope.
    – Dom Mod
    Jun 10 '15 at 21:59
  • @Dom "Which Software do I buy?" "From a practical or theortical musical standpoint, do you need X?" "Yes, I need to do X, which should I buy (also: how do I accomplish X with software)?" Gets hairy. The purchase of gear, software, etc. are all "instrument" purchases, because they are decisions that enable the creation of music. What are your thoughts on: would "I want to play Viola, what instrument should I acquire (e.g. buy)?" be off topic? Jun 10 '15 at 22:29
  • My link to Dr Mayhem's comment is wrong in a previous comment, try here: Jun 10 '15 at 23:38
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    @WilburWhateley you're also leaving off the end of the quote and the most important part: For these, I think the consensus is firmly that they are on topic, but getting clarity within our scope text is quite important.. So the concensus is that they are on topic, but more clarity is needed on some grey areas. Clarity is not a new SE for all musical equipment. On another note the domain will not change and has nothing to do with this discussion as it was given to us because we were the first music related SE and the domain is short and sweet.
    – Dom Mod
    Jun 11 '15 at 0:36
  • eh, never suggested changing the name, not sure where you got that. I do know that is a really sore subject around here, the site name, so I don't blame you for jumping at that one, lol. Also, I intentionally left out that part of the quote, because it is an opinion on the issue I am presenting, which should be presented in legitimate response. Also, that part of the quote refers to an uncited "consensus", and is purely opinion. The part I selected is stating more of an observation, which is the same I am pointing out. Jun 11 '15 at 0:42

I think this might be a good idea, although a bit unfortunate. Gear is an important part of playing music, but unfortunately some guidelines that might make sense on other sites were applied here, and these questions are often met with suspicion.

I feel the right way to go is to allow them here, since they are sort of on topic here, but people don't like them, possibly since "it's not SE" to have "shopping" questions.

Editing gear questions to be more about what to think about when buying a type of equipment, rather than which brand, has generated many tedious discussions. So even if most questions have a form which is acceptable, it's not easy arriving at that form.

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    So it sounds, from your response, that this is a good and relevant question to ask, even if you didn't say it explicitly. Whew, cuz' I'm getting beat down over here. Also, I removed the "shopping" example from my question. I had no idea how inflammatory that question is on SE and it is detracting from my actual question, which is sad. However, "shopping" questions are perfectly on a gear site, no? Jun 11 '15 at 8:00
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    Well, there's a wide range of opinions about this. The firmest proof that things weren't thought over is that the original reason for not allowing gear questions at all was "since they quickly become outdated"... In general, mentioning "shopping" or "list" questions is like showing the cape to the bull around SE sites. Jun 11 '15 at 8:05
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    I've only realized that recently. I am a total gear head, and "shopping list" questions don't bother me at all, I relish them, as other enthusiasts. So maybe you can see why I feel like we should offload the gear stuff, because I, rightly, got the impression immediately that people don't like that type of questions here, so why not do them a favor and get them out of here? Doesn't work that way though... Jun 12 '15 at 21:56
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    @WilburWhateley: I think you would have a hard time getting them accepted on any site in the SE network, since it's so rooted. And the use of pure "shopping" questions could be debated. I believe that there is a general question at the core of the shopping questions, which will give the questioner what he wants, and the information will still be generally useful. But the "specific equipment" clause here kills a lot of equipment questions dead, since people like to close stuff just for the sake of it. Jun 13 '15 at 7:48
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    I'd disagree with the 'like to close stuff' - as I don't know anyone who does that. On the contrary, most of the community have been positive about trying to increase the number of posts. One of the things we do have is a good steer from SE and the community on what is within scope (and this has gone through a lot of work) so mods specifically, and the community as a whole do try and ensure posts meet requirements.
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    Jun 19 '15 at 7:49
  • And in fact where members of the community have managed to identify the 'core question' they have been pretty good at editing the question so we can keep it.
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    Jun 19 '15 at 7:52

I will mention a trend here, that I've noticed several times before (but probably never commented on) which is that when you look at the Unanswered Questions, a disproportionate amount of them relate to how to do something with a specific piece of hardware or software (such as Logic, Reason Traktor, FL, etc...). AFAICT, these questions are not currently considered off-topic, as long as they are not shopping lists, or opinion-based, or other similar questions. Instead they are about how to perform a very specific task with a very specific tool.

I think such questions can be valuable, and should remain on-topic (or at least should not be indiscriminately closed), but I fear that we don't have enough user expertise to answer them effectively. The fact that there are so many different tools, and so many different ways to use them means that they are often a niche within a niche, and end up going unanswered, which might contribute to the perception that we frown upon such questions, when in actuality, we may lack the experience to give them the attention they deserve.

I'm not sure what the answer here is, but I'm not sure a new SE is needed. Is there a way to attract more users with this additional expertise? Perhaps in some cases, it might be appropriate to refer such questions to the Sound Design SE?

  • Just to play devil's advocate, you are admitting that the population/audience here (potentially) lacks the ability to answer the question, but then go on to claim that the questions should remain on-topic? Didn't you kind of solve your own problem there? If this isn't the right crowd, that is one of the better reasons for offloading these questions. Jun 16 '15 at 19:36
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    And I think you hit the nail on the head with but I fear that we don't have enough user expertise to answer them effectively. Coming from a background in gear, I know that the term "musician" is spread very thin, and the "musicians" that equate buying equipment with making music would not come here, because they have no interest in theory or musical analysis, or any type of instrument that doesn't require an AC plug (I'm really generalizing). Jun 16 '15 at 19:39
  • As I admitted, I don't know the answer, but I do think there's a valuable discussion for the community to have. Options include referring to another existing SE, or increasing our user base. I'd even agree that a new SE isn't completely out of the realm of possibility, but may require jumping considerably more hurdles to reach critical mass, especially if its only a small number of users who would benefit from it. But I don't really know how these things work. I'm primarily just making a blanket observation about the nature of our unanswered questions. Jun 16 '15 at 19:46
  • There is also a good argument to be made that "music practice" generally includes any questions about using tools of any sort to make music. That we might not (yet) have complete coverage of that field doesn't imply that the field should necessarily be reduced. Jun 16 '15 at 19:50
  • this is, as I understand, one of the reasons the name flip-flopped to "Practice and Theory", putting the word practice first, to avoid some potential alienation. Jun 16 '15 at 19:54
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    DAWs (Logic, Reason, etc) are musical instruments. In that sense it doesn't make much sense to remove them from the scope of this site, just because they are complex, or because some people don't know what they are or how to use them, or because they are digital. I don't see why the disproportion of knowledge should be a reason for removal from scope (I know you said "I don't know", but you are also putting the idea on the table). Should we also remove from the scope other instruments that have not as a big following as piano or guitar? Jun 17 '15 at 0:40
  • As for Sound Design SE, they consider any question with any hint of music in it off-topic. If the question has anything (anything, even a tiny bit) to do with music, it is closed, sometimes migrated here. Jun 17 '15 at 0:46
  • For DAW and related, I'm hoping that the proposed Music Production SE takes off. There are tons of questions in this area, but we don't have the community to cater for them. If you have one of these questions and check this site out, it's not encouraging. Jun 18 '15 at 11:11

The two sample questions you list, "How does MIDI work" and "How do I do X in this software?", are on topic here and fit fine within the scope as currently defined so there's not really a reason to move them somewhere else. In general equipment is a very small part of the questions asked here and from this site don't seem to be sustainable on their own nor do they need to be because most equipment questions fit here with the exception of recommendation questions. A few things to also address:

  • The title of the site is not the scope nor is the url. We have many other types of questions on this site besides theory and practice. The scope of the site can be found in the the tour, the FAQ, and the meta.

  • The only thing off-topic about the equipment is recommendations and what to buy which is a relatively small subset of equipment questions.

  • The question you keep asking "I want to play Viola, what instrument should I acquire (e.g. buy)?" seems to off-topic because you seem to be asking for a specific model of Viola to buy. Different people need and look for different things in instruments so that recommendation would most likely only be valid for the one person and extremly option based. A question asking what to look for would be perfectly in our scope and more useful to everyone. That way someone can look at models and know what to look for and make an educated decision when buying the instrument.

  • The quote you keep linking is incomplete as I pointed out in the comments. The full quote is:

"We have more difficulty at the crossover between music and hardware - specifically around electronic music, where there may not be any real instruments, and DJ'ing, where there may not be any creation of music as such (yes - I know I'm probably wording that wrongly). For these, I think the consensus is firmly that they are on topic, but getting clarity within our scope text is quite important."

  • The consensus is really an not an opinion like you say. It comes from many, many different discussions, voting patterns, and suggestions over the course of this site. There still is some grey area, but not enough for a new site to exist and claim it.

If you really want to try it, propose it on Area51. Most likely it will be closed as a dup of this site or unsustainable for the reasons yo' and I have pointed out.

  • I think you guys are way off in the weeds here on interpreting my question so I'm going to leave it alone for now. You are right, I should investigate the possibility through the appropriate channels, i.e. Area51. Jun 11 '15 at 7:45

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