We have all heard older generations talk about the “good ol’ days.” If you could bring back a lost tradition, technology, culture, or a simple characteristic from people of the past, what would it be and why? How do you think this would affect society today? Why do you think that aspect of society was lost in the first place?
The art of handiwork is being lost. As society moves futher into a technologically induced comfort zone, we create less with our own hands. Craftsmanship and true musicianship aren’t skills that are earned by accident; they require legitimate time and patience to acquire. Instead of putting forth the effort, many have been drawn to cheap impersonations of instruments like “guitar hero”. They expect the same from both a plastic guitar and the instruments that these games mimic. This is what society is losing: understanding the difference between genuine creative expression and fake creative expression. Pressing colored buttons on a squeaky controller is an easy way to feel like a rockstar. This wasn’t enough for me. I wanted the hardships and the obstacles. I wanted what real musicians faced in the “good ol days”.
Since my dad and I both began playing the instrument, we were immediately fascinated with the guitar as a piece of machinery. From what we could see, the guitar was nothing more than a wooden template hoisting 6 thin steel strands and two cases of copper wiring. There weren’t any of the silicon boards or LCD screens that the fancy electronics of today sport, so it was uncanny to us that such a seemingly simple machine could produce such a wide variety of complex noise.
As we continued to pluck and strum our way through the basics of guitaristry, our knowledge of the instrument’s mechanics began to mature. The tonal resonance of the wooden body coupled with the “hotness” of the single or double coiled pick-ups (devices that translate vibration into electric output) made sense to us. The whole machine became less of an abstract design perpetuated by traditional image, and more of a sensical product, with features implemented upon by years of rich innovation.
So here I was: the typical 13 year old kid with his cheap, starter electric guitar. I practiced my scales and chords diligently, and improved slowly as anyone should have. But as my lingering knowledge and fascination with the instrument’s design began to develop faster than my musical capabilites, my Dad and I decided to tackle a new hobby. We were going to build our own electric guitar.
At first, the idea seemed far fetched. Afterall, electric guitars are machines with bizarre bits and pieces in them. I had no idea how to build a functioning object, let alone an object as crafty as an electric instrument. The entire concept of creating something for practical use in this day and age came off as too old timey to be realistic. Little did I know that it would be this disconnect from modern practice that would effect me the most.
Over the span of 6 months my dad and I toiled over the instrument we set out to create. Originally just a pile of wires, metal objects, and wooden parts, the guitar was now coming together. We sanded, finished, drilled, cut, pieced, mapped, and joined wooden parts; we soldered, snaked, connected, assembled, and covered electroincs; we strung; we planned; we drew; we measured, we did just about everything two ametures could do in a household basement, and we did it all both frustrated at the difficulty of our project, and excited for its impending completion.
Then finally, I had my guitar in hand. Playing this instrument was a far different experience than playing my 150 dollar epiphone sg special 6 months before. When I plucked a string, it wasn’t only the stinging tone that put a smile on my face. It was a very unique sense of accomplishment that playing could scarcely give me. The guitar may have had chips and cuts in the body; it may have had a dysfunctional volume pot; It may have even had an exposed backside, but it was the most impressive thing I had ever seen in that instance.
I did what guitar hero or iphones or xbox would never allow me to do: I built something for myself. Technology has rendered craftsmanship inconvenient and somewhat obsolete. I have gained such a deep apprecation for the instrument I now play with moderate proficiency that I find it unfortunate that the whole of society doesn’t build guitars everyday. If nothing else, handiwork gives us a greater appreciation for what technology has already bestowed before us. It gives us an expressive outlet and something to be legitimately proud of everytime the creation finds our use. So as kids continue to press the colored buttons on their plastic controllers, all while thinking they are “rocking out”, they are really at a loss for what true musicianship and true craftsmanship is. And they always will be, unless they put it in the effort and the hardship. Unless these deprived kids are willing to express themselves with genuine creativity, “good ol'” accomplishment will forever elude them.