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Using the Right Tools for the Job Makes All the Difference
One size never fits all, my friends. Revolutionary improvement be as simple as grabbing something different from your creative toolbox.
This is part of my “Art of Noticing” series, in which I learn, find, or discover the things around me that usually go unnoticed and turn them into an endless source of creative inspiration.
Today, I learned that my 12-string guitar didn’t sound right because I was using the wrong kind of capo to change its key. It made me wonder what other creative endeavors might benefit from changing my toolset.
In guitar circles, a “capo” is a clamp that you put somewhere on the neck to compress all of the strings and effectively make them shorter, thus raising their pitch. I already have several capos for my 6-string guitars. However, when I got a new 12-string guitar, I noticed that it didn’t sound quite right when I used those capo. Everything was sort of flat — not quite as bright as I’d hoped.
I thought maybe it was me, but the solution turned out to be using a tighter capo — in my case, one made specifically for 12-string guitars. The problem was that 12-string guitars have six pairs of strings instead of six single strings. Some of those pairs are a thick string right next to a thin one. If the capo isn’t tight enough, it won’t compress the thin one, and you get flatness or buzz.
Buying a new capo cost me $15, and that’s all it took to make my 12-string sound great. So what other hacks am I missing? What other creative endeavors might be revolutionized by simply swapping one tool for another?
Like a painter who knows the distinction between brushes, choosing one over another based on the strokes they wish to create. Or a chef selecting the right knife for a specific cut. Every craft has those kinds of choices, because precision matters.
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Here's how this "noticing" can benefit my stories and art:
Attention to Detail
The details aren't just details when taken as a whole. Every tiny adjustment (like the tweak of a capo, because hey, it wasn’t all bad with the old capo — just sort of) is small in isolation, but if you were to remove “all the little things” there would be nothing left. One detail feels like nothing. But details are, in the end, all we’ve got.
As a creator, it’s my job to understand the intricacies of my medium. That might be true of you as well — or, at least, truer than it seems right now. Who knows? Changing one little thing might skyrocket the quality of what you make.
Keep in Mind that One Size Seldom Fits All
Just as different stories demand different narrative techniques, different tasks in any art form require specific tools. Embrace the diversity and specificity of tools available.
We’re supposed to be artists, after all. We really shouldn’t be satisfied with doing something the easiest or fastest or most efficient way. Experimentation, and trial and error, are meant to be big parts of our stock and trade.
Knowing More Tools Elevates Craftsmanship
Mastering all of the tools — or at least more than we are right now — is a good way to elevate work from amateur to expert. The differences of shifting tools might seem subtle sometimes at first, but it adds up.
While creativity is at the heart of art, the precision with which it's executed is sometimes what makes it pop in the end. Making sure we have the right tools for the right task is how we develop and expand or craft. And isn't that more fun anyway?
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