What does it mean to make one’s sound? I wish to design many different interfaces for playing guitar. Originally picks were handmade by each musician for their own instrument. I wish to do something similar and create a connection with my sound by creating my own picks with the 3-D printer. The pick is the major interface with the guitar and my body. There have been many different innovators of sound throughout the centuries. People have used many types of materials to create distinct sounds. “Musicians have used plectrums to play stringed instruments for thousands of years. Feather quills were likely the first standardized plectra and became widely used until the late 19th century. At that point, the shift towards what became the superior plectrum material took place; the outer shell casing of a Atlantic hawksbill sea turtle[…]” [Hoover, 11-12]
Even now people are improving on the original plectrum design and editing it to create their own sound. A company, named Pykmax, has created “a patented new style of super comfortable guitar pick that fits perfectly in the player’s hand.“ [“A Guitar Pick Revolution by Pykmax – The Best Guitar Pick Ever” http://www.pykmax.com/]
There are also other approaches to guitar picks such as the Jellifish pick that attempts to emulate the sound of a 12-strint guitar by having multiple strands of metal hit the guitar depending on how one holds the pick.
Famous guitarists have had to explore and create their distinct tone. The creation of different tones is dependent on many different variables such as guitar strings, body, pickups, plectrums (aka picks), effect pedals, and amplifiers. Guitarists such as The Edge from U2 has a completely different effects setup for each song that he uses and the effects are just as much a part of his guitar playing as well as the actually playing of the guitar. [check out how he uses rhythmic delay to make his sound in this song]
Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead used a Fender extra heavy flat pick, as well as a plethora of different stompbox effects. [“Grateful Dead – Jerry Garcia Guitar Rig Gear and Equipment.” Accessed November 3, 2014. http://www.uberproaudio.com/who-plays-what/433-grateful-dead-jerry-garcia-guitar-rig-gear-and-equipment.]
Jimi Hendrix created for himself a sound that was uniquely his with his guitars, picks, strings, pedals and amps, and even what parts of his body he used to pluck the strings with [such as using his teeth to pluck the strings]. “Jimi’s obsession with his guitar garnered him a nickname around Clarksville: Marbles. He was so named because people thought he had ‘lost his marbles’ and was crazy as a result of his excessive practicing. The guitar had become an extension of his body[…]” [Cross, 1727] It is interesting to see how he too, saw the extension of his own identity or sense of self onto his guitar. He also used that same approach into his effects. “[Ivor Arbiter] said, ‘Can’t I make a fuzz unit with a different shape?’ I saw microphone stand with the cast iron base, and I said, ‘Why don’t we make it round so it won’t slip?’ Hence the Fuzz Face, which had some very nice sounds. Hendrix especially liked it. Jimi used to visit the Sound City shop a lot, and he got his first Fuzz Face there or from Manny’s in New York.” [Thompson, 426] Many times the artist would work very close with innovators of effects pedals to make their sound.
The sounds that musicians create for themselves is actually not a material object, but they use material objects such as effects and picks to create the sound or muse[ic]. The word ‘music’ stems from the word ‘muse’ which means to think or contemplate. Music is not matter but rather exists in the realm of ideas or forms. “[Plato] believed that [..] there is certain truth, but that this material world cannot reveal it. It can only present appearances, which lead us to form opinions, rather than knowledge. The truth is to be found elsewhere, on a different plane, in the non-material world of ideas or forms.” (“Plato’s Realm of Forms”) Plato makes an interesting distinction between the material world and the conceptual world, and actually asserts that since the conceptual world [in theory] makes perfect sense, that it is in fact more real than the material world with its seemingly flawed essence. For instance: “When we see a circle that has been drawn well what we are actually seeing is a close approximation of a perfect circle. In fact a perfect circle could not be seen at all. Infinite points which make up its circumference do not take up any space, they exist in logic rather than in a physical form. As soon as someone tries to draw it, even if he uses the most sophisticated computerised equipment, it becomes imperfect. But although the Ideal Form of a circle has never been seen, and never could be seen, people do know what a circle is, they can define it while at the same time accepting that it cannot be translated into the material world without losing its perfection.” [“Plato’s Realm of Forms”]
Music in a sense shows how thoughts take form but that form is only conceptual and not material. The medium by which it is expressed—such as records, CD’s, and MP3 files—are a sort of material, but the actual song/sound is not material, only carried by it. Ontological questions then arise on what constitutes reality. Many think of reality as only the material world, but I disagree. Certain truths are necessarily true by definition such as the statement: “Nothing does not exist.” That is a necessary truth in that the very definition of nothing is: “that which does not exist.” If nothing does not exist, than it also follows that everything does exist. The question is not if something exists or not (if it is something, than by the very definition of ‘something’ it is not ‘nothing’) it is rather a question on how and where something exists.
So I see that we extend our mind into our things, but also materiality is not the only thing we know to exist, in fact it is one of the things that Berkeley shows that we cannot prove to exist apart from the mind. “All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth – in a word, all those bodies which compose the frame of the world – have not any subsistence without a mind.” [Berkeley, WEB] A pick is a material object that is meaningless without the mind or muse[ic], but when understood as an extension of the mind into the material realm, it is then really making music matter.