American Ingenuity

A few weeks ago, I told you how I was practicing for a jam session at an upcoming unofficial high school reunion. The reunion party was a success and our music was very well received, especially considering that a few of us met for the first time that day with less than fifteen minutes to practice before our debut performance.

If there is one thing I’ve learned while playing in bands all these years, it’s that a good bass player is hard to find. It just so happened there was a guy at the reunion who said he could play bass for our reunion gig. But, the only bass guitar we had to work with was missing a nut.

The nut on a guitar (that’s the white piece that spans the top of the guitar neck in the photo above) is extremely important. The nut keeps the strings in position, by way of four or six small grooves, as they leave the headstock and travel down the neck. On expensive guitars, the nut is usually made of ivory. On less expensive models, it is often made of plastic.

Our bass player decided to implement some extremely impressive American ingenuity. He cut a plastic ballpoint pen to the right length, and then cut grooves into the dissected pen to hold the four bass strings, essentially crafting his own impromptu custom guitar nut. Although the nut held the strings in place, initially the guitar would not stay in tune. Our bassist was undaunted. He patiently kept tweaking it until he got the bass guitar to hold tune.

This made me think of a quote by the great General George S. Patton:

Never tell people how to do things.

Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

That bass guitarist definitely surprised and impressed me! Here are a few more quotes about the value of ingenuity:

Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly more profitable and amusing than much money without ingenuity. ~ Arnold Bennett

Ingenuity + Courage + Work= Miracles. ~ Bob Richards

Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun. ~ George Scialabba

If you’re interested in hearing the end result, you’ll find an amateur video of our jam session on the Matchmaker Facebook page. With the background noise from the party-goers, you’ll feel like you were right there enjoying a cold one in your own lawn chair.

Here’s to an ingenious weekend,