The difference between what’s good and what’s great?

I was thinking today about the difference between what’s “good” and what’s “great” and the importance of paying attention to detail. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about cooking, building instruments, creating music or promoting events, the attention to detail is crucial in producing something what is truly excellent.
I am lucky to travel the world and meet a wide range of different people. This year alone I have already been to the USA twice, Europe three times and am just about to head to Japan for two weeks. On these visits I have met many great instrument builders, retailers and music artists and Nick Cody is now well known as someone interviewing many fascinating creative types. I have found that the most skilled and successful individuals always have a point of view and regardless of whether I agree with it or not, I respect such views! They are all also all striving to do better rather than what’s simply “ok”
Bill collings and nick codyLuthiers in particular are wonderfully opinionated in the best possible way with a genuine love for their craft, having spent years refining and developing skills. The difference between ‘a good ukulele” and “a great ukulele” is the attention to detail in the build. My own ukulele collection includes many custom builds from Takahiro Shimo, Rob Collins, Pete Howlett, Bill Collings, Peter Lieberman, Zachary Taylor and others. Other instruments I own include builds by the terrific Stefan Sobell, who I met through Martin Simpson. All these individuals have fantastic attention to detail and that’s reflected in their work. In creating music, the best artists adopt the same philosophy. As someone who started the “Original Ukulele Songs project, I am increasingly aware of this importance of attention to detail. When I hear a song I always think “Would I have been happy having written that?” and take a step back to listen with a critical mind. This means doing more than the minimum and being prepared to put in the work to make something as good as possible. This reflects in everything including getting the best possible recordings in the studio and getting the best possible live sound. That often means a gig investment in time and money rather than just taking the first option available that’s “ok, but not great!”
I blogged recently on the subject of “festivals” and how (in my highly biased personal opinion), there is a massive difference in what is offered to an audience. I toned down some of my observations, but the main focus was to create a debate about how to raise the bar in creating such entertainment. A one-day event with a second day’s sing along is not by my definition “a festival” in the true sense! It’s a one-day concert and a one-day sing along, which is fine, but not a festival. I mention this as I am unashamedly a fan of genuine attention to actual facts and precise communication. As I write this, I am mindful that the UK debacle regarding the Euro debate and subsequent political machinations would be quite different if there had been more attention to factual information and subsequent consequences, but that’s a whole different blog subject…
Ultimately the pursuit of excellence requires paying attention to detail and especially paying attention to the end results. This means having proper reflection, discussion with others and an attitude of always looking to improve and refine what has often already been pretty good. Over the years I have worked as a consultant for business as well as working with business owners often pointing out what to me is blatantly obvious. I don’t have all the answers, (nobody does) but as I wrote in one of our recent tracks on “Protest Songs” “No one of us is smarter than all of us”
Those interested in excellence are there for the long term and I think the world is far better for such folks. Often heated (and respectful) discussion is no bad thing either! Often people can shy away from such discussion which in my view is a mistake. All developing fields grow from critical discussion and debate.
As Voltaire once wonderfully commented


“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

nick cody