Vic Firth came up with the idea of making a better drumstick while playing timpani for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The sticks he could buy commercially didn’t measure up to the job so he began making and selling drumsticks from his basement at home. Then one day he dropped a bunch of sticks on the floor and heard all the different pitches. That’s when he began to match up sticks by moisture content, weight, density, and pitch so they were identical pairs. The result became his product’s tag line: “the perfect pair.” Today, Vic Firth’s factory turns out over 85,000 drumsticks a day and has a 62 percent share in the drumstick market.
Les Paul invented the solid body guitar because his audience at a BBQ joint couldn’t hear him play.
I was appearing in person playing outdoors at a place called Goerke’s Corner. That was halfway between Waukesha and Milwaukee, and it was interesting because the people would drive in to get their barbecue sandwiches and their root beer, or whatever. I would play and sing for them, and one fellow sitting in a rumble seat of a car wrote a note to me and gave it to the car hop. She brought it to me and it says, “What you got going up there…I can hear your voice and your harmonica fine and I enjoy it, but the guitar is not loud enough.” That made me go home and think about it, and in my own simple way, I said, “Well, now, let me investigate the guitar.” I first tried filling it up with rags, and I ended up with Plaster of Paris in it.
Alain Mongeau, Mutek’s founder and director, explains how Robert Henke came up with Ableton Live:
An artist like Monolake [techno producer and sound artist Robert Henke] is a perfect example. For instance, he’s always wanted to make the kind of music that he was imagining, but there was no way to make it happen. So he actually pushed and pushed and pushed and finally created the tools to make that music, which ended up being Ableton Live software, something that’s obviously had a tremendous impact on this whole field in the last ten years.
These musicians had a problem. They went out and solved it. And it turns out there were tons of other people out there who wanted the same solution.
We associate great ideas with lightning strikes. But the truth is a lot of great inventions come from dull aches. What’s hurting you? And how can you fix it? There might be a big crowd out there who wants that solution too.