Don’t just use your pencil, LISTEN to it.

Sean at Blackwing Pages just posted about report that some of the softer lead varieties of the Eberhard-Faber Microtomic (what a great name!) looked and felt like the über-smooth writing experience of a Blackwing. Go to that post to see the review, but one thing he said really stood out to me:

… [B]eing as objective as possible the first thing I noticed was how things sounded. Yes, you read correctly, how things sounded. There’s a reason for this: as a musician, it’s not unusual to notice subtle differences in timbre, especially when those differences (in a musical context) can bring with them profound changes in interpretation. Now, let me state very clearly that listening to pencils is not part of my evaluation process—personal or professional—in any way. (In fact, I hope that’s true of just about everyone.) I’m mentioning it because something very noticeable occurred. The degree to which the Microtomic pencils were at all scratchy seemed more pronounced than with the Blackwing. [Link]

For me, using a pencil is just as much about the experience as it is the performance. I never really thought before about listening to it, but after Sean mentioned it, I think that I should. In fact, I said in the comments:

… I know what you mean about listening to pencils. I’ve never really thought about it before, but I am cognizant of the sound they make. Maybe it should be part of the evaluation process. I’ve used pencils that sound very metallic across the paper. I’ve used pencils that scratch dryly, like a fingernail against dry skin or chalk on a blackboard. The best pencils barely make a sound at all, a faint rubbing sound. That might make for an interesting comprehensive review someday. [Link to comment]

What do you think? Should we listen to the sounds our pencils makes? Is there a pencil that, for you, makes a particularly pleasing noise?

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One thought on “Don’t just use your pencil, LISTEN to it.

  1. This is a very good point to bring to our attention. I’ve been listening to my pencils ever since I bought my first Palomino pencil a few years back. I’m a violinist, so I am very sensitive to sounds. I think that the combination of listening, watching, and feeling the lead go down on paper really creates a whole experience, compared to paying attention to only the darkness of the mark or the perceived smoothness of the lead on paper. Sometimes I write simply to see, hear, and feel the action of writing. Often times, regardless of the subject, we ignore or fail to acknowledge other senses that provide more feedback and a fuller experience to whatever it is we are doing.

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