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Topic: Finding your own musical voice

  1. #1

    Finding your own musical voice

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    For the past 15 years I've done all my music on my beloved Kurzweil K2000 keyboard.

    But "sampled" electric guitar is a challenge using a keyboard, just doesn't have all the expression I want (I'm talking about complex rhythm parts with nuances, not just lead guitar...which is actually easier in some ways). And since I played guitar from 1970 to 1986 as my primary instrument...well, it seemed obvious to me that I should *use* a guitar for those sounds.

    I went out and bought a Stratocaster...my first electric.

    I was pretty good on acoustic guitar (if I say so myself . People DID pay money to hear me). And fingerpicking was my strong suit.

    I have been a fan of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits. Therefore I did a lot of listening to his music to hear how that "fingerpicked electric Strat sound "works.

    Well, in 5 weeks of regular, focused practice, I found I was getting things up to a very nice level.

    I wrote my first song. I did the backing track, and called in my wife to have a listen.

    I picked up my strat, checked my effects pedal setup, hit the space bar on the PC to start the "band" rolling, and took off into my new song.

    When I finished my song, I looked at my wife expectantly.

    She said, "It's good. It sounds like Mark Knopfler."

    <sigh> I should have known that would happen.

    I LOVE Mark Knopfler, but I don't want to sound just like him. Who wants to be a "copy"?

    Of course... Mark Knopfler sounds a bit like B.B. King, who sounds a bit like...

    But anyway, how DO you find your own voice? It's frustrating.

    (Seems like all the good stuff is already taken!!)

    --- Glenn

  2. #2

    Re: Finding your own musical voice


    I can relate to you.
    Here is what I think in short:

    If one is very busy avoiding to "sound like others" this costs energy.
    If one is very busy searching for new, absolutely distinctive sounds - just to be distinctive - this costs energy.

    A little of both maybe good but the most original music happens when people make the music out of themselves, from the dreams they had and have, and put all their energy into doing the best they can - without "avoiding" too much.

    "Avoiding" has something to do with fear, and fear is never a positive motor.

    Just my 2c(!).


  3. #3

    Re: Finding your own musical voice


    That said ... I would like to add that it is always good to question every single item once, to break every dogma once, to learn and try out. Not with the intention of "avoiding" something but in the spirit of a discoverer.


  4. #4

    Re: Finding your own musical voice

    Big mistake to ask the wife IMO!

    There may be the occasional really original voice, but even they are standing on great mens (and womens) shoulders. We don't start from scratch with our musical vocabulary, but what you like, admire and try to emulate are what starts to form your own voice. Therefore, the more you listen and analize music, even if you're not particularly interested in that particular style the better your overall understanding of musical language is.
    The real fun starts when you start throwing all sorts of influences together in unusual ways.
    There's absolutely nothing wrong with playing like Mark Knoppfler, I'm a piano player by trade but play a bit of guitar - I'd love to have his 'chops' - but ditch that trademark compressed chorus sound, twiddle the knobs on your stomp boxes, throw in a few licks from Hendrix and BB King as well (or whoever else you like) and you'll be cooking.
    Stupidly I didn't listen to your track first, I bet it's blinding after all that!

    Have fun - that's the best bit



  5. #5

    Re: Finding your own musical voice

    I played in bands from high school through my 20s. I studied classical from college through today. I've written both, but only recently I've taken to writing in a popular style again. I find everything has something to offer, even Shania Twain. What astounds me is that in well produced songs there's a whole bunch of stuff happening in every moment that you barely hear. Little details are everywhere, it's no wonder I hear people talking about using 100 tracks of a sequencer, ya gotta put the bongos somewhere.

    So you sound like Mark Knopfler, you like that sound, so what? Find another artist whose sound and playing you admire and emulate them, preferably a contrasting style. Then find another. Then learn some music theory (OK this is optional, but it really does help). After a while it all just starts mixing together and that's when you have a unique sound all your own.

  6. #6

    Re: Finding your own musical voice

    Thanks for the thoughtful replies, folks.

    Very good points.

    You know, Eric Clapton probably sounds a lot like some obscure, but very talented, country blues players. Since many people have never heard those players, they probably think Eric is completely original. He'd be the first to disagree with them, I'm sure, since he knows his roots and the entire process of being influenced by earlier virtuoso players.

    Maybe the only thing that is totally original is your "mix" of influences, as Barrie suggests.

    And yes, asking my wife probably was a mistake, since she would readily admit that she only hears "the big picture", and since we had rented a Dire Straits video recently, she recalled the "boogie beat" of Dire Straits and the chunky power chord rhythm.

    --- Glenn

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Ojai, California

    Re: Finding your own musical voice

    It seems all great artists start by emulating someone. And then they just keep going. When you keep going your influences probably are still going to show but something else can happen too that's unique.

    Just keep chipping away at it.


  8. #8

    Re: Finding your own musical voice

    People who invent new sounds and styles are those who do things "wrong" and are able to hear the music in it.

    Take jazz voicings as an example. Somebody played a straight chord wrong, liked the way it sounded, and the next thing you know, it's a new style.

    Or Hendrix's "noise". Take a snapshot out of context, and it's just screaming crud. Weave it together musically and it's wild, expressive bliss.

    Or Bob Dylan's voice. Not exactly the most musical of instruments. Yet Dylan was able to channel his soul through the thing and get people to listen.

    Listen to what's right about what you do wrong and do it some more!


  9. #9

    Re: Finding your own musical voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernstinen
    probably because my hands are about half the size of Hendrix's!
    Sorry to hear that. You might want to check out the link that is posted three posts down under the "So this is the Reason" thread. He he.

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