The other day I was on YouTube and I bumped into a video in which a guy with the guitar played a solo imitating some famous guitarists. He played on the same backing track all the time, but every time he changed style you could recognise a specific musician.
How is it possible?
| A musician’s style is the result of two factors: his sound and his language. |
Sound basically depends on a combination of touch, gear and equalisation. It’s a continue research for the perfect timber and it’s no doubt one of the most distinctive features for a musician.
Language is the way a musician chooses to put notes one after another. This applies to every musician and also singers, not only the soloists.
| Language is composed by musical phrases, chords, rhythms and everything that contributes in creating a musical speech. |
Creating our sound is about experimenting with instruments, amplifiers, pedals, compressors and everything that modifies the way our instrument sounds like. We need to have an idea of what we want to get and try different combinations until we did it.
But how can we create our own language?
I’ve put some points together and made six steps list. They’re not rules to follow but rather some advices I hope can point you in the right direction to create your personal musical language.
1) Learn from masters: Listen to your favorite musicians and try to isolate patterns that make their sound recognisable.
They can be intervals they’re using: Steve Harris built a career on fifths and octaves!
Their rhythm: how many drummers started playing crash on the second movement after Lars Ulrich did?
It could also be the way he plays some techniques:
you recognise a David Gilmore’s bending when you hear one.
Ask yourself: why am I so sure it’s him and not another musician?
Take a leaf out from their book, play their lines step by step several times and try to recreate them for each musician you love.
2) Learn using scales: you cannot develop a personal language if you don’t know the alphabet. Playing scales and arpeggios on backing tracks is a perfect exercise to memorise how they sound like (that’s why I uploaded some for you in the download zone). Do it again and again until they come easy to you, and then start improvising. Try different combinations of notes and use different intervals than the ones you’re used to, you’ll see how many new ideas will come to you!
3) Record Yourself: we already talked about how recording yourself can be useful to make progresses. If we record our practice exercises we can check our work and correct mistakes we hadn’t noticed before. When we record our impros we can play freely and go with the flow, then listen to our rec and save our favourites ideas.
4) Experiment with techniques: if no one ever did a thing there may be a reason, but you’ll never know if you don’t even try. If you play only what you already know the way you already know it you cut yourself off from discovering new styles and improve your playing.
5) Rhythm: musical language is not only melody but also rhythm. A different pattern can turn a trivial phrase into something interesting. This is true especially for the bass!
6) Harmony: the same goes for harmony. Bass players can change chords’ nature and their way to interact with them is a concrete part of their style.
These were my six steps to create your personal language on your instrument. They have been very useful to me and I hope they will for you too! Let me know here in comments or write me via contact form!
Remember: no one is like you and no one does things the same way you do, for better or worse. Be aware of your strengths, take advantage of them and develop your unique style!
See you next week,
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