You don’t have to try to sound different. You don’t even have to try to come up with your own playing style. All you have to do is obsess about your preferences, about what you like.
There is no mystery to the direct musical expression of who you are: It’s simply what you prefer. It’s your preferences. It’s a simple as that. So finding your own voice is not hard at all, you are doing it already.
THE MIMICKING ACTIVITY
If all you do is trying to play like another person, then that’s your style right now. Your playing is a tribute to another artist and that’s your voice – right now. Then it might become something different in the future as your preferences change. You go on to other things, become interested in other artists and by allowing yourself to be absorbed by the mimicking activity, by the fascination of “what if I could play just like that?” you discover what you like and unveil your preferences.
As you move on you take your best findings with you and what you like the most about someone’s playing becomes part of your playing. This happens automatically with no mental effort on your part whatsoever, because the things you take with you are the things that brings you the most pleasure. Just like picking the best dishes from a buffet. Nothing could be easier.
As time passes you pick the best pieces and naturally incorporate them into your own playing until they all come together into that sound that comes out when you play. Is it original? Is it special or significant? Yes it is. To you. If you’re honest. Because, it’s the best of the best. For you. It doesn’t get any better than that. You can’t artificially construct a playing style that other people find original, special and significant. It just doesn’t work that way.
But, you might find that, because a lot of other people are somewhat like you, they tend to like the same things you do and therefore they find your playing style special, unique and significant. But you might also find that this is not the case. There is no control because who is control of what they like? All there is, is your fascination with your instrument and your music.
Sequences represent a chance to be inspired, not by something in a finished form ready to be used as it is, but by the very building blocks of melodic creation.
HOW TO INSPIRE ORIGINALITY IN YOURSELF
What you can do in order to influence the direction of where you end up, is look at what you expose yourself to. The more different kinds of musical flavours you try, the more you realize what you like and what you don’t like. So the number of preferences you have grows in number allowing the style you build to become more refined and more specifically yours.
The same thing goes for licks. The more and the more diverse licks you analyze and learn the greater variety of ideas you have to choose from. But this of course leads us right back to my favorite soloing tool: Sequences.
INSPIRATION FROM NUMBERS NOT PEOPLE
Sequences represent a chance to be inspired, not by something in a finished form ready to be used as it is, but by the very building blocks of melodic creation. They are little predictable systems of notes that you then combine into unpredictable melodies that sound both well-known and new at the same time.
The more of them you discover and learn, the broader becomes the base from which you choose the ones you like the most. The lucky bunch of sequences that you take all the way to mastery will determine your choice of notes when you improvise and compose more than anything else.