How to Develop Your Own Unique Style of Music
Whatever genre of music you choose to pursue, your playing style is what will define you as an individual, in the industry and in history. A certain amount of style is inherent in your natural way of playing, but to stand out from the pack and have the recognizable sound that makes people know exactly who is playing when they hear you, you’ll need to put a little intention into developing your unique style.
There’s no way you’re going to be able to make adept stylistic choices without first truly mastering your instrument. Make sure you’re practicing smart and regularly so that you have all the ability you need to start embellishing your playing with whatever you want to create. Make sure you understand the nuances of the genre or genres you’re working with and can execute them perfectly.
In your chosen genre, make sure to familiarize yourself with the master’s of that genre. Understand how they play and practice imitating them. This will give you a lot of flexibility and it will show you exactly what to avoid so that you don’t sound like anyone else. Then play around with what sounds good and fresh to you, what you like, and keep trying new things until you develop a few original signature qualities that you can use to define your unique sound and style.
Surprise and Culture Yourself
Make sure you spend time listening outside of your comfort zone to other genres that you don’t usually listen to. You’ll likely get a pleasant surprise now and then and draw inspiration from other sounds that will make your playing even more distinct and unique. You can also spend time exploring other forms of art like museums, plays, and books, to connect with certain tones and moods and try to replicate them in your playing. Make sure to spend time with art from all eras.
Question the Status Quo
Always make a point to question best practices, whether it’s practice techniques or stylistic choices within your genre. Experiment. Actively work to think outside of the box and see if something cool happens. Don’t take anything for granted.
Make sure you’re connected to who you are as an artist and what you’re trying to say. Defining your unique style starts with appreciating the fact that your music is an expression of you. So, who are you as a person, and how do you want to be perceived? Try writing out your life story as a myth, or listing adjectives that you feel describe you. Explore your identity and ultimately your brand as an artist. Try exploring the various archetypes and identifying yourself with them. Do you want to come across as sexy, angry, intelligent, or gentle? All of this comes across in your playing. Heighten your sense of self and bring that to your playing.
Prepare a list of questions that enlighten you about yourself. A few of these include:
- What drives me? What do I most desire?
- What do other people think of me or see in me? How do I want to be seen?
- What inner emotions do I want to express artistically?
- Who are my role models or influences and what do I admire about them?
Then spend time figuring out how the qualities you want to embody with your music can be expressed.
If you get stuck, try looking for these qualities in the various genres of art that you explore in your research and take notes of what aspects evoke these qualities. Then explore how to replicate them in your music.