Songwriting & developing an original sound is very important if you ever dream about having a successful music career. Today I often see young artists following a popular trend, or trying to sound like someone famous. This may get them a gig, but it probably won’t get them a recording contract. If you want to stand out from the crowd and be noticed by the record industry, you’ll need to have your own unique style and voice. Not necessarily bizarre, just something that defines you.
As a songwriter and/or musician, you may have tried to mimic the style and sound of your favorite group or singer at one time or another. This is normal and can be beneficial in the early stages of your musical development. Much can be learned from observing and studying the legacy of rock n’ roll giants who have paved the way before us. But you are a unique individual and, as such, have something original to offer as well.
I have personally been a fan of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones throughout the past few decades. These two super-groups rose to fame, almost side-by-side, during the early 1960s. Members of each group were friends and would sometimes hang-out together. But over the years a debate arose as to which is the greatest rock band in the world- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Well, if you’re still undecided, consider this. Back in 1963 when The Beatles were beginning to be recognized as the hottest new phenomenon on the music scene, The Stones were also charting on the radio with a song called, “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Funny thing is, the song had been written by Lennon-McCartney and given to The Stones as a favor.
Although their music may have shared some similarities, the two groups were distinctly different and each had their own original sound. For instance, The Beatles presented a musical picture of fun, social consciousness, and extreme creative energy. Their producer, George Martin, once said: “The Beatles definitely had an eternal curiosity for doing something different.” The Stones on the other hand, have a more tough, raunchy and rebellious image. In fact, they used to be known as the “bad boys” of rock n’ roll. These differences are reflected in each group’s songs as well. The Beatles gave us “All You Need Is Love” whereas The Stones gave us “Street Fighting Man.”
I’ve never had the privilege of seeing The Beatles (other than George Harrison, that is) in concert. But I did see The Rolling Stones three times and even got back stage once! So, you might say both groups have had quite an influence on me musically. I was also heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, among others.
Though my music has rock and folk overtones, I don’t try to sound like anyone else when I write a song. However, I will sometimes get an idea from one of my “music mentors” and incorporate that into a song. For example, not too long ago my husband and I wrote and recorded an original song called “Hope.” I’ve always liked how the Indigo Girls use overlapping verses in some of their songs and wanted to try that idea in our song. So we created a bridge where my husband is singing a verse with a particular melody and then I come in singing something entirely different over the top. It’s pretty cool, and we don’t sound anything like the Indigo Girls!
Developing an original sound will begin to happen when you start using your unique personality, experiences, and perspective to express yourself musically. By combining these attributes and perfecting your musical skills, you will be moving along the road to success.