As an artist, you have a completely unique perspective to draw inspiration from whether you’ve just started making music or have been writing songs for years. But just because you have the ability to create music that comes from an authentic place doesn’t mean you always can or do. Some artists struggle to trust their own unique musical intuition and shape their music too closely around what other musicians are doing, and you may be doing this with your music without even knowing it. How do you know when you’re not creating authentically?
What’s yours vs what’s someone else’s
It’s not always easy to recognize it when someone else’s ideas have started to crowd out your own original ones. You don’t have to copy and paste another artist’s exact chord progressions, beats, instrumentation, and production style to create inauthentically. It could be something as subtle as ditching one of your original ideas because you don’t think it’s what you “should” sound like. Or, without you even realizing it, the things you sing about or even the way you play your instrument could be influenced too much by your musical idols.
The question to ask to discover whether you’re creating music authentically or not is whether what you’re making is really yours or not, and the question of ownership goes past ripping off another artist’s exact music. A song, riff, or vocal melody can absolutely mimic someone else’s style, and the more you rely on the same outside influences in your music, the less “yours” it becomes.
How critical music listening can help you incorporate your influences in an authentic way
Something to keep in mind is that we’re all slaves to our influences in one way or another. You’ll never outgrow them completely, and that’s a good thing. The key thing to grasp here is awareness; knowing when someone else’s ideas start and yours begin. Critical listening skills come heavily into play here, which entails listening to another artist’s work and being able to identify and understand why the music sounds the way it does. If you adore an artist, what exactly about their work moves you? Get as specific as possible, down to the sort of production effects, chord voicings, melodies, and song structures they use. When you start to get a grasp of what makes someone’s music interesting, you’ll be able to incorporate those elements into your own music in a controlled and authentic way.
The importance of creating regularly for finding your authentic musical voice
It can take a long time for some developing artists to unearth their unique, creative songwriting voice, and the only way to do this is by writing lots of music. This means that if your first couple of songs or even an entire album you’ve released sounds too much like someone else’s music, that’s ok. If you make music creation a part of your daily life and start to listen thoughtfully to your favorite artists, you’ll soon develop your own authentic voice as a songwriter.