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Finding Yourself as a Musician

We've all started out somewhere as musicians. I started learning guitar by playing old Metallica songs. I had never taken a lesson in my entire life so I had no one really to guide me. Now, six years later, the style of music I have played has become drastically different. This is because I let myself go.

Letting yourself go requires an kind of detachment from what you are used to playing. Now you may say to me, "Well you've only been playing for six years, what gives you the right to tell me how to find my style?" You're right, I have no right. But I can tell you what my experience was like and you can take from it what you want.

Like all of you I started out by playing my favorite songs. It's very difficult to break out of the groove of writing bad ripoffs of your favorite bands just because you love them so much. This is not to say that you can't write in their style, but writing a spinoff of "Master of Puppets" by Metallica and calling it your new style is stretching it. This is because it's not your own style. Trust me, I know.

Let me explain then what I mean by writing in their style. You can sound like them to some degree, as most artists sound like other artists. Even the really good ones stem their influences from somewhere. Radiohead, for example, seems to show some influence from Pink Floyd, and bands like the Velvet Underground. The thing that separates the real artists from other artists is that they sound new and fresh.

The next step is to listen to as many different types of music in the genre you in which you focus. Even better, listen to music that's out of that genre. You will see and hear your music style change. The more you hear, the more you are influenced. And just keep writing as much as you can. This is the only way you will get better.

Finally, it's time to let yourself go. Let yourself write what you wanna write, not what your favorite band wants to to write. All the influences you have may fuse into one, or you may find yourself writing completely differently. There is no quick road, but eventually you will find the path.

Danny Shatz is from New York and has been playing guitar and writing songs for about six years.