Finding Ones Voice
November 23rd, 2010

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This last year or so I’ve thought a lot more about the songwriting process than I have in quite a while – specifically by paying more attention to the many subtleties in the music I find myself listening to. In order to do so, I’ve been forced to evaluate the music I listen to, and am now trying to find ways to factor this into the way I create music. I haven’t quite made a breakthrough yet, but I am learning things about my musical brain and how that translates to the rest of me, which is interesting.

Something that speaks to me very directly is the “voice” of an artist. In most cases I’m probably thinking about bands with a single main songwriter/singer who also has great musicians at their disposal to help take the music somewhere else (Peter Steele of Type O Negative, Glenn Danzig, Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet, Adam Turla of Murder By Death), although there are other examples of bands that work together more collaboratively (Tool, Black Sabbath), and there’s also a few examples of singer/songwriter teams (Ween comes to mind first). And of course, Mike Patton, who can fit into every category depending on what he’s doing.

These artists (especially Ween) can also be adept at adopting a “voice” for an album (or any amount of time, whether its 3 songs in a row or 15 seconds). There is a difference between this and a “concept album” however, which maybe I’ll go into greater detail about in another post. The point is that they are adopting a sound, but (if they are doing it right) can really make that sound like it belongs to them, putting a very personal spin on it. This kind of music can also be very accessible without needing to dumb down the sound for mass audiences. However, what seems to really make the difference is the amount of personality and craftmenship that goes into these albums (or songs, or whatever). Famous (or semi-famous) bands can change their sound to become more accessible, which may or may not help their popularity, but when a musician finds a way to put their “voice” into something specific but still authentic, that’s when I get really excited.

Before I know how to apply this knowledge to what I do, I’m first stuck with finding my voice. That’s one of those things that’s so obvious it catches me off guard. I’m a professionally trained musician who’s been doing this for years I think, How is it possible that I don’t have a voice? (I admit, I can have a pretty high opinion of myself sometimes). The truth is, that you have to do this all the time with great attention to what you are doing, and I just don’t compose music that often, and certainly not with much intention these days. The reason is I’m usually too busy playing in bands to write or practice my own stuff – and that’s made me lazy. I don’t know what my voice is…I sort of know some things that I usually do, and I certainly have a playing style that is relatively my own. But I don’t know what my voice is.

What this means is that now that I’ve been exposed to the concept of “having a voice” and now I have to work backwards to “finding my voice”, and I’m not sure where it is exactly. It seems to be all over the place. In my head, my voice is too crazy and complicated. But when I look at my solo musician repertoire I’m often finding it’s almost too simple and predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t play a song if I don’t think it’s cool and fun to play -unless I’m in someone else’s band – but I’ve been forced to keep things simple and straight forward as a solo bassist, and I don’t think I need to keep thinking of myself as a solo bassist anymore.

So then what? Not sure exactly. I have been paying more attention to the voice of other musicians that I respect and would like to emulate (in terms of quality and musickal prolificness), and trying to see how they do what it is they do in an attempt to figure out things I can steal and make my own. And hopefully, within all of that, some of my personality will shine through, I’ll figure out the tricks I like the most, and I’ll start talking with my voice. It probably will take me a while to recognize it as my own, but I’m pretty sure that’s part of the journey.

What it really breaks down to, is I need to write more, really write, not just grab ideas and say “that’s cool” and never revisit a theme again. You know, be a REAL artist.

I think that’s the new theme of this blog/site/whatever. The journey to becoming a real artist. I could debate with myself over what that means, but for now I feel like I’ll know I’m getting there if I’m doing it right.

Disclaimer: I’m not actually on any sort of deadline to get anywhere, and I generally move sort of slow and cautious towards my goals until I am ready to persue them, so I won’t be quitting my job to move to a farming co-op. Certainly not this year. *wink*

P.S. This also of course applies to blog-writing. I’m realizing there’s also an art to writing and maintaining a blog, and that I need to keep practicing it to develop a rhythm that works for me. Of course, double-coding things into Severe Slang takes extra time too (But is oh so necessary </sarcasm> )

1 Comment(s)

  1. Pingback by Severe Bass » Better Late Then Never on January 6, 2011 5:30 am

    […] Why they are important I think is obvious, but I’ll go into them briefly. For musick, I really need to be making sure I am putting my best effort forth to being an active and continually improving musician. That means learning more about the ways I can record my own music on my own time, writing more songs, and practicing regularly. It’s a growing year – time to find my voice. […]

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