The pressure to conformity chases us every day. Conformity can overwhelm our own voice.
On the other hand learning the "language of a music" requires a long period of apprenticeship on both the instrument and within a style before one can craft a voice of one's own. In short conformity to the standard practices of your instrument and the restrictive boundaries and culture of a genre.
Finding your voice in Country Music assumes and requires that you can play Country Music. Otherwise you will just make an ass of yourself. For shameless examples attend any open mic night and watch what happens when art is hobbled by lack of skill.
Step one to finding a voice is learning your craft.
Step two getting out there and honing your craft.
Step three being comfortable being uncomfortable as you develop and grow.
Step four? Don't be boring.
Seeking a "voice" Part 3
Victor Wooten in Developing your musicianship video has some interesting thoughts. He echoes the idea from the previous Berklee video about intention. He even discusses some of the same artists.
He downplays skill in the beginning of discovering your voice. Hmmm, I'm not so sure about that. Sophisticated music needs sophisticated skills.
He quotes Chick Corea, a truly expert improvisor with a unique voice, that only 30% of his improvisations are truly improvised, the rest is vocabulary and things previously worked out or prepared. In short, he prepares much of the music ahead of time in the practice studio and then in the moment sees what happens.
Victor thinks musicians practice too much and don't play enough. Wise words, making music with others really brings it all home in real time.
Time to develop my own drum phrases and have them in reserve, I guess.
I will continue with lessons and workshops. This week I’ve both a drum lesson and jazz trio workshop. In parallel with skills I've added a secondary goal: developing my individual voice on the drum kit. I’m starting to hear this voice in my head. Hints and snippets are starting to poke through. It is both exhilarating and frustrating but encouraging.
How about your voice? What are you doing to find it, develop it, cherish it?
I’ve been drumming for 12 years and a professional musician for 45 years. I’ve been around. With the drums I can now play with confidence in the situations I find myself: Jazz, Rock, Country, Studio, New Music, and rudimental concert band work. Every week I share my knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm with my drum students. It is a blast!
Am I ready for a world tour? No. Have I reached my musical goals? No.
The quest to develop a musical voice.
A short aside. Many musicians desperately want to sound like someone else. They are anxiously chasing a sound. Someone else’s sound. But as my early mentor pianist Bill King would say, “haven’t we already made that record?” Life is too short to retell someone else’s story I say. But before you can work on this voice, a few things need to happen.
Deliberately developing one’s voice will be the focus of this blog over the fall and winter of 2021-2022.
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.