Almost every musician has a favorite other musician they’d like to emulate. Mine is… hmmm… there are so many! On harp, I’d love to sound like Kim Robertson or Harper Tasche. On banjo I’d like to sound like Adam Hurt. You get the idea. Only one trouble: I will never sound like them. If I do what it takes to play as well as they do, I will still sound different.
Striving to sound just like your favorite musician is a noble pursuit, especially because it can inspire you to great accomplishment. But think about it: once you reach that goal, what next? Since that musician’s music already exists, no one wants a carbon copy. What they want is something unique. Why sacrifice your true musical identity to sound like someone else? Even if you got all the notes and nuances identical, people would know. You can’t reproduce another person’s soul.
Everyone’s music sounds different because no two people have the same personality. You can give the same piece to two equally skilled musicians and ask them to learn it note for note, and when they have done so, you’ll be able to hear differences in phrasing, tone, emphasis, and so on. You will never be that other musician. If you are willing to work for it, you can instead be an equally skilled musician who sounds just like… you.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother to make progress. After all, you have to live with yourself. That’s not fun if your conscience knows you haven’t done your best. Don’t sell yourself short. Many musicians don’t work at this because they believe less of themselves than they are truly capable of. If you push yourself beyond your perceived boundaries, you will probably be surprised at what you can do.
SO… how can you become your best musical you? We are ALL still on our way to wherever our best is. Yes, even the most accomplished musicians. Study with musicians whom you respect, and don’t assume there’s a stopping point after which you don’t need to study anymore. Everyone can make progress. There are very few people who cannot become fabulously good musicians. It just takes dedication and a willingness to accept that you don’t know what you don’t know, and you can learn what you need to learn.
Never stop learning. Never stop striving for your best. You have a light to shine in the world!