Joe Bonamassa is a player I discovered on satellite radio. A superb blues and rock stylist who blends elements of Clapton, Beck, Stevie Ray and other masters, Bonamassa, it turns out, decided he wanted to be a musician at age 4, according to Wikipedia. His parents owned a guitar shop and their musical tastes enveloped his sphere of influence.
Nothing can replace young brain cells absorbing stimuli. I was lucky enough to take piano lessons at age 6 and I’m sure it helps me to this day. Like a personality, a musical ear is a product of heredity and external stimuli. More years listening, practicing and even trying to emulate others equals deeper understanding of the instrument and approaches to take while playing phrases.
You can hear Bonamassa’s influences with every note….what he listened to, what he liked, and who he emulated early on.
The refreshing thing is that, according to what I’ve heard on his radio show, he readily admits his influences and acknowledges them with praise. Honesty is the best policy, and his honesty helps me accept his role as an individual stylist of amalgamation. As a result, I’m starting to recognize his playing as a unique voice, which is the ultimate brand of a true stylist.
Having a listener say “I like your style” or “I like your approach” is the ultimate compliment. After all, does anyone say to anyone “you sound like Clapton” or “you sound like Beck” or “you sound like Santana”? Rare words indeed.
Celebrate your influences, your ear and your time spent listening and practicing. Then try something new using the tools you’ve developed and you’re on your way to creating your unique voice.