Originality in your musical expression comes unexpectedly as a by-product and is not pre-thought or pre-meditated.
Originality, or an individual sound is the result of “assembling” your music based on “un-original” but correct principles, and then focusing “flow” through the lens of your personal experience.
Throughout your life you make thousands of decisions, collect preferences in terms of what you like and don’t like…and no one has these experiences, in this combination – except you. You have a totally unique viewpoint! Celebrate that! You can’t not be you, and that is beautiful.
To “try” to be original, is just the EGO at work. There is no trying to be original involved in true originality, IMHO. In fact – you may not ever perceive your own originality the way others do. To strive to be a pure channel for music – and serve it properly is the true way of someone whom others may perceive as “original.”
In spiritual traditions, many strive to “be like a hollow reed” for spirit to flow through. That’s the idea! Be a hollow reed.
To imitate another – you deny YOUR beliefs in “sound musical principles” and barely skim the surface…it’s an okay starting point for a child, but your story, your preferences, and your rich experience carry an authenticity and tell a story in a far more satisfying, deeper and authentic way than your imitation of another could ever possibly tell. Believe in your experience and your story….don’t give it up and think someone else’s is better!
How can one avoid imitation? Just learn correct musical principles and apply them. Applying principles is a better way to go than imitating another players idiosyncrasies.
When I study rhythm, I just try to do it right. When I play a scale I try to do it right. When a melody speaks to me, it’s the melody – not me, I am just the listener…when I beatbox – it’s my love for James Brown, Run DMC and groove, and I just try to do it right, put it as deep in the pocket as I can. When I fingerpick, I try to use good technique like my teachers showed me and get a nice tone. When I practice, I go slow and play things over and over…just trying to do it right. Get it? Others say I sound original – but I am just trying to do it right, as best as I can.
Keep doing your musical homework and don’t think about originality. Just play music as well as you can – strive for beauty, tone, time, touch and technique….study harmony, rhythm and repertoire – and let listeners perceive your “originality”, after the fact. Your original voice is something which you may not perceive yourself just yet. It is the ghost between the sounds, the relation of how you get from one idea to the next. The essence carried by your music reveals itself when you simply play properly and honestly.