How to Find Your Musical Style

Recording Connection mentor Tre Nagella and graduate Dez Ward

We begin making music at a very young age. Banging pots together may not have been very musical for our parents, but they were new sounds for us. We’d even kick the chair in front of us in the car, not to annoy that person in front, but see what different beats sounded like.

We were taught to clap along to songs at a young age. Soon thereafter we began tapping our toes to an infectious beat. And there were times we just plain freaked out when we heard a song we really liked. Influences first came from parents, although streaming services like Pandora or Spotify have opened all-new avenues of influence.

What is a “Musical Style?”

Your musical style is ultimately defined by you and you alone. You may be fine calling your style indie or indie folk pop, if some kind of indie genre is your thing. Maybe you call your musical style “electronic” then, upon learning more about your unique musical tastes, you learn ambient dub more aptly describes your musical preference.

That being said, musical genres aren’t exactly the same as musical styles. The whole idea behind genres can be thought of as the 3rd-person, external world trying to categorize or label a certain kind of music in order to be able to clearly define it and be able to communicate about it, promote it, denigrate it, etcetera.

Musical style is less rigid than that. Whereas genre is more of a 3rd person description, talking about one’s musical style is more personal. Artists and musicians talk about their own style less as a means to categorize than to describe what they do, their leanings, influences, and the various, sometimes dissimilar strains which together comprise their unique sound.

Hence, where musical style tends towards fluidity, classifying music containing certain sounds, beats, rhythms, tones into various genres, leads to more categorization. Behold subgenres! Surely, you’ve heard them talked about. There’s just too many to mention. Bubble Gum Pop, Speed Metal, Southern Hip Hop, the list numbers in the thousands.

Now does the way an artist talks about their musical taste influence the genre or subgenre in which their music gets named or categorized. Yes! In fact, the two are constantly influencing one another and as long as this is the stuff people are talking about, those terms are constantly being modified. It all happens on a cultural level. Genres and style are constantly in flux, we’re talking at the micro level here people, we’re talking memes transmitted person to person.

What’s Your Mood?

Mood is another huge contributor to musical style and genre. Because you can have a sad bubblegum pop song, and a sad trip hop song, mood may be said to fall beneath the categorization of subgenre. But sometimes the mood is the artistic bend that colors or influences an entire album or period of work.

Consider the Beastie Boys. They started out punk, brought in some funk that gave way to frat boy rap before finding their way to hip hop that was equal parts grime, ethereal, and a combination of the music they made prior. Their irreverent, unapologetic mood unified their disparate influences into something altogether different from what had come before in music.

So… what genre would you call that? The Grammys couldn’t come up with just one, either. They won the best alternative music album for the 1998 Hello Nasty effort as well as the best rap performance by a group for “Intergalactic.” It was the first time a band merited Grammys in two different genres, and they pulled it off in one album.

Creating a Style

Collin Jacka and Shane Anderson at Unique Recording Studios

Recording Connection grad Collin Jacka and mentor Shane Anderson at Unique Recording Studios

There is really only one way to cultivate a style that is truly yours: Time. And lots of it. It can be difficult – and unnecessary – to box yourself in at an early stage of a musical career. If you have a genre in your head but a feeling in your soul, dump it all out and see what happens.

Then move on to the next song. Then another. And another. After 10, 20, or 50 songs, are you starting to develop a pattern? Or are you literally writing 50 different sounding songs? This is the time to start asking yourself, friends, family, and even social media what they like.

As an artist, it’s hard to know how your music will hit other people – until it hits other people. Remember you’re on your own journey, creating your career in the music business. Therefore, boxing yourself in by thinking of your music as genre-specific may be putting the cart before the horse.

Sure, think of artists whose sounds may be similar to your own. Look at what they’ve done and where they’re going. And, when you set out to work with a producer or collaborate with other artists, talking about artists who are on a similar wavelength can be very useful but give yourself permission i.e. freedom to explore and to grow.

Take the time to learn the craft, learn different genres/styles/moods, learn what you want to get out of songwriting. Learn technical aspects of what modern technology has afforded you. And as different sounds appeal to you, listen to work by those artists. Find out why their sound, lyrics, or feel move you the way they do.

While creating a style that suits you is mostly a solitary endeavor, learning ways to create that style can be a collaborative journey. That’s where Recording Connection can help.

Master the Tools, Master Your Style

With our programs, Recording Connection has devised a curriculum that will show you how to use industry-standard tools to create the music you want to create. Working one on one with a mentor in their professional studios, you’ll learn technical aspects of making music as well as music theory and how we receive those sounds.

We offer 6-to-9-week programs in Ableton and Logic Pro Electronic Music Production as well as our longer, 6-9 month Audio Engineering & Music Production Program. Because you’ll be working with a professional audio engineer or music producer as your mentor, you can receive learning and networking opportunities just not found in traditional 4-year university classrooms.

What you do with those opportunities will determine how far your musical style and songs can take you in the industry. This is not the place to work on a hobby – this is an intensive, 30-hour a week immersive experience. Your mentor expects you to put in the time, be responsible, and soak up as much as you can. Ready to start?

 

Recording Connection mentor Danny Allen on Active Listening, Who He Mentors & More

Marcus Charles: Making the Music He Hears in his Head

Recording Connection grad Jamaal Taylor Gets Music in Blumhouse Production (Get Out, Us)

You may also like...