Courtesy of Eric Bernsen
Once you've been writing and performing long enough that you fully understand what type of sound you want to share with the world, it's time to start experimenting with other music styles...
It takes years of hard work to build a strong musical foundation. Once you've been writing and performing long enough that you fully understand what type of music you want to share with the world, you begin to feel liberated. But after gaining experience and building a strong catalog, it's only natural to want to experiment and create work with different influences outside of the niche that got you this far. This is vital to achieving artistic growth, but also risky because not everyone is ready to succeed in a genre-crossing endeavor.
It's always good to push yourself outside of your musical comfort zone, and once you understand the basics of your favorite styles, you're totally ready to experiment with other genres and styles to further expand your horizons.
1. You're feeling musically inspired to learn other genres
Life as a musician comes with a natural ebb and flow of the creative process. Some days will be filled with endless inspiration to create, while others will be relatively inactive. This is the way of the world. However, long periods of feeling uninspired should bring about some questions.
If you’re experiencing a lack of musical desire, it may be a sign that the innovator in you is craving to delve into new territory. Now's a great time to try switching things up in your normal songwriting and practicing routines! Realize that new styles are a fantastic way to learn about new; harmony, phrasing, time signatures and scale types.
2. Gain a new outlook after a particular cultural experience
At some point or another, we all go through life-altering experiences that change the way we view the world. Many times this can come from exposure or introduction into new cultural influences, family ties, and friends from other parts of the world.
From our most joyous achievements and travels to the most devastating losses, events occurring outside of the studio should ultimately shape the atmosphere of the music you create. And, life events are powerful emotional drivers, which can translate to exciting new musical ideas. When you mix the cultural side of new experiences, the musical influence and make the entire idea more interesting.
Capturing the most powerful emotions you feel during impactful life moments and channeling it into your work can unlock a potential you never knew you had.Each culture has a particular groove, or scale influence. You can build on this and take it into many different directions.
Be mindful of life outside of music. I don’t recommend completely changing your style based on one particular cultural experience, but you’re more likely to be successful experimenting with different genres when you're ready to obtain a fresh musical perspective, usually from a unique encounter culturally, (i.e., a festival or wedding event).
3. Reflect on your own personal family roots
Some artists make family the focal point of their music, while others choose to keep their personal life private. Yet the older we get, the more we tend to ponder how our backgrounds play such a prominent role in the type of people we've become. Reflecting on family roots can be a great catalyst for creating music inspired by a particular genre, even if it isn’t directly aligned with the type of music you usually create.
For example, if you're a hip-hop artist with a Caribbean background, you may be inclined to make rap music with reggae /dancehall elements. You shouldn’t take this route simply because people are expecting it based on your heritage, but more as a natural desire to showcase the sounds of your family's birthplace is something to embrace. Once you fully believe you’re ready for a new challenge, don’t hesitate to take a deep dive into your family history and create authentic music based on your findings.
4. Learn new musical skills through another cultural instrument
Musical knowledge has no boundaries, and you should always be taking the time to learn different instruments in order to expand your horizons. As you acquire new skills and increase the breadth of your artistry, you’ll naturally become equipped to create new, unique sounds.
Letting go of your past work and steering clear of any assumptions about your art based upon your primary instrument is a bold move. But, once you’ve undergone enough introspection to wholeheartedly understand where you stand artistically, experimenting with difference genres via another instrument could turn out to be one of the best choices you’ve ever made.
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.