Keith Jarrett, the famous jazz improvisation pianist, has a lot of interesting opinions and views. I was reading part two of an interview with him in Keyboard Magazine (11-2006), and he talked about the stages of a musician and how to find and actually forget about the final voice found.
Or, the steps with musicians are usually the following ones: Step one is to learn your instruments. Step two is to understand your historical realities of what you are doing and what other players have played. Step three might be to learn how to phrase. Step four is learning how to find your own voice. This is where you figure out your own personal touch and style, and explore this one.
But Keith Jarrett then added a fifth step, and that is to just drop that voice and just play!
Going back to the point of music production and producers. Step one is to learn your instruments, today it’s the combination of DAWs, synthesizers and effects. Step two is to understand the background of let’s say electronic and dance music, and where you fit in, and what others have done or are doing. This involves listening and learning what has happened and is happening with music.
Step three is to phrase the productions, you need to learn with dance music the breakdowns, how 8 and 16 bars rule, entry and exit points for easy mixing, for pop music the chorus-verse patterns. If you know them well, then you could even break the rules now and then.
Step four is then to find your own production style voice, so that anyone who listens to a specific production could — if possible — associate it with you. Now, to be true, few listeners could do this, but it’s always good to aim for this. Good DJs could listen to a track and quickly narrow down the producer or artist.
What then becomes interesting is step five — just forget your voice, and do music. If one is too focused on the style and voice, it becomes a hindrance, maybe even causes creative draught, lack of inspiration or interest. I think Keith Jarrett is right, the magic happens when you just relax and let go of anything. But it’s important to get through the stepping stones to this specific point.
In my case it also feels like I’m moving up and down, and up again, on this ladder, from time to time.