Right now I’m reading Slash’s self-titled autobiography, Slash.
By all accounts this is a different type of book than I’m used to reading but it is an enlightening one nevertheless.
He tells the story of how he first heard Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle.” He fell in love with their style and, determined to learn how to play like that, he “stole the cassette and an Aerosmith songbook and replayed the song until I knew the riffs.” He wasn’t completely satisfied with the sound though. He says, “I could tell that the notes in the songbook were not the same as those being played on the record.”
After ditching the songbook and learning to play the guitar “by ear” he made an observation that has far reaching implications…
In the process of learning every lick of “Back in the Saddle,” I realized just how idiosyncratic Joe’s and Brad’s playing is, and how no one can ever really play like anyone but themselves.
Imitation should remain a stepping stone for a player to find his or her own voice, but it must never becomes his or her voice: no one should imitate their heroes to the point of note for note mimicry. Guitar is too personal of an expression for that; it should be exactly what it is – a singular expression of the player.”
Gosh! What a great point here Slash! Imitation is a great place to start but a terrible place to end! If the best you can do is imitate your hero then the world is robbed of an original! Imitation may be, and often is, the first step in a journey of the evolution of you, but don’t let it be the destination!
Imitate… Innovate… Initiate… and THEN we’ll be talking about you!
Hey, a while back I wrote a blog post with some similar content that you might find helpful in thinking further about this subject. Check it out here.