Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Finding Your Signature

I remember walking into the music store, and seeing books entitled “Signature Licks.” They were guitar tab/method books for various guitar icons such as Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc. It dawned on me how every famous guitar player has a signature. Then, I thought about the fact that all players of any instrument have their own signature. So, how does one develop their own unique signature as an artist? Here are a few tips to help guide you:

1. Bag of Tricks
p. Every player needs a “bag of tricks” to draw from. Robert Newton once told me, “Good players play with scales, and great players play with licks.” It’s one thing to learn a concept, but once you take a concept and get creative with it, you begin to fill your trick bag. This goes back to the concept of “Legos” I wrote about in the blog post, How to Solo Part1 . If you give a bag of Legos to 5 different people, they will create 5 different things. The same concept applies to scales, arpeggios, chords, etc. You can also take existing licks and ideas, and put your own spin on them. It’s fun to watch players borrow and steal licks from other players over time. Many of these players have signature licks that spin off of another player’s lick(s).

2. Signature Sound
p. Have you ever heard someone say,“That’s their signature sound?” If you haven’t explored your tone, then you need to ASAP! There are so many things that affect your sound: the instrument brand, the instrument material, technique, effects, etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the tone that inspires you to play. You will not be able to inspire others if your own tone doesn’t inspire you to perform. Listening to other artists can be a great way to help you figure out the kind of tone you like. Be careful though, you don’t want to copy their set-up exactly, because then you become a copy cat, and have no unique signature. That’s why experimenting is so important. Some of the best tones come through creative thought, and just stumbling upon a unique sound.

3. Look
p. This suggestion may seem like a bit of a departure from what we’ve been talking about. Don’t think for a second that it doesn’t matter how you appear when you play. I was sitting at a restaurant last night and this guy walked up to me and said, “Hey, were you playing at X venue a couple months ago?” To which I answered, “Yes.” I always wear a fedora when I play, and that’s what clued the guy into who I was. So, then he grabbed my phone number and hired me for a gig. My hat has become a signature look for me. Music is an entertainment business. We as musicians are entertainers as well; therefore, how you appear is very important. If you don’t believe me, go look at the most famous artists of all time and you will see quickly that they all have a signature look too. I was talking about Slash and Jimi Hendrix earlier. Slash always had a top hat, black sunglasses, and his curly hair in his face. Jimi Hendrix often wore a hat or had a bandana wrapped around his head. Current stars are always pushing the envelope with their “look.” You don’t have to go crazy like Lady Gaga, but you should definitely find a “look” that works for you, one that you like, and that sets you apart.

You could be the best musician around, but what separates you from the rest? You need to create signature licks, find a signature sound, and a unique look to set yourself apart. Then you will have your own unique signature, and people will notice. I hope this helps you find your signature.

You may also like these blogs:
The Importance of Writing Licks
15 Ideas for Writing Licks With Guitar
Steal From Those You Love

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