In my experience, one of the main reasons why people fail to achieve what they want from their music is that they think they have to rewrite the wheel every time.

A key realisation for me, was simply that there’s no shame in standing on the shoulders of giants, and using their genius as a springboard for your own creativity.

There are no new ideas, and some of the best creativity comes from simply putting your own impressions onto well worn structures.

Copying that isn’t copying

There’s a difference between outright copying and plagiarism, and using another artist’s work as inspiration. While there’s no excuse for flagrant copying, or trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own, there’s nothing wrong with using other work, or great examples of how to do something well, as inspiration for your own musical projects.

Some ideas for copying without copying when making music:

  • Listen to a song, and then try to write a song in the same style as that band. Inevitably, you’ll give the new track your own spin, and often, only you will be able to hear the similarities between the other band’s song and your own.
  • Got a great riff? Rather than wasting time trying to evolve it, listen to a song that you like, and copy the structure. So it may be main riff/variation on riff/verse/chorus/main riff/variation on riff/verse/bridge/chorus/outro. This immediately gives you a road map to work to, and can make the process of expanding a nugget of a riff into something bigger much easier.
  • Using another piece of music as a template is also a good idea in general. Simply listen to it a few times and make some notes. Does it start with a swirling synth, for two bars then the bass and drums kick in? Use the basic building blocks of the song as a broad template for your own. Again, it’s 99% likely your final song will bear little to no relation to the song it’s modelled on.
  • Think about the lyrics or mood of a song. Listen to it a few times, and try to recreate the emotions it generates.

Of course, it’s important to reiterate that all music you create should be your own work. Being inspired by other music is natural, but plagiarising it is not, especially if you fail to acknowledge the debt.