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The Real Reason You Sound Like Everyone Else

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Okay, well maybe not YOU specifically, but everyone who wonders — we see the topic of "originality" very often on forums like this and in composer/musician communities. 

Glenn Fricker recently put out this video

 He often laments that, specifically within the metal genre, that all the bands are sounding the same.

He and his followers typically blame this on using the same gear, drum samples, and growls instead of singing. In this video Glenn argues that the next big revolution in metal is coming and people just need to wait for someone to innovate it, as they did with Sabbath, Pantera, and so on. One way, Glenn argues, that bands can sound different, is by having all the members sing and harmonize. 

I do not believe this will work, and is the same kind of flawed reasoning that electronica "producers" and "epic" composers use. 

If you take metal songs from 1980, 40 years ago, from bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden (all considered innovative for their time) and compare them against the works of many metal bands across every sub-genre since then, many pieces sound like they were all written by one person. Because the distorted electric guitar is the key ingredient in the genre, and it forces you to play in that dyadic, palm-muted style, the reality is there is only so much you can do. There is also the fact that the pentatonic scale, aeolian and Phrygian modes encompass almost the entirety of the genre. 

Many songs have accidentally wound up with ostensibly the very same riffs because of this.


Every single song uses the same palm mutes and powerchords (very limited harmony) in the same 3 positions on the fretboard, and people actually think the reason they all sound the same is because of Superior drummer and death growls? Please. Apparently Lou Gramm and AC/DC sound terribly "different" because they have different singers...

Like I said, this is the epic composer cope applied to a different genre. I've been telling guys for years to stop worrying about what samples they're using, because when you're using the EXACT SAME string osinati (alternate between third and root in sixteenth or eighth notes), the very same song-structure, legato melody, etc. it just doesn't matter who or what is playing it: You've written the same piece of music as a thousand others. Same with electronic guys: Stop worrying about using "preset" synth sounds if you're afraid of sounding like all the others. The reason you sound like all the others is because all your songs have the same four-on-the-floor kick drum pattern, the same off-beat bassline, and the same i-VI-VII progressions.

For the record, I don't personally care about super "original" pieces as long as they're good and obviously, a certain amount of familiarity and tropes will exist in genres. However, if you're about the fact that your music all sounds like it could've been written by a large number of others, then it's got nothing to do with "tone" or gear, and everything to do with your composition — you're using the same rhythmic, harmonic and melodic ideas. 


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Pondered on this one. I believe my efforts don't sound like anyone else's though they may have the hint of "serialism" to them. I don't write serial music but that does have a particular sound - at least the pieces I've suffered listened to (unless you're Alban Berg). Partly that's because I still haven't escaped the drilling that I shouldn't use a note more than once in a phrase unless it's an immediate repeat. A failing I'm working on.

I can write in an approximation of classical styles but unless it's for some kind of commission - paid or not, usually not - I don't like it. I'm happier in the realm of surrealism - atonality and with scant attention to rhythm. It's why I don't post pieces here often. For those hidebound to keys and form they wouldn't make much sense. It's a question of closing one's eyes and letting an impression float through.

Interesting topic though. I've never thought much about originality. I'm unlikely to ever get my name in the Hall of Fame!

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