I was just listening to a vocal group that was singing a piece I’d heard done by the King’s Singers. They sang it precisely as the King’s Singers sang it, although it was a group of men AND women rather than the all-male King’s Singers. But honestly, inflections, tempo, the whole thing. It was all the same.

Mimicking is a good way to start to learn something (sometimes), but then I hope performers can “own” what they are doing and put their personal stamp on a piece. It kind of seems pointless to me to just do what someone else already did.

Many years ago I had a new student come to the studio. She sat down and informed me that she wanted me to show her how to play the Swan Lake solo. She didn’t want to work on it with me … she wanted ME to play it so she could copy me. So while I’m reluctant to do that sort of thing, I went ahead and played it for her. BUT (maybe you know me well enough to know there was a “but” coming?) I then said, “But maybe another time I’d play it this way instead,” and proceeded to do little things differently. “Or maybe I’d do this…”. And yes I played it a third time. I wanted to show her that there were so many ways to do small things differently. Ways to make it my own. Or her own. I didn’t want her to be just another old me!

She never came to another lesson.

But anyway, this really was about the group I just heard. I was disappointed, as I wanted to hear THEIR rendition, not the King’s Singers. I noticed they had another song on YouTube that was originally done by The Real Group. And guess what? Yep. Exactly the same!

Now copying someone is a good way to learn certain things. If you can’t play expressively listen to an expressive player and figure out how that person did it. Try to do the same thing so you can experience that sort of expressivity. Ultimately, though, wouldn’t you like to be who YOU are rather than being someone else? Use your own voice! Use your own creativity!

Just some thoughts I’m tossing out tonight. Because I can.

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