How to Separate Inspiration from Impersonation in Your Songwriting

Separate Inspiration from Impersonation

Wanting to be original is a universe away from actually launching new and unique music.

All music is informed in some way through the music that appears before it. However, in an art form with so much history, where does inspiration stop and imitation start?

It’s the most important question dealing with aspiring musicians today when so much music is available so simply.

Most often, the music that ends up discovering an audience is made by musicians who have discovered and embraced their originality. You could imitate—a lot of songwriters and producers do—however, what you make is not likely to last.

So how do you take inspiration and turn it into something new?

Today, I will divide the difficult subject of separate inspiration from impersonation and provide you with ideas for how to honor your musical influences without compromising your own style.

Define the music that resonates with you

Begin by taking some time to identify your musical influences.

It’s simple to fall into the imitation trap when you have not nailed down what artists you like and what particular moves you about their work.

Figuring out attributes like the way an artist sings or how an artist produces their music will allow you to in a few methods:

First, it’ll permit you to develop your own original taste and appreciation for music. That is essential for finding your own musical style and perspective.

The more input you’ve got, the more diverse your output could be when you begin to uncover your own voice. Synthesizing many different influences rather than imitating one is an easy and effective method to keep your own sound unique.

Second, determining what you are interested in another artist’s music will assist you to discover ideas and power in an original method and hone your interpretation skills in your process.

Reduce your influences and why they move you. It will provide you with the tools to know the music you like, interpret it better, and use it to discover a sound that goes method beyond impersonation.

Re-examine your process from beginning to end

Now that you have a greater idea of how to use your influences, take a look at your own songwriting process.

Examine everything from the way you write melodies and chord progressions to your preferred instrumentation, to the subjects your lyrics cover. When you uncover habits or tools you utilize just because they sound like your favorite music, it’s time to change them.

Just because a certain production or instrument technique works for another artist does not mean it should—or will—work for you.

All too usually, music with loads of potential and power falls flat because it’s too close to another artist’s identity. Since a track does not come fully formed out of the gate, being thoughtful and free from the limitations of someone else’s concepts in your writing process will provide you with the perfect chance at making original music.

Utilizing inspiration to begin is vital, however, understanding when to push your process into a territory that’s all your own is how you keep away from imitation.

Here’s a list of what you need to be checking in your process to separate inspiration from imitation:


Why do you favor one instrument over another?

If you find yourself constantly reaching for an acoustic guitar, MIDI controller or drum machine to make music, take a moment to ask yourself why.

Sticking to the instrumentation found in another artist’s songwriting playbook is limiting and lazy. For songwriters and producers struggling with this, an excellent exercise is to attempt writing an easy track on an instrument that’s completely foreign to you.

Changing your instrumentation won’t only assist you to consider composition and theory in new methods, however, you will also be capable of shedding the effect of other artists who use the same gear.

Chord progression composition

Do you prefer lush major sixth chords or are you the type of writer that sometimes sticks to power chords?

Your preferences surrounding chord composition in the music end up having a large influence on the textures, melodies, and atmospheres that make up your songs.

Stack up the way you write chord progressions against music from the artists you are influenced by. If they sound too similar, make a real effort to change your strategy to chord building and writing chord progressions.

Treat your influence’s progressions like a set of rules to bend and break. When you zig when they zag, you are still being influenced by their selections, however, in a method that becomes your own.

Separate Inspiration from Impersonation

Lyrical content

If you create lyrics about a certain topic, does it come from your own original voice or does it originate from someone else’s perspective?

As a songwriter, the most effective weapon in your creative arsenal is your unique perception and experiences.

Once we trick ourselves into believing previously covered subjects are the only “safe” ones to jot down about, that weapon goes to waste.

Lyrics are hard. It’s all about vulnerability, which requires songwriting that is brave and open to your unique perspective—an end result that is not possible when you are emulating someone else.


The way you produce your music might be turning original concepts into bland imitations.

When you are in the habit of following YouTube production tutorials that purpose to show you the way to make your track sound like (fill in famous artist’s name right here), then the creative selections you are making are not really yours, or all that creative for that matter.

Greatest practices for music production are an important place to begin, however, you should use them as a starting point to discovering your own variation, not the final step.

Crucial critique

Lastly, it’s time to listen back to your work critically. Ask yourself, “What’s mine about this?” Instead of judging your music before it’s recorded, wait until your songs are produced and mastered to listen back critically.

Do not get discouraged if elements of what you are writing still sound inauthentic to your unique voice.

Growing your own style will not occur overnight. Originality in music is tough to achieve, and it could take years to develop your own true voice.

It’s necessary to note that blazing your own musical trail will not always lead to good music. Recording and finishing songs are half the battle.

Discovering your unique creative voice is the first step. Learning to transform that originality into great music comes after.

Experiment, experiment, experiment

Now that you have recognized the way your influences impact your process, it’s time to do some serious experimenting.

That is by far the most important part of creating unique music. True musical experimentation occurs when we are able to let go of expectations and rigid ideas of the way it should sound.

Armed with the new musical insight you have about your influences, you will be able to experiment freely.

Discovering what works and what falls flat on your own terms in songwriting is crucial in creating your own voice.

First comes influence, then comes you.

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