The Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky once said: " A good composer does not imitate; he steals."
I think what he meant by this is that it's OK to use a technique developed by another and make it your own. To imitate is to steal a technique or style and, somehow, not incorporate your own voice and energy into it.
We all get our ideas from somewhere, whether by accidentally listening to a piece of music and subconsciously storing it away, or by a conscious act where we say to ourselves: "This sounds great and I want to use it in my own music."
Some people have the idea that everything created must be original and by that they mean that there must be no outside influences - but this is unrealistic. Haydn taught Beethoven. Italian composers influenced Bach and so on. All past and present composers on this planet have their influences whether they admit them or not.
Now, most of you know that I have two major influences: George Winston and John Herberman. You may or may not know of these people. The point is I admit that they shaped my own style. How? Because I liked listening to them. It's that simple.
When I sit down to play, I inevitably gravitate towards one style or the other. I'm fine with that. It doesn't mean that I'm unoriginal. It just means that I acknowledge reality and don't try to come up with "something original." What sounds new is 99.9 times out of 100, a modification of what came before.
The whole point I'm trying to make is this: Don't try to be original. Instead, focus on what you like and love and your own voice will come through in the end. The music may be modified to an extreme (innovation) or just a little (homage). Just don't imitate.
Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Visit http://www.quiescencemusic.com now and get a FREE piano lesson!