Being preoccupied with the fear of making something that has been done before, especially in music, is the same as giving yourself a straightjacket before composing. One of the surest ways to eliminate writers block and to create unique content is to give yourself permission to be unoriginal. This may sound like a contradiction yet it is a vital step of humility. When you do this you are silently giving credit to those who have paved the road before you. As you free your mind from this worry, you will let go and as a byproduct of this discipline will naturally compose more original music.
Michael Jackson heavily studied Fred Astaire, James Brown & Charlie Chaplin just to name a few. I personally believe him to be the greatest entertainer of all time not only because of his innate talent, but because he systematically modeled the giants who came before him throughout the expanse of his career.
Let’s take composed music for example:
Spinning on Air WNYC.org has a special called The World’s Most-Used Musical Sequence. From the key of A the notes A, G, F, and E are repeated throughout the ages of musical history. The notes are literally walking downward. It’s known as the Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord or Andalusian Cadence.
In another example, YouTube video Axis of Awesome-4 Chord Song illustrates how countless hits have used the exact 4 Chord Song structure repeatedly throughout modern history. Once arrangement style, rhythm and timing are made alike, these pop hits sound as one continuous song.
Art and Inventions:
The article What Steve Jobs Really Meant When He Said ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal‘ explains the differences between taking something someone has done before and building upon it, verses outright plagiarism.
“I think what he (Steve Jobs) meant by ‘steal’ was you learn, as artists have, from past masters; you figure out what you like about it and what you want to incorporate into your idea, and you take it further and do something new with it. I can see why people might confuse that with the current use people have for that phrase. You don’t just say, ‘I want something that looks just like yours and I’m going to sell it too.’ (-Bud Tribble-Apple Computer)
How to Find Your Unique Voice
With visual media we are usually painting Gods creation. Though God is the original creator of art and raw materials, the way we assemble colors, patterns, sounds and structures will be as unique as a fingerprint or snowflake. To get more uniquely radical, find freedom in art as you reclaim your childlike spirit.