I Want To Be A Clone
Many guitar players start out by copying their heroes. It is only natural to want to learn the music you like and copy the players who inspire you. When I was a teenager, I also wanted to play like my guitar heroes. But I wasn’t very good at copying their style. And I was slow at learning songs from records. I wore out a few (vinyl) copies of Santana’s Moonflower LP trying to learn the song Europa. Of course that was in the 1970s and we didn’t have YouTube or guitar TABs. If you wanted to learn a song back then, you pretty much had to do it by ear. There were music books but they usually had simplified open chords, and no solos, riffs, etc. It’s far easier today.
Even Guitar Heroes Have Guitar Heroes
Eric Clapton was influenced heavily by American blues players. Especially the three “Kings”: B.B., Albert, and Freddie. Keith Richards was obsessed with Chuck Berry. Eddie Van Halen has stated that he learned all of Eric Clapton’s solos note for note. Stevie Ray Vaughan was obviously influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Carlos Santana admired B.B. King. However, none of them were content with just copying their heroes, they took that influence and created something new — their own style.
The Mimics (Clones)
If you play long enough you will probably meet someone who can play exactly like one of their guitar heroes. These guys are mimics. They have studied their heroes and know everything there is to know about their gear, their techniques, their songs, and their career. These guys are the ultimate tribute band players. Now don’t get me wrong. I think playing in a cover band is good, honest work. I play in one. Playing the music you like is a blast. And getting paid to do it is even better. But I think every player should also strive for something creative, something original. You don’t necessarily have to write your own music, although that would an excellent goal (good songwriters are far more valuable to a band than good guitar players), but why not try adding your own “style” to a cover song.
Strive To Be Unique
Since I couldn’t play exactly like the players I admired, I decided I would try to develop my own style of playing. Which is usually a mix of all your influences. I also started writing music to fit the way I played. Naturally my first attempts at songwriting were pretty weak. But just like playing guitar, the more I worked on songwriting, the better I got. The funny thing is, as I got better at creating my own music, I also got better at copying my hero’s music. Maybe I was a late bloomer, or maybe I just had to go about things a different way. The point is, we’re all individuals. And while it is beneficial to mimic other players while learning, you should also try to find your own unique voice on the guitar. Who knows, maybe someday kids will be trying to copy you!