- Wednesday, November 02, 2011
- by Jonathan Martin
Elvis Impersonators are cool. You see them everywhere in Vegas, and New York. You could probably even hire one to entertain at a birthday party or anniversary celebration in your own home town.
But, an Elvis Impersonator isn't really trying to fool anybody. They know they can't anyway. They grow out their sideburns, and put on the costume. They imitate Elvis' smooth voice and mannerisms, but they know that you know they're not the real "King".
There are some musicians out there who would like it if they could make you beleive that they invented the style of playing that they've imitated from Miles Davis, or John Coltrane. Some of them are really good at it, they can play a solo over just about any tune and make it sound just like Miles or Coltrane.
The musician they impersonate could be any of the thousands of Jazz masters out there. I use Miles and Coltrane as easy examples because they are the most widely imitated Jazz musicians who have ever lived. And for good reason.
The Jazz Impersonator
But, the impersonators still don't use their own voice.
An impersonator dedicated to making everything they do sound as if it came from the instrument of someone else doesn't want their own voice. They want to play exactly like theur idol, and they don't care who knows it.
Even though they still seek recognition and admiration for it. They build their success on the shoulders of giants. And that is where they stop.
It's enough for them to be able to impersonate a great musician. It may take up all of their creative flow to be able to do just that much. Or, they may think that nothing they could say for themselves would be as eloquent or sophisticated as when they use someone else's voice.
Mostly, they get caught up in practicing technique.
Imitate Don't Impersonate
Imitation is a great place to start.
If you hear a musician that has a great sound, or uses their scales, chords, or notes in an interesting and unique way. It is all right to imitate what they do; until you "get" it.
It's ok to incorporate other musicians' great ideas into your own playing. Even if thousands of others have done the same thing before you. It's ok to transcribe Miles, as long as you don't try to be Miles.
It's ok to replace a turnaround with a lick based on Coltrane changes, as long as you don't try to become Coltrane throughout the whole solo.
Beginners Need to Imitate
When you're just starting out it is a good idea to listen to as many of the Jazz greats as you can. Especially those who play your intrument. It will really help you get a strong idea of what a good sound for your instrument is, and what you might want to sound like.
As you imitate these great players, try to get inside their head. Try to feel what they were feeling, and think what they might have been thinking. What was it that gave them those feelings and thoughts?
Be aware of how they use the music (notes, scales, pitch, intonation, timing, etc.) to send their message to the audience. Learn from their communication as much as you do from their musical technique.
When you know how to communicate with your audience through the music, then you will know how to stop imitating and know how to express yourself.
Image of Elvis Impersonator from PhotoBucket - julijana_7
Who are your favorite players to imitate? Who have learned the most from by imitating? Tell us in the Comments ...
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