Musician’s signatures

Musicians have a hard job. Sometimes they steal – I bet it’s mostly without realising so. Imagine you have a music in your head for some time and you don’t know if it’s yours but it suits your purpose so well. There is no Google for music where you can hum a melody and it gives you “yeah, that’s this song!” (Gosh, I miss this when I want to know name of the song and its interpreter before I torr… oh, I didn’t wanna tell that!)

However – sometimes composers reuses their own materials. God knows when Mike Oldfield (or he calls himself Michael now, right?) comes with Tubular Bells 4 – for example. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. All Tubular Bells-es 🙂 were full of new melodies although their structure is similar. Of course we can now argue about Oldfield’s stronger and weaker moments, but that’s off topic now. There is other way how to reuse something yours. Sometimes it’s in terms of “yeah, that guy has his own style!” And sometimes it’s “oh, again the same melody?” And sometimes it’s in between. There are things I call “signatures”. Sometimes they are hard to describe, you just know what it is – mostly it’s based on some typical sound (like guitar of aforementioned Mike Oldfield, or Brian May‘s sound of his “Red Special“).

Sometimes it’s based on style of playing – this is probably even harder do describe. I’ve realized that I can recognize Santana‘s way while I was familiar with only two or three albums by him – and I realized that when Smooth came into radios along with his major comeback album Supernatural. And I realized it because the song doesn’t feature typical singer’s voice from  Santana-band I’ve known from before. That was the moment I found out I can recognize his guitar style – his way of changing rapid and slow passages of guitar solo.

Finally – there are signatures that are right to your face. Even when Alan Parsons Project features more singers his music technique and procedures are so typical. But to name absolutely obvious reuse – start to listen The Raven from Tales of Mystery and Imagination – and than start with Breakdown from I Robot. I bet the bass link is obviously very similar to everybody who will try that – which doesn’t mean those songs are the same! Probably my favorite example of musician’s signature is Chris Rea‘s riff where he switches guitar solo between two notes in a specific tempo – not always the same two, but I guess there are only two versions. You can hear it in different variations in Road To Hell II, Auberge, Winter Song, Red Shoes, Let’s Dance, Looking For a Rainbow, Daytona, I Just Wanna Be With You (7 songs are on two albums!) – either as a main solo riff or rhythm guitar riff. Chris Rea sometimes reuses his melody too much (compare You Can Go Your Own Way and You’re Not a Number – the latter I like more ;-)) but his signature is something I have no problem with. It’s subtle touch so even when it’s present in more songs I don’t care.

After all – if you have a nice way how to sign something that’s your why not to do it, right? Painters do it – why musicians can’t? (Of course I would recognize Chris Rea by his voice too I guess. ;-))