What does "Musical Influences" mean to you?

What does "Musical Influences" mean to you?
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Every great artist that I have ever read about has invariably spoken about or given credit to earlier artists who inspired them in their artistic journey. It’s an essential part of the process. Anyone who aspires to any type of musical performance will have someone they have looked up to or used as a role model for their own aspirations. IMO this is frequently how recorded/marketed cover versions come about; when an established artist covers another artist. It’s a nod to that influence and a show of respect or adoration.

It’s a path that anyone can take, especially with the one-man/woman-band home studio options we have today. I think a really good way to work yourself into songwriting and production is to cover or even copy those influences and see what you come up with. There may be some sense of a “sacred cow” in doing this, but I think that’s rather silly. All the greats do it. Led Zeppelin made a career out of it, with no shame. There’s even a saying: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal!” While this may sound a bit crazy, surely it does no harm when playing around in your home studio trying to focus yourself and come up with something ‘original’ and ‘great’.

I wonder if there is a mindset that we just sit down with pen and paper, mic and guitar (or piano), and hope for something really inspired to come out? That can certainly happen, but I think preparation and knowing your influences can help a lot. Name them. Play with them. Copy them. Write a song in the style of your favorite artist(s) and see what happens. Do a parody song. There are karaoke tracks out there, sing along with a vocalist that is in your range and that you like (using an original track), then challenge yourself to sing it on your own with a karaoke track. There are sites that also offer tracks with vocals but the guitar or bass (or even drum IIRC) removed from the performance so you can fill it in yourself.

I think this is not only good practice and artistic development … it can also help get creativity moving when you’re in a funk or “writer’s block” period. It’s worth a try.

:checkered_flag: Who are your influences, and why?

Why do your songs suck?

Thanks Stan. This one really made me think.

For piano - Richter, Grimaud, and Anderszewski. Peterson and Evans on the jazz side. Renato Neto (Prince), Rick Paegot (Madonna) and Val Brantley (Usher, Neyo) on the pop/rock/funk side. I knew Val from back from my college days. Also, Jeremy Ellis…the guy who does the NI Maschine demos - We were friends back from the nightclub and casino scene in Detroit. Him and Michael McKnight (Mariah Carry) I would learn a lot of about tech from. OH!! - Steve Ferlazzo - Avril Lavignes keyboard player. Total monster. Got me into the Novation and Ableton stuff, and taught me a lot. At one point, I had a keyboard rig that was nearly identical to his…lol. Not because I was trying to copy him, but because it was so damn efficient and cutting edge…couldn’t have imagined a better way of doing it!

For recording - Dave Pensado, CLA, JJP, Greg Wells, Tony Maserati - I know…may sound silly because they’re all Waves sponsored dudes. But honestly (besides Greg Wells who’s a good bit younger), all the others have done an great job keeping up the changes in mixing trends.

I won’t bore you with music lawyers, A&R guys, agents, and CFO’s. But they do continue to ‘influence’ me especially now as I’m having to learn even more about the business side of things.


The saying “why reinvent the wheel” comes to mind. If someone has already figured out a cool way to do something, no need to go through all the steps with no ‘template’. Take the info and run with it! I certainly believe in making things easier to get moving.

Mixing influences are a good one too. I have been checking out Graham Cochran (RecordingRevolution) and Bobby Owsinski lately, among others. Anything to get you thinking and growing. I’m not so big on ‘trends’ … as they are ‘trends’. :wink: But growth and development are things that always help eventually.

That’s another one that gets overlooked. I found this guy really inspiring on CreativeLive IIRC:

He’s probably got TedTalks and YouTube as well, but yeah anything that seems to help you move forward and that you can apply quickly is likely to be of benefit.


Graham is my music production influence for sure. He has a plethora of video tutorials to help any newbie (I still consider myself one) get their feet wet without feeling like they’re drowning.


All things considered I guess my biggest influence is Newcastle Brown.


I’m trying to hit Like on Adrian’s Newkie Brown shout-out but keep getting “an unknown error has occurred.” So, manually: Like!

Stan, you describe pretty much how I got started in this gig, covering beloved artists and tunes (which, of course, I still do and always will). It’s how I’ve always operated, very often being the “guy with the guitar” at gatherings and parties. Because my tastes range into artists that are fairly obscure, it’s been a nice balance of familiar covers with those that are new to most people without having to actually write original material! Plus, for most of my life I was always playing by myself (now in the home studio, I play with myself, har har!), so came up with a style that tries to be the whole show-- rhythm, chords, and melody all at once. That was a habit I had to break when I started recording and mixing, I needed to back way off of that and record much simpler guitar parts so that things weren’t too busy.

My biggest guitar influences/inspirations growing up were Andres Segovia, Leo Kottke, Jimmy Page, Brian May, David Gilmour, and Steve Howe. The next tier would include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler, and Chet Atkins. The common denominator is the feeling and emotion they bring to their playing, far, far more important to me than speed or shreddiness. I respect and admire that kind of playing but it just isn’t anything I want to listen to on any kind of regular basis.

Later in life I have come to love the whole “wooden music” scene, americana style acts and “newgrass”, in particular the mighty “Strength in Numbers” lineup of Mark O’Connor (fiddle), Edgar Meyer (upright bass), Bela Fleck (banjo), Sam Bush (mandolin), and Jerry Douglas (dobro). Their ensemble work uses their bluegrass instruments like chamber music, with each instrument having a fundamental part that interacts with the rest as opposed to the standard (and dead boring) bluegrass style of a progression played together, then each instrument solos over the progression, they all play it together again, song over-- lather, rinse, repeat. Zzzzzzzzz.

The songs that really made me want to learn to play guitar were I Feel Fine by the Beatles, Up Around the Bend by Creedence, and Black Dog by Led Zep. I’m of the age that I heard all of those right when they came out, and by the time LZIV hit, that was it-- I was hooked!


I guess I’m not either, but I do think there’s something to be said for overall relevance. I noticed a big change in mixes from 2011-ish to now.

Bookmarked it :smiley: I’ll check it out soon!w


I’d probably call that “under the influence” :wink:, but hey whatever gets the motor running.


Well, it’s good that you’re alone to do that then. :wink:

[quote=“Chordwainer, post:6, topic:1271, full:true”]My biggest guitar influences/inspirations growing up were Andres Segovia, Leo Kottke, Jimmy Page, Brian May, David Gilmour, and Steve Howe. The next tier would include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler, and Chet Atkins. The common denominator is the feeling and emotion they bring to their playing, far, far more important to me than speed or shreddiness. I respect and admire that kind of playing but it just isn’t anything I want to listen to on any kind of regular basis.

I listened to Andres the other day. Nice list you have there. I guess that brings up another question for me: Can you have too many influences? Is more better, or does sticking with a few - say 3 or 4 - help keep yourself centered? I like your idea of tiers though, primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.


Yes, the trends are going to exist. And you’re probably going to have to conform to them to some degree. I guess I’m advocating for having a core essence that is your style, and then adapting as necessary on occasion.

Something I have been contemplating is the difference between a musical listening influence, and a musical playing influence. Maybe this fits with Dave’s idea of “tiers”, or maybe they are separate things altogether.

I have been heavily listening to and studying the band Rush lately. So many great songs, such a great catalog, excellent musicianship and songwriting, and a heavy dose of social consciousness thrown in there for good measure. I have always loved their music, but I don’t know that musically it has influenced me a great deal. I don’t know why. Maybe they are 2nd or 3rd tier or something, as my tastes have usually run more to the heavy rocking bands with less subtle messages. :slight_smile:

Even the old Rush songs don’t sound that ‘dated’ to me, though obviously they are from another era. The production and songwriting are pretty timeless IMO. However, Rush did end up creating some trends by influencing Progressive Rock bands beyond measure. They were very innovative in incorporating keyboards and synthesizers into their repertoire, without even adding another player to the band! (the pedal triggers probably helped a lot) I guess it’s better to be a trend maker than a trend follower. :wink:


When I sit down and start noodling around on guitar I tend to sound like a chicken picker, or like the guitar playing from Aerosmith, Gunz N Roses or…Lynard Skynard. I like all those bands, especially early Aerosmith and Skynard. I’m not a big G’N’R fan but I do like Appetite For Destruction and some of their other stuff. The strange thing is that the sound and style of my automatic, reflexive playing is not what I would consider to be my primary or even secondary influence as far as favourite guitarists are concerned. Luckily I’m not confined to that one style because even though I like that style, it’s not who I want to be identified as, as a guitarist or songwriter.

My earliest influence as a guitarist was Ace Frehley from KISS, Angus Young (AC/DC) and Eddie Van Halen…Hmmm, now that I mentioned those players I realize that they all have some of those funky blues traits, similar to the guitarists I spoke of in my first paragraph…Oh sh*t ! …Maybe I should erase everything I wrote. Haha


I would bet that most of us could list a plethora of influences but I’ll just list my a few of them/

The first band that really got me into music was KISS…Ok, you guys can stop laughing now ! Grrrrr grrrr.
I still think they wrote great songs back in 70’s and early 80’s. They also wrote some horrible duds too, but I don’t know of any band that hasn’t written at least a few crappy songs.

After KISS, came Van Halen, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Angel, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Scorpions, Def Leppard, Queen, The Who, Cream, Lynard Skynard, Molly Hatchet, Judas Priest, Boston, Foreigner, Iron Maiden, Rainbow,etc etc.

Favourite bands from the 1990’s are Alice In Chains, Faith No More, Nirvana and the Offspring.

I consider KISS (70’s era KISS), Van Halen (w/ David Lee Roth), Black Sabbath (with Ozzy), AC/DC (pre-1981), and Led Zeppelin to my my favourites…but many other bands come very close to being just as significant in my life and are big influences as well.

My favourite guitarist is an easy choice…Eddie Van Halen. Listen to Van Halen, Fair Warning…that’s a big part of the reason. Eddie was brilliant.


This Influences business is rather tricky and not as straightforward as might be imagined. I think some players do take it very straightforward, and I admire that, but as your influences and mine are once again in very close alignment - I can see that we see ourselves in those players to some degree while having our own essential or conglomerate developed styles being a bit different than them.

I was influenced by Aerosmith, KISS, and Skynyrd before I even learned guitar. Even AC/DC and Van Halen as well. As soon as I got a guitar, those were top of my list to learn. I know I spent a great deal of time learning AC/DC and Def Leppard songs - those spoke to me very directly. Also Van Halen to some degree, and while I really liked and could replicate Eddie’s finger tapping technique, his style always seemed a bit mysterious and unique.

G’nR was a big influence for listening in the late 80’s, but it wasn’t until Slash’s later solo albums that I really identified with his style.


Same here, KISS was awesome when they came out with KISS Alive and a few records after that. Even their first albums were quite good, even though they were commercial duds in terms of sales. The interesting thing is how slow the tempo’s were in those first albums compared to the same songs performed live on Alive! With faster tempos they came much more to life and energy.

Angus and Eddie are my primaries too. Fair Warning is one of my favorites. I can definitely hear them in things I do. I’d like to think Ace fits in there somewhere. Uli Roth for sure, and Judas Priest was very influential in vocals and guitars. Interesting that you mention Angel, as their “The Tower” song was fantastic and even a prelude to Rush 2112.

I spent time with Cheap Trick on riffs, even saw them on tour before they became famous. I revisited Black Sabbath “Master of Reality” 1-2 years ago, C# tuning and all. Had quite a blast with that. Many of the others you mentioned as well. Rainbow was awesome while it lasted.


I see that Gregg Giuffria was in Angel, I didn’t know that. It explains a lot.


I have a hard time picturing there being too many influences. Drawing from a very wide range of styles can’t be bad IMO, provided one is in fact trying to forge some kind of identity of one’s own. It’s all part of the gumbo…

I also get what you’re saying about listening influences vs. playing influences. There is a ton of music I listen to deeply and in detail that I would never try to incorporate as an influence in my playing. Weather Report is a great example, or Genesis/Peter Gabriel. Some of my all-time favorite music but zero influence on how I play, pretty much.


Well, I could reply in a similar vein to Dave (Chordwainer), but I’d already found out earlier we like similar music. The question is how your all time favourites influence the stuff you write (and produce, but that’s another question) In my case (like Dave) Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favourites, but my songs aren’t anything like hers. The reason I love her music is the uniqueness in so many ways. She taught me not to want to sound like anybody else, but to try and find my own way. Of course (at 60) I’m still only an absolute beginner on that path, but I try… In practice of course many of my songs are similar, have a mid tempo Neil Young (on acoustic) type strum in them. It just comes natural.
Then there’s another type of influence: the people you play with. When I was young there were no You Tube videos to teach you how to play like Jimmy Page. But some guys were a lot better and sometimes they let you in on their secrets. I played with a great guitarist for a while in my twenties (became a professional jazz guitarist) who taught me to play funk among other things. I’m still a sloppy guitarist, but if need be I know how to get it really tight thanks to him. I wonder if I was growing up these days if I would be different. Only recently I discovered how good You tube can be to learn how to play Under the Bridge or whatever. You could learn so much faster and become a much better player. But would I be a better songwriter? I doubt it.


I have so many influences it would be hard to list them all, but the three guys that made me obsess over guitar playing were Hendrix, Page and Leslie West. Hendrix made me want to figure out how to make bombs go off, and then back it up with beautiful improvised chord progressions. Page in the first two Zep records showed how to make bombastic solos, and basically brought blues and hard rock together along with sexual innuendo to make millions want to be guitar gods. But, to be honest, Leslie West made it possible for me to learn how to play with feeling, since in a two hour sj


Show he would play very simple patterns, but make you feel them, and you could figure out how to get your fingers in the right spots to make it work. As for writing, I strive not to be too derivative, and have a story to tell or a message, but not to take it too seriously, which fits with Mountain, and I guess would be categorized as hard rock with a melody. When Van Halen came out, it sounded like a gigantic bag of tricks, and didn’t become in fluential until much later. Motown is in there too.


Case in point, after reading the responses to this thread earlier, I reconnected with Ted Nugent and Bachman Turner Overdrive (early albums). I don’t identify with their styles as directly influencing me musically, but yet I very much identify with them in musical genealogy. They were early influences on me before I played guitar. What effect did they have? I do not know. But they are embedded in my consciousness as Rock gods and heroes.

I would love to include every musical influence in my repertoire, but it’s simply too much. At some point if I try to incorporate every single influence I have encountered it would be overwhelming. I remember that Pink Floyd “Animals” was very strong for me at one point (drug influences not withstanding) and may have had an impact. I can only musically and mentally identify with a few influences at a time though. It has to be focused for me to identify with it.