Finding Your Own Voice – Cross Pollination by Jimi Durso… One great way to expand what you’re musically capable of (and thus find out what you really sound like) is by examining other genres. Very often innovation occurs when someone takes an idea from one area and inserts it into another, like Flea taking the slap method usually reserved for funk and using it in a rock & roll band, or Jaco taking harmonics, which had previously been mainly a guitar technique, and making it a part of his style. I remember when Living Colour released “Glamour Boys”, where bassist Muzz Skillings played a one-drop style ska line on what was otherwise a rock-pop song. In general, I’ve found that when reading interviews with the most creative musicians in any genre, they listen to and love all kinds of music, not just the type they’re associated with (I’ve read that Muse bassist Christopher Wolstenholme listens to classical string quartets for inspiration).
So whatever genre (or genres) of music you play, you’d be doing yourself a favour by checking out how the bass functions in other styles (even if they’re not bass players). And it doesn’t have to be some contrived method of trying to figure out how you can use Indonesian Gamelan ideas in your Emo band (though that would be awesome). You’ll probably find that just being exposed to (and genuinely interested in) varying types of music will start changing the way you play. But I’ll give you a concrete example (that I stole from Chip Jackson).
As all you jazz folk know, a typical walking bass line is composed of straight quarter notes with a chord tone (typically the root) on the down beat. Those of you who’ve played salsa know that those lines are syncopated and very often anticipate the root note by a full quarter note (playing the root note of a chord on the “4” of the measure before the chord occurs). How about combining the two? Playing a walking line but instead of waiting for the “1” to play the root, put it on the “4” of the previous bar. Now you’re playing a walking line with the anticipation of a salsa line.
The above is just an example, which of course you’re welcome to steal, but what’s more important is that you learn to engage in this kind of process yourself: taking ideas from one place and applying them to another. But one last thing to bear in mind and this is really just my opinion: When I come up with an idea like this, I will explore it in my practice, but I don’t try to force it into musical situations. I prefer to let whatever I’ve been working on to come out naturally, as I think this makes the music more “organic” or emotional and not overly intellectual. But that doesn’t mean you have to make that choice, at least not in the same way I have. That’s another decision that can add to making your voice your own.