Well it’s nearing the end of another busy term at the Royal Academy of Music! I can’t believe that I graduate in July – it feels as though I’ve just moved to London and started my degree! Time has flown by and it’s a little scary if I’m being honest. Will I be ready for exams? What happens once I graduate? Will I be able to stay in the UK? Am I ready for the profession? Will I be able to pass an audition and win a job? I have found myself asking these questions and more over the past weeks, especially as Easter break approaches. One question, however, looms over me more often than any other: what is ‘my’ sound?
What is my sound? How do I make it and how does it evolve and adapt to different musical styles and contexts? I have found my mind occupied with questions such as these for much of this term. I have even questioned whether or not I actually have a detailed concept of sound and whether I have the ability to bring what I hear in my mind’s ear out of myself and onto the instruments. I’m sure other musicians playing a variety of instruments have posed similar questions to themselves or to others at one point or another and so I wanted to brooch the subject in my blog, if nothing else than to put my thoughts out there.
We all have musicians that we admire and aspire to be like – often we find ourselves thinking ‘wow, they sound great’ and ‘how do they play/ sound the way they do?’. I myself have had these thoughts numerous times when listening to colleagues and teachers and also to recordings. So I suppose I do have an idea of what a ‘good’ sound is, or at least what my sound preferences are. However, I don’t believe it’s enough to simply have an opinion on what a ‘good’ sound is. I feel as though this leads to nothing more than trying to replicate it – we are our own person and will never play or sound like anyone else no matter how hard we try. We need to find our own sound; our own musical fingerprint that makes us different from everyone else. It’s what wins auditions in my opinion – that spark that the panel hears that makes a player memorable in a sea of hundreds of others; that makes a player stand out. How do we find that spark?
This term I have been focussing on really developing my own sound and having the confidence to present that sound to the world, despite what others may or may not think. It’s not that this is something I have only recently considered or started to develop – I have been playing my instrument for almost a decade and have often had to think about what things should sound like and what stylistic considerations should be made. I think the difference now is that I am asking not what an excerpt should sound like, but rather what do I want the excerpt to sound like. It seems a small difference at times but has really changed the way I am approaching my instrument at the moment. I have been through the emotional gambit of late – everything from feeling as though I am finally starting to hear more detailed sound profiles to questioning whether I hear anything at all, or if I have the ability to ‘be musical’. At times I have even thought about throwing in the towel; felt as though perhaps music as a craft shouldn’t be so hard and maybe it isn’t to those who are meant to be pursuing it. Recently I asked myself what I now consider to be the most important question I have posed all term: do I want to be a musician? Without missing a beat I knew the answer – of course I do! I love to play and make music and I will do anything to be able to do it every day in a professional capacity.
What is ‘my’ sound? Well, I’m not entirely sure yet. It is a question that has started to be answered this term and for that matter, in retrospect, during my time at the Academy. I now think that this question may never be fully answered and, you know what? That’s ok. The minute I find the answer complete I think I will be putting the sticks down permanently because it means I will have stopped searching, stopped learning and challenging myself. I never want that to happen at any stage of my career. So, ‘my’ sound’? Well who knows… but I’m sure looking forward to spending a lifetime figuring it out!
Tegan LeBrun - Our Royal Academy Sponsorship Student