Learning From the Greats: How to Use Older Hits to Improve Your Own Music

You can’t create your music in a bubble. While you want to develop your own definitive style, you will be influenced by other musicians and genres of music. You shouldn’t be afraid to embrace these other artists or styles, because they can help you to grow as a musician.

History and Types of Saxophones You Can Learn to Play

By paying attention to their use of instruments, harmonies, emotional connection and song themes, you can learn from older styles of music. You may even want to incorporate some elements from their music into your own. This is possible, as long as you pay homage to them rather than try to copy them. It is important to keep your own sound but allow it to evolve in new directions throughout your career.

Emotional Depth

In many older styles of music, especially Motown, the artists are able to bring a deeper level of emotion to the music. Their connection to their lyrics is what made their music relevant to their listeners. So, listening to music from a Motown record producer can be an important way to better understand how to bring emotional depth to your own music.

No matter what genre you are in, you want to be able to bring a deeper level of feeling when singing so that the music will speak to your audiences and cause them to experience certain emotions. Motown artists were able to successfully reach people from different backgrounds because their songs were catchy as well as emotionally-charged. People not only wanted to dance to them but felt like these artists were speaking to them. So, learning from Motown music and bringing this type of emotional depth to your music can only make it stronger.

Song Themes

Many artists from previous generations, including Motown artists, created music about universal themes such as love both lost and experienced. This is why their music continues to be special to people who grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s as well as people today.

While you want to create music that speaks to your individual experience, you can take a cue from musicians from the past and try to write in such a way that you speak to a wider range of people. Listening to lyrics from Motown artists can give you a better idea of how to craft your music in such a way that it is not only catchy but captures your experiences and feelings in a way in which others will relate.

Instrument Use

Older styles of music, especially Motown songs, tended to use more instruments than today’s music. They often had brass sections, bass lines, saxophones, drums, organs, trombones, and guitars. While you may not want to use as many instruments in your music as older artists, you may find after listening to older records that a certain sound would fit with your style of music.

Especially when you are recording an album, having additional instruments can bring a richer sound. Hearing skilled musicians may also inspire you to want to improve your own skills on your instrument of choice or bring new sounds when you are playing.


Older artists often performed in groups with other singers, so harmonizing was key to creating a unified sound. Even if you are a solo artist, there will likely come a time where you will collaborate with others. If they sing in different ranges, you will need to work with them so that one person doesn’t overpower the others, and the music is cohesive.

Listening to records from Motown groups can give you a better sense of how different voices are able to come together and create strong vocal harmonies. Working with other singers and musicians will help you to network and to build a bigger audience, so having an understanding of how to perform with others will help you in the long run.

Older artists may not have sung or played in the same style as you, but you can still draw inspiration from them. Listening to an old album can allow you to learn more about harmonizing, writing lyrics with emotional depth, choosing universal song themes that connect with audiences, and using different instruments to create a fuller sound. As an artist, you want to continually evolve and reach longtime fans and new listeners in different ways. Being open to older music, such as Motown songs, can allow you to adapt your sound while also keeping that thing that makes you special as an entertainer.