You want to sound original?  You think you’re going to do that by listening to your favorite players?  Its not likely.  What you play is a product of your inner emotional content filtered through musical paradigms you inhabit. This means that if you listen to a small number of players over and over again, you’re very likely to sound like them, instead of finding your own voice.

Give up listening to any of the music you usually listen to.  If you normally listen to rock or jazz, spend three months listening to nothing but Stravinsky, Stockhausen and Bartok alternatively, spend that time listening to tribal chants from Niger, Bulgarian folk and Japanese Shakuhachi music.  If you normally listen to rock and country, listen to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett.  You get the picture.  Become immersed, completely in this different music.

Spend a month or two listening to this new music every day, and don’t listen to any of your normal music.  Then pick up your guitar and play along, join in, become assimilated.  Try to play what they play. You’ll probably play rubbish.  Keep going.  Even after some time playing along, its more than likely you’ll still play half formed infantile meanderings compared to the musicians on the recordings.  Stop playing and listen to the music for another month, keeping in mind what you learned about the gaps between what you can play and what’s happening in the music.

A month later, play along again only this time play your old style to it, be that rock, jazz or whatever.  Bring your baggage into their world and dump it.  More than likely you’ll have made a hell of a mess.  Try harder.  Try to make your old style fit this new music (which shouldn’t be that new to you by now).  Take some little piece of what you find into yourself.  Continue with this for two weeks.

Next, don’t listen to anything for a month, but you must play and practice every day.  Only play unaccompanied (ie no band or backing music) and stay with what ever new ideas you picked up, don’t play any of your old style at all (not even as a warm up).  Your task is to get used to any new ideas you’ve picked up and try to extend them.

After this month is over, go back to your usual music and ways of playing for a month.  Then do the steps above again.

You will probably find that none of these new ideas come into your playing during the months that you play ‘normally’.  But don’t be disheartened, year later some little strands of originality may emerge.  You’ve found a place to start, you’ve got a foot in the door, and it will only get better from there.