Hello again, Ultimate-Guitar. Sorry for the massive delay; life got unexpectedly hectic and I've only just now had time to sit down and return to writing.
So, last time I took a long time to say one simple thing, and that was: Anyone who tells you that you can't do something in today's DIY music industry is wrong. I know, I spent an entire article saying that, and now I'm repeating myself. Terrible. But it's true!
So, bearing that principle in mind, decide what it is you truly want to accomplish. Do you want to be a pop singer? Do you want to be part of the next band filled to the brim with virtuosic prog talent? Blues? Death metal? Djent-infused Polka-Core?
Your approach will differ slightly between different genres, but the basics are gonna be the basics, no matter what.
Again, as I said last time, while these articles apply to just about anyone, they are aimed at those unfortunate musicians stuck in that creativity-squelching, boredom-permeated place known as high school. So, anyone out of high school should only have a leg up on the rest of the audience. And anyone in high school will not find themselves unable to do some of the things I say here.
The first thing you'll need, of course, is music. Preferably an album's worth of it. But that could be getting ahead of myself. See, so many up-and-comers have so much talent, but find themselves unable to do anything with it.
I actually heard some of you more experienced Ultimate-Guitar users facepalming after that last paragraph. Don't worry guys, I'm well aware that there are a million "How do theory \(_o)/" articles on this site, and I'm not going to get into that. But for those of you who don't understand theory, look up the column "The Crusade." It covers everything you need.
What I will instead say, is that regardless of the depth of your knowledge, you can start composing RIGHT NOW. And you should; it's really not too hard to do. If you have Guitar Pro, use that. If you don't, pick this up: http://tuxguitar.herac.com.ar/
Determine the instruments you want, and just start playing around with melodies until you find something you like. Spend hours, days, months even, just messing around. This will develop an ear, help you to develop your own sound. That's the key, right there. Develop YOUR SOUND.
Because you see, for every one band with their own sound, there's twenty unknown clones of that band. It's been that way since music started, and it'll stay that way. And labels are well aware of that. Record labels have entire departments of their staff dedicated to monitoring trends. And while they play off of trends, they also don't want too many clones floating around.
It's simple critical thinking. If Nightwish is raking in the cash for Spinefarm, you can bet Nuclear Blast is gonna start promoting the hell out of Epica. But by that same logic, if Nightwish is raking in the cash for Spinefarm, what use does Spinefarm have for another Nightwish-esque band? Why shell out the cash for two bands that share the same sound, when they can simply promote one of those bands even harder with that same excess cash?
So, find a style you love, and develop the hell out of it. Go nuts! If you ever hear yourself say the words, "Man, I wish I could find more music to listen to that sounds like what I'm going for," you're GOLDEN. I still remember trying to describe my first band's sound as it developed: "Nightwish meets Dragonforce." A couple months later, it was "Nightwish meets Dream Theater." A couple months after that: "Powerful female vocals, grooving drums, seven string chugs meshing with melodic piano, impressive yet tasteful guitar solos from two guitarists with totally different styles." Now, it's all of the above, "with slap bass."
Sure, I can draw similarities to what already exists, but my music doesn't sound quite like anything else. Believe me, I've checked. And THAT, readers, is the state you want your own sound to reach. Nothing quite sounds like it, but it has enough similarity to pre-existing cash cows that it still sounds like it originated in this dimension, on this planet.
Once more, I apologize for the several-month gap between articles, and I promise to be more consistent from now on. Until then, get working on developing your sound. And as I'm still new to the whole writing guides thing, please let me know in the comments where you think I stand to improve.