Arts & Entertainment, Music

Alicia’s Retro-Futuristic Sound

Alicia Keys

Lesson time 08:21 min

Alicia explains how various influences have helped her develop her incredible sound.

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Topics include: Voices of Past Generations · Playing With Sonics


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Retro-futuristic is the way that I describe my music, the way that I describe the style of music that I'm really attracted to. It's this ability-- you know, have a healthy, heaping amount of this classic sound, this classic style of writing, this classic, sonic-- a timelessness that I feel comes with some of the greatest errors of music, which, to me, is the '70s and also the '90s. And there's obviously many great eras of music, and everyone has their own opinion about what that is. But for me, the '70s is a really powerful era for music. It was very, very progressive and really beautiful, really musical. You know, the amount of instruments that were in songs were just impressive, incredible-- horn sections and string sections and all kinds of different types of bass guitars and pianos and Wurlitzers and keyboards and experimental experiences and effects and styles. And it was just very, very rich to me. And so, a piece of that richness and bravery and boldness of the musicianship and the instrumentation of music and also the songwriting that was very catchy, very, very emotional, very powerful, mixed with the future, which is, like, all the plug-ins, all the virtual sense, all the new drum programs, all the drums sonics that have a certain heaviness, that have a meat to them that you just won't be able to get out of a live kit, you know, sounds that you can create yourself with your own fingers and hands that you can, you know, make almost sound like it's coming from another galaxy. It's all of these, like, new things that you create and a heaviness and a thickness and a strength that comes with where we are currently in a more modern musical landscape mixed with this retro timeless classics style and put them together. And I think you just get the best of both worlds. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was introduced to soul music just because it's always been such a fabric in our home. My mother's always played so much music. It's just, like, a fabric of everything. You can't even escape it. I remember being introduced to Nina Simone. That was, like, a big, big deal for me to see a Black woman playing classical piano when you just don't really see many Black women playing classical piano. So for me, as a young Black woman playing classical piano, I was like, who is she? What is she-- what is she? And not only was she playing, she was destroying. Like, there's a difference between playing and Nina Simone. Nina Simone destroys the piano. It's, like, you can't even believe it, you know? And I was so taken by that, and then also her strength and her almost-- she almost had, like, an aloofness about her that was very intriguing. You know, discovering her, I think I just-- I don't even remember how. But I do remember it was a video. It was definitely a video because I was in awe. I was shocked. I was like, just watching her and stunned. And then, Marvin Gaye I remember being introduced to definitely through m...

About the Instructor

With 15 Grammy Awards and more than 40 million albums sold so far, Alicia Keys is one of the world’s most beloved singer-songwriters. Now the legendary artist invites you into her studio to share her process for creating music built from authentic emotion. Breaking down anthems like “Fallin’,” Alicia shows you how she writes lyrics, crafts melodies, and explores sonics so you can discover the music you were born to make.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Alicia Keys

The legendary singer-songwriter and producer shares her approach to making music that resonates and helps you find the power of your unique voice.

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