Finding Your Artistic Voice and Style

John Legend

Lesson time 16:36 min

Learn about John’s upbringing in gospel music and how it influences his style. Opening up about his experience covering Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” he demonstrates how other artists’ songs can help you find your own voice.

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Topics include: Learn How to Listen • "Steal From the Best" • Style Study: “Love’s in Need of Love Today”


[PIANO PLAYING] JOHN LEGEND (VOICEOVER): Anyone can write a song. But how do you write a good song? How do you inspire people to take action or fall in love through your music? I believe it all starts with knowing who you are as an artist, what your style is, and how you want to impact people with your voice or your writing. - I started as a musician when I was a very young boy. I grew up in a musical family. I grew up in the church. And I was exposed to music all the time. I was surrounded by people who loved music and who played it every week in our church services. Music was such a huge part of the way we interacted with each other, showed our love for each other, and our love for God, and our community. Music was everything. It was such a core part of who we were. I would watch television and see these big stars on television. and I would want to be where they were. I envisioned myself on the Grammys. I envisioned myself on Star Search. I wanted to be in those places. And I wanted to sing for people. And I wasn't great at it yet, but I was practicing piano at home, taking piano lessons from a local music store, learning gospel piano from my grandmother. And then eventually, I became a songwriter. I wrote romantic songs for the girls I was trying to hit on. I wrote whenever I could. And part of the reason I wrote was because I loved singing and I wanted to compose the things that I was singing. And more and more, as I kept singing, kept being encouraged by being out there in front of audiences and feeling their love that they gave me, and feeling like I could successfully put on a performance, the more I was like, yeah, I really want to do this. And then as I got older and older, I started to zero in on what worked for me. And part of it came through my collaborations. So one of my early collaborators was a guy named Dave Tozer. He loved classic soul and classic reggae and a little bit of rock. And then I started working with Kanye who loved classic soul and merging that with hip hop. And so when you listen to my Get Lifted album, you'll hear both of their influences in my work then. And then as I grew, I incorporated all that they had put in me, and then started working with different people as well, and getting different ideas from different people, and bouncing different ideas off of those people, and kind of soaking up different people's creativity. And all of their influence is what makes me who I am today. [PIANO PLAYING] "Ordinary People" was actually the second single we released. "Used to Love You" was the first song we released. It did OK. It got a little play on the R&B charts. But "Ordinary People" was the song that really broke through. And "Ordinary People" broke through I think because it sounded so different than everything else that was on the radio. - (SINGING) Girl I'm in love with you. This ain't the honeymoon. We're past the infatuation phase. - There was no other piano ball...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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