Introducing some new cover tunes...what's your approach?
We're jumping into some new cover tunes tomorrow night...RATM, BRMC, etc..it's acronym night apparently. We're definitely not pros, but we all have some experience and at least intermediate skills. We've been together about 8 months with some significant breaks when life got in the way...because of the breaks I'd say we're still in startup mode...1 set under our belt. Just played a show and it went pretty well.
It's occurred to me that I'd like to take a new, ground up approach with learning tunes...I'd like to start off with just me and the drummer...make sure we're both feeling the new tunes in the same way, and if we're not, get together on it. Get the rhythm down, let the guitars/vocals hear that and build off it.
What we've done to this point is 4-3-2-1 and everybody launches into it. Without getting into too many details, I think this approach is a little overwhelming...we fix the big obvious f*** ups but we never really deal with the myriad minor f***ups that get lost in the swirl of 4 or 5 instruments piling on.
In other words, there's some chronic sloppiness and I'm wondering whether a different approach to new tunes would help a bit. I don't think us all launching in and never really breaking a tune down into its fundamentals is working for us.
What do you guys do? I'm thinking we start bottom up...start with the rhythm section and get us tight...get everybody agreed and locked in with how we're going to play a tune...the rhythms of the verse/chorus etc...exactly how transitions and breaks will go...all that. Then when we've gotten straight on each building block, jump in and give it a try.
Sounds like a great plan to me...we'll see what the fellas think. They're not always into structure:).
Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!!
p.s....also as I'm writing this...when you all launch in it and hack through the whole song before opening your mouth it creates a critical atmosphere..."hey there was that part you massacred, we should fix that"...we communicate pretty well around that stuff, but I'm wondering whether building it up together would be more collaborative. Take the verse...drummer, watcha got, ok here's the bassline...tighten it up, there we go. Ok rhythm guitar, come on in...OK we're off just a little off...in the recording he's doing XYZ...drums and bass adjust...etc etc etc
Bass & Drum practices. Guitars practices. These can break it down. Play together, along with the original track to get the timing and feel.
Listen as a band; play softly UNDER the volume of the track; take it step by step.
What about everyone individually at home practicing the hell out of each of those songs, then you all come in and play the parts together you already know by heart. One take, or two at the most, and you're done. Super efficient. And no reason for anyone to critique another player, because all the parts were learned beforehand. No stress, no drama, no problem. I think this is a reasonable expectation for intermediate players. At an intermediate level, someone showing up for rehearsal without his parts down cold is really not acceptable.
Unless it's a "fun band." (Migraine approaching...)
If you're in a band that can't/won't just learn the tunes from the recordings, charting requires more initial workóbut ultimately less work in the endóthan short roping the band through endless learn-as-you-go "rehearsals" of a song.
If you the typical weekend warrior cover band with enough songs to play a 4 hour gig............
When you play a new cover, you click it off and go. It's there or it isn't. Like others have said, it's up to each band member to have their act together.
Sloppiness comes from lack of preparation or just not being good enough musicians.
I spent years in the classical world where you actually rehearse, with a director that nick picks this and that. You can look at a score or whatever.
With a good cover band, its different, at least IME. Learning parts is on your own time.
You can do the piece-by-piece, ground up thing, but the problem is that you may work on a tune and then realize by the time the last piece is added, the song won't fly and your previous time is wasted. For example, you can spend weeks learning the song sans vocals, and then when it's time to sing, the key is out of his/her range and you are learning the song over again or trashing it. It sounds like you folks are busy, but you want to work. In my experience, this is what I have found to work well to ramp up a band to get to working status if you are in a democratic situation.
- The first thing to do is sit down with your bandmates and brainstorm a list of songs. Come up with songs that you guys already know how to play, as well as songs that you want to do. Make the list as large as you'd like.
- From the big list, identify the songs that you already know and/or are confident you can pull off. Add them to a list of songs that will become your setlist. If one person in the band knows the song, they can teach it to the others, which helps.
- Take the left-over songs, and decide what you want to keep as alternates for the future.
- If a member vetos a song (especially the vocalist), scratch it from the list.
- If you rehearse a tune, and it just won't fly without moving a mountain, then scratch it and try one of your alternates.
Here's the advantages of doing it this way:
- By selecting your songs beforehand, you can better decide on the image and vision for the band. You can readily see if you guys are all over the place, and by getting this top-down view you see how congruent and balanced your song selections are. (i.e. too many ballads, not enough new songs, etc.)
- Song selection is one of the biggest causes of tension within a cover band. If you do it early, you can weed out the guys who don't fit the vision of the band.
- By having a master list, you have a plan for practicing at home, so if you miss a rehearsal you can still work on something.
- The songlist can be used in your promo kit.
If there are problems, you stop and say "hey there was that part you massacred, we should fix that" ;) and if your mates are serious about putting out a good song they'll realize it too and no one's feelings are hurt.
IMO, with a cover band, if you can't learn your parts correctly at home, then you shouldn't be in the band... because either you can't cut it as a player, or you're lazy. practice at home and don't waste anybodies time. (unless you guys are just playing for fun)
Gotta agree, everyone should learn their parts at home. In our band, whoever has the song suggestion emails the song file or a link to a youtube of the song and possibly a chord sheet. Then we decide we're going to work on it at the next practice. It's implied that we each need to at least have our part worked out before we get there. Then we just need to work on beginning and ending as well as breaks. Maybe how we get in and out of a bridge.
We all learned the songs on our time (well at least most of us) and just had to hammer out the details when we rehearsed. It was super obvious who was ready at the first rehearsal and because of that by the second everybody had done the homework.
Having something to work towards (gigs on the books) definitely helps facilitate the process of learning songs.
"Aren't you guys practicing at home every day anyway?"
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