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SONG SELECTION PROCESS FOR COVER BANDS?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bstringrandy, Jan 18, 2013.


  1. bstringrandy

    bstringrandy Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    For those guys/gals playing in variety cover bands, what is your process for bringing new songs into the set list? Is it democratic or a dictatorship?

    I play in a 6 piece variety cover band with 2 lead vocalists (male and female). The vocalists have the responsibility to suggest songs that they would like added to the repertoire. They are free to get those suggestions from other band members, audience recommendations, YouTube or where ever.

    Afte they suggest a song, the band members evaluate it to see if there are any issues being able to play it (difficulty, weird instrumentation etc.). We can also offer a yay or nay opinion on the suggestion with the understanding that we may be overruled if the majority votes for it. After that, we share mp3s and chord charts, learn the song and show up to the next rehearsal ready to try it out. The process seems to work most of the time. It results in some of us playing stuff we don't love sometimes, but that's expected in a situation where you're covering classic rock, R&B, new country, etc. Some of our audiences range from 16 to 65 so we try to please as many as possible. Someone gets miffed occasionally, when things don't go their way, but we're all adults about it.

    What works for you?
     
  2. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2008
    Location:
    Pomona, SoCal
    Ask the memebers of Talkbass. :D
     
  3. drpepper

    drpepper Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Location:
    Columbia, Maryland
    That sounds like as good a process as any other. You have a structure, which seems to be one of the more important pieces to this puzzle.

    My most recent experience (still in process) has been joining a band that's changing genres from hard rock to a similar variety like you're talking about.

    It's mostly democratic. Everyone makes suggestions, everyone has limited veto power based on mutual accommodation, the singer has veto power based on not being able to do certain songs.

    We email throughout the week and either use drop box or send youtube links. At this stage, we're mostly looking for songs that have proven out somewhere. At the end of rehearsal, we'll generally spend a little bit of time playing those mp3s or youtube videos and decide what to try out the following week.

    What I'm digging the most about this go around is that there's a firm commitment on everyone's part to be willing to drop things that don't work. I didn't have that with my previous band, and it really became a problem.
     
  4. Marko5657

    Marko5657 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2009
    Location:
    N.E. Ohio
    New band I put together, I’m the BL, but not a control freak. All I initially said was that the songs have to be “popular/well-known”, and “dance” (slow/fast), and in our case no Country, as it doesn’t get the better rooms around here. I don’t care if I personally like the song, how old it is or how new, but that’s the formula.

    Of course I got some flack on a couple songs that didn’t meet the criteria, to the point of a couple arguments, but I held my ground and finally everyone seems to have gotten the message.

    Three of us share leads and backups, so we’re not going to do something we can’t do, but between the three of us we can cover a lot of material.

    We use keyboard triggers/roland ax synth and computer software that gives us the ability to get about any sounds we want, and the ability to synchronize (want to keep that to a minimum), which gives us the ability to do songs that the typical guitar/bass/drums band can’t pull off.

    Otherwise, we’re all close enough in our musical taste, and each and willing to compromise a bit, so no problem finding common ground on song selections.
     
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  6. two fingers

    two fingers Loud Mouth Know It All Blowhard Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern NC USA
    The way you are already doing it makes as much sense as anything I have done. You have to have singer input because their "instrument" is more limited in its scope, range, and tone than any other.

    The only problem that can arise from such a democratic system is that ultimately any one band member who gets voted down a ton of times will get pissed about it. All you have to do is throw the guy a bone every now and then and it's all good. Just play a song he has mentioned before even if it's on the fringe of what you are trying to do. Even if they are wrong, everybody likes to get their way every now and then. And one "iffy" song won't ruin your whole show.
     
  7. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    Newport News, VA via NYC
    Disclosures:
    Kohlman Bassworks
    My personal criteria doesn't seem to jibe with many of the bandleaders I've been associated with. The succesful bands get it. It's very simple.

    Must be a Top40 charted song that most listeners are familiar with. Zero tolerance for obscure songs!
    Must be a danceable tune.
    Must be able to be played by the band.
     
  8. Marko5657

    Marko5657 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2009
    Location:
    N.E. Ohio
    +1
     
  9. drpepper

    drpepper Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Location:
    Columbia, Maryland
    Excellent point.

    My for-fun band has this issue. The guitarist almost exclusively suggests songs that no one else wants to play...err is opposed to playing...strongly sometimes. We try not to be too rough with him, he takes that as a go-ahead and spends time learning the songs.

    Just last week, we all got this:

    "Can we discuss via email some more songs or at least what songs we want and create lists of those for practice. I tried creating one back in October, sorta felt it was received cooly by you all."

    We had the exact same discussion with the solution being verbatim "let's throw the guy a bone." In this case, the band is mostly a diversion. We do play in front of people from time to time, but it's not taken too seriously and it's not like we're playing popular covers anyway. We play songs that we like. It just happens that 4 of us tend to like the same songs. If this was a serious gigging band, there would be a problem. I think it's best if everyone is at least in the same book, if not on the same page.
     
  10. bstringrandy

    bstringrandy Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    +100! Band members suggesting off the wall or undanceable stuff is where we have the most friction. A few listening songs are fine, but should still be recognizable in our circumstance...
     
  11. N.F.A.

    N.F.A. Supporting Member

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    Jun 25, 2009
    Location:
    In a blue funk
    I wish I played in a band with you. I love obscure songs, but they don't get you return gigs, do they? Never been able to get a BL see that.
     
  12. SquierJazz72

    SquierJazz72

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2012
    Location:
    Stratford,Ontario
    I haven't done it in a long time, but I can tell you how I would do it now.

    There are plenty of classic songs that are classic for a reason. Everybody still likes hearing them.

    And there's whats newer and popular in the current charts.

    I think a strong set list should consist of both. New stuff is popular because it's what people are listening to now. Some songs are old, but still resonating with enough people across a wide age range, that they still work.

    Balanced sets should be based on both, IMO. If you're in a cover band, and one of your goals(money aside, for a moment) is entertaining others, you have to give them what they want to hear.
     
  13. Flyingfrets

    Flyingfrets

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Discussed many times before, but I play in a Beatles cover band. Of course we play "the hits" everybody knows, but we pride ourselves on pointedly covering a lot of the more obscure stuff. "Matchbox", "What You're Doing", "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" - a number which BTW personally makes me want to puke - "Tomorrow Never Knows", etc. Our audiences are largely Beatle fans (big surprise, huh?) and know the music that more casual listeners probably would'nt recognize as being Beatle songs and seem to appreciate that we cover stuff that weren't just chart busters.

    Guess it depends on what you're doing/covering and your audience. FWIW, we try to choose set lists as though they were their own seperate shows: open loud & fast, more introspective/quieter suff mid-set & close with something upbeat, or in our case, something that would close out that period in their musical history.

    I would probably take a similar but more diversified approach if I were covering a wider variety of music, but this works for us.
     
  14. Luke19Boarder

    Luke19Boarder

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2001
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    And after you play that "iffy" song out once or twice, you can point out if it didn't go over well with the crowd, and have a good reason not to play it again.
     
  15. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2008
    Location:
    Pomona, SoCal
    We put possible song selections on a jump to conclusions mat.
     
  16. HailCorduroy

    HailCorduroy

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Democratically for the most part. When we first got together, 2 of shared a hatred of "Black Betty", so it is banned for life. I stated up front that I would only do a BTO song if it was a matter of life and death.

    Whenever we are adding songs, the 4 of us each email the song we want to do. Typically, whatever you pick, you sing. If there is a song that someone is opposed to doing, we talk it out and decide as a group whether we are going to do it or not.
     
  17. tomnomnom91

    tomnomnom91

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    For us, we all choose one song we'd like to do that week, which gives us 5 songs to work on. We try them all out, then agree on which ones sound the best. If they all end up being great we'll add all 5 to our song bank, if they're all sub-standard we'll abandon all 5, or anything in between. It's pretty helpful because it gives us experience of playing a wide range of styles, even if we don't go on to gig with the songs.
     
  18. bstringrandy

    bstringrandy Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    Here's another question. We're up to 75 or so songs on the list that includes classics and newer stuff like Adele, Lady Antebellum etc.

    When do you say you have enough, or is it better to keep rotating new ones in?
     
  19. SquierJazz72

    SquierJazz72

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2012
    Location:
    Stratford,Ontario
    I think, for a cover band, it's good to have as many as you can. Even if you don't need to rotate your set list often, you can, if need be. And you also have more flexibility to take requests, which can be a crowd pleaser. If your band takes requests.
     
  20. two fingers

    two fingers Loud Mouth Know It All Blowhard Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern NC USA
    Here's the thing though. It really all depends on how serious you are about a project. I have been in corporate bands that do high-dollar private parties and weddings. When you are getting $6000 for a four-hour show, you play the hits. And you keep 'em coming. There's not much room for artistic license. But if you are playing in a local club band, once a set just break something off that nobody saw coming just for fun. You might be surprised at the reaction.

    Take this example. Back in the 80's when I first got started playing clubs, I was in a pretty standard rock/classic rock/ southern rock band. We did all the usual stuff. But we also threw out a couple of surprises we came to be known for. One was Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song" (if you YouTube it, wait until the slow boring intro is over before you judge it). It was our most requested song after a while.

    (Like everything else) it's all about context. If you're making $500 bucks at a local pub, take a few liberties. If Mom and Dad are paying you $6,000 to play for their little girl's wedding, stick to the game plan and make them happy with a bunch of back to back smash hits.
     
  21. bstringrandy

    bstringrandy Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    Great advice! We're adding a couple of new tunes a month and rotating stale ones off of the reserve list. It lets us freshen up the set list periodically and gets us learning new stuff at a reasonable pace.

    Thanks for all of the inputs!! Sounds like we're on the right track everything considered.
     

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