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Cover Band Experiences - Does your band expect a jukebox?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by m0ranwad, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. m0ranwad


    Jan 29, 2013
    Still on the prowl for my first band. I'm not in any hurry, and I've decided to narrow it down to cover bands. I've been in touch with a few people locally, and I got an email this morning from a band describing their needs and then (believe it or not) actually provided their current set list.

    Now to the point

    From your experience in a cover band, were you expected to sound just like the record? I prefer to learn a song by learning the melody/chord changes, as opposed to reading a bass tab and mimicking all of the original fills (depends on the song - if it's a well known bass line, then I will learn it).

    I'll obviously ask for their expectations, but just wanted some first hand experience.

    It's not a long list to learn (they're just starting out), but even so - I've yet to nail the chorus to "Communications Breakdown" (damn you JPJ), and I figure if I can't play it right, I'm just wasting their time.

    Here's the setlist, just for the hell of it:

    Brown Sugar-Stones

    Tumbin Dice-Stones

    Every Rose-Poison

    Wanted Dead or Alive-Bon Jovi

    Roadhouse Blues-Doors

    I feel Fine-Beatles

    Communication Breakdown-Zeppelin

    Rock and Roll-Zeppelin

    Fortunate Son-Creedance

    She talks to Angels-Black Crowes

    Selling the Drama-Live

    Lightning Crashes-Live

    Long Cool Woman-Hollies

    You Got Another Thing Comin-Judas Priest
  2. zaviere


    Apr 20, 2012
    Been in a gigging cover band for about a year now. People don't normally care if u play the stuff dead on like the record. Unless of course it's a signature bass line like green days Longview. Depending on ur venue, people are either a little toasty and are focusing on singing along (bar) or they're busy with other stuff (farmers markets or fundraisers). If your band members are anal perfectionists then that's a different story. But honestly if I were in ur position, I think I'd ask to audition with certain songs that I CAN nail perfectly. Then during tear down I'd bring up the whole "note for note" thing and see if its an issue for them
  3. jonas_24112


    Jul 11, 2011
    No, you don't need to be note for note, but you need to be solid.
  4. funkingroovin

    funkingroovin Conquering A-D-D,and all the other notes as well!

    Apr 19, 2009
    Sound advice.
  5. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Here's what one guy thinks is played:

    Does the SINGER nail it? This is a ridiculous song to cover. We did it for awhile, and I just thought it sounded like garbage. I don't even enjoy Zeppelin's live version.

    I always say it's good if you can nail the line from the record, just as a jumping off point. If you play it awhile, and see somewhere better to take it, that's fine, but to just not play it because you never learned it is lazy, in my opinion.

    People who get lists, show up, and can't play the song properly don't get hired to this band.

    Good luck!
  6. kdogg


    Nov 13, 2005
    Agreed with the above. Unless it's some sort of tribute band, I doubt the rest of the members will even know the difference.
  7. A lot of bands face this dilemma, and it can vary from member to member with regards to how they view their responsibilities as cover players.

    Funny you should have this as your title, I actually told my band the other day that people weren't coming out to see a "living jukebox".

    My view is a lot like the others that posted here. When you are doing cover music, there can be some flexibility. But it depends on the song. After all, what is "Billie Jean" without the signature bassline? If you don't deliver on that one, it won't go over well.

    Our band does not seek to duplicate the recording entirely, but some songs we go a very good job with reproducing. It's typically hardest on the lead guitarists and sometimes the drummer. As a bassist, unless you are playing a bass-dominant song with a recognizable signature bassline, as long as what you are playing fits with the song and generally carries the feel of the original, you'll be okay for the most part.

    My thought is this, with regards to the majority of songs you will cover;

    Listen to the music and pick out what makes the bassline noticeable. You may not duplicate it 100%, but be aware of what the major notes and feel of the bassline are.

    Don't overplay or underplay, deliver what it called for. For example; we cover Don Williams' "Tulsa Time". That song calls for me to play, for the most part, only two notes, both roots, and pluck them as quarter notes for the whole song. While I don't enjoy it, it's what the song calls for so I do it.

    Most importantly, listen to the songs and try to pick out what the original artist is mostly doing. If the band does the song as a cover and tries to get the same general sound and feel as the original, this research will be helpful.

    If they are a cover band that totally rearranges songs and puts their own twist on every song, all of this goes out the window entirely and you're almost into "originals" territory. It happens. We do "Mama Tried" and we virtually duplicate Merle Haggards original recording, but one time I was out listening to a band that covered it and it wasn't until the second verse that I even recognized what song they were doing. If I played the bassline I play for that song, I would have looked like a total idiot.

    Good luck, it's always fun, but IMO unless you are in a tribute band, knowing note for note isn't going to be as important as hitting the major stuff and working out how to blend in well with what the others are doing unless it's a specific song that calls for knowing what to play note for note.
  8. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather Supporting Member

    Doesn't have to be 'just' like the record but should be in the vicinity. Depends on the band's wants and needs. Can't just call your own shots. May as well not be in a cover band. But it's a rock cover band so you can get away with a lot more. I play Variety Top40, R&B, Funk and Soul music. Can't play around with the basslines all willy nilly and I prefer it that way.

    Personally, I learn basslines note for note. I don't necessarily play them note for note though, but my job is to learn the songs. Not just chord changes.

    Also, I wouldn't bring up 'note for note' thing at all. Would signify (at least to me), being difficult. If it's my band, I'm not putting up with any freestyle playing just because folks don't want to properly learn songs. Again, that's just my opinion.
  9. jgroh


    Sep 14, 2007
    Ive been in cover bands for the last 7 years now and I think what you said in your OP is what I do...If its a signature line, I learn it note for note, otherwise I get as close as possible without disrupting the song. There are some songs that are just too boring for me so I embellish.
  10. m0ranwad


    Jan 29, 2013
    I guess what I meant, is that I try to understand some of the "theory" behind it. This is just me personally, but when I learn something note for note, I rely too much on muscle memory. This isn't necessarily a problem, unless I was to lose my place or something. Even just minimally understanding song structure, makes me feel much more comfortable playing a song.
  11. BillyB_from_LZ


    Sep 7, 2000
    I've never understood why some cover bands (or some members in some cover bands) strive to sound like the studio recording when few of the original artists sound like the studio recording when they play it live.

    Personally, I try to learn the bass line as recorded (or as close as possible), focusing on the changes and the general feel of the song. If it's a signature bass line, being spot-on is more important.

    Then, when I play it with the band, I listen to the drummer and the guitarist and adapt as necessary to help the band sound its best.

    As far as the audience goes, they're likely to be far more sensitive to what the lead singer and lead guitarist do...if they're off, it doesn't really matter how awesome you are.

    And I think that's a fairly long list for an audition.

    Good luck!!!
  12. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    My guess is that the other bandmembers (let alone the audience) won't be able to tell if you're not playing the note for note bassline, unless you stray far from the original or as others have pointed out, it's a signature part of the song.

    As long as you nail the intro to Sweet Child of Mine, the rest is fair game to mess with.
  13. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    We don't play them note for note, but we could. Laziness is no excuse for not knowing how to play the songs. Not saying this applies here, it's just my opinion that while I don't think you need to play the song note for note, I think you need to be able to. If you know what I mean.
  14. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    I'm going to disagree with this. People want to hear songs they know they way they are used to hearing them. Play as close to the record and possible. Nobody wants to hear a cover band's version of their favorite song.
  15. I see this discussed a lot here and I don't think there is really a "correct answer" to this, because it really depends on the musicians, the venue, and ultimately the audience. I've seen it go both ways, and each person has a different experience with what they've done and had positive feedback with.

    If you reproduce the song to be very close to the original, you're typically safe because people are hearing what they expect to hear, as you stated. The worst they can say is "well.....okay.....it was fine". But there are so many problems with doing that for a lot of songs due to instrumentation, effects, mixing, etc..... Then there is the group of people out there who go to see live music because they expect to hear an interpretation of a song, even if it's only changed up a little (or sometimes a lot). They are there because they want to see and hear what a particular band does well and how they play certain songs. Really, there is no absolute answer to this question that gets asked over and over again.

    The problem with reproducing is that you will always, always be judged on how closely you perform the song as compared to the original. Very tough. The vocals are different, the musicianship is different, and the overall sound is different. If you can do it consistently, you've probably got a good band and you'll probably never lack for club dates and shows and you probably have a product you can be proud of in almost any setting.

    A lot depends on the types of clubs or venues you play. Some are more demanding than others. My experience, in the places we play, is that the general listening audience is not tremendously picky. Sure, you get a few here and there who are overly critical, but for the most part they just want the music to sound good and be fun. When it comes to covers, they want to be able to recognize the song, be able to sing along to it, have it sound pretty good, have the "signature parts" be in the song, and have a good time. It's always the other musicians in the audience who pick stuff apart and focus in on the details.

    The average bar patron will have no idea if you hit every note in the bassline, just if you hit the major ones/signature sounds and were in time with the others.

    But you know, if, as a band, you can get that song note for note and you totally kill it.....more power to you. It's just a mark of how good you actually are and it's something to be proud of. I tip my hat to you, and I mean this sincerely, especially if you can do it for 60+ songs that you may be pumping out in a 4 hour gig.
  16. DerTeufel


    Nov 11, 2011
    Wildomar, CA
    My band does covers, and we most certainly don't play them note-for-note. Does our audience care? Nope! In fact, a lot of them rather enjoy the spin that we put on the songs.
  17. soitainly


    Aug 21, 2012
    Easy way to go about it is just ask the guys up front what they want. If they are wanting exact covers and that's not what you are about, then say so and bow out gracefully.

    All my personal band experiences are on guitar, so maybe it's from a different perspective. As already stated, most people try to get the signature lines and feel, and the audience doesn't really know or care as long as it sounds good. On some songs we liked to really stretch out and change quite a bit, others were more straight, just depending on how we felt about it. There was plenty of give and take in the bands as to what would work.

    On occasion someone would ask for a specific part to be played like the record if that was what they were hoping to key off of to get their own part right. On guitar it is almost always faking something since there are so many overdubs on records that you kind of have to mix and match anyway. Trying to mix licks from two different tracks could get really tricky timing (and tone) wise. Bass is usually more forgiving in that it is mostly one track or part.

    Like we said earlier, the audience doesn't really care so much. Of course you will always get a random bass player in the audience pointing out how much you suck because you didn't play the lick exactly, but I wouldn't worry about that.
  18. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    My take on this is that you have to know the original "the right way" before you can understand it well enough to put your own spin on it. Otherwise you're possibly in the land of "faking it" or "lazy". Two things nobody gets paid well for.
  19. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I'm sorry, but the bands who "make the songs their own" by putting a twist or spin on the original song are very, very rare. Most cover bands who play the songs differently than the record are simply not good cover bands. As to why you would play it like the original when the original artist made changes, that is simple. If you are good, you can use some of those live versions. That artist went out night after night, sometimes year after year, and the song EVOLVED. Now if you you start out playing JUST LIKE the record, and then it evolves naturally, then good for you.

    But more than once someone told me their band played their own version, and when I heard their version, it just sounded like a bad cover by a bad cover band.

    Again, this is not one size fits all. There are bands that simply have such great musical skills, and interesting original sound that they SHOULD make every cover their own. I only need listen to Jimi's version of "Watchtower," "Wild Thing," "Like a Rolling Stone" or even "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" to know this is so.

    But if I'm in your audience, and you skip iconic instrumental parts in songs without adding something that blows me away, I'm gone. And I know a lot of people who feel the same way.
  20. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Simply put, people going to clubs with cover bands could care less about what the musician wants. They want to hear and dance to the songs as they hear them on the radio.

    An old saying used to go; "The bands that play the songs the best, work the most"

    This was the rule to making a living in a cover band back when I was playing, but this was the goal, make a living, travel the country, and not have to work a regular job. I don't know if that is the goal for bands these days.

    My 2 cents

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