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Cover songs less than 100% like the CD

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Schwinn, Apr 17, 2004.

  1. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    Do you think it's bad to learn cover songs and not worry too much about getting it 100% perfect?

    I've had to learn a massive amount of cover songs for my band recently and I was just listening to a playlists of the originals and noticing that I don't play any of them exactly right! That is, what I do in the song fits, but it isn't note-for-note like the original bassline. Couple of examples: in the chorus of led zep 'communication breakdown', few notes are played differently. In the little bass solo in live's 'heaven' I play it a little differently, adding some notes and do a different ending.

    So my question is how faithful are you to doing covers like the CD? And am I a lazy bass player if I don't get it just like the original or is it cool to improvise the smaller stuff (i.e., fills and solos, not major chord changes)?

    If you were in the audience and you knew the song and you heard me do it slightly differently, what would you think?
  2. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I think it depends on a few factors.

    First is: how integral is the bassline to the song? Is it a signature line? For example, if you were to play "The Joker" by The Steve Miller Band, you would have to copy the bassline verbatim because, it's an important part of the song. It's really the whole hook of the thing. If you play a different line to Mustang Sally than what's in the original recording, I doubt anybody is going to notice.

    Another point would be: do you have to play more busy to cover more space? The band you are covering might have been 4 piece, but you are 3 piece; you may have to play a more busy line to fill out the space in your band.
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    A really great example of this kind of issue is Crush, by the Dave Matthews Band. Throughout the song, there's this incredibly recognizable, signature riff, but the verse and choruses are (to my knowledge) improvised when they play live...so why not do a little improv when you play? This is a song where you have ultimate freedom in the majority of the song, but that recurring riff has to be played note for note or you'd be swinging from the rafters halfway through the song.

    If you're gonna play songs that have bass solos, by all means, put in your own stuff. Where's the fun in playing the same solo, night after night? Be creative, do some improv. I have a friend that can play the Aeroplane bass solo note for note, but has never done it unless someone asks to hear it specifically. He took it, twisted it around, cranked a few things, tossed in some of his own special sonic spices, and made one hell of a spankin' new solo. Creativity's a key tool in being a musician, so be creative! :d
  4. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    I agree with the previous poster who said don't change famous lines.

    If I went to a show and somebody decided Sir Paul's line in Come Together was inadequate and changed it/added to it, I would either dismiss the bassist for showing bad taste or leave the show entirely. Same for songs like Walking on the Moon, Under My Thumb, What is and Never Should Be, etc.

    I think it's wrong to think you could possibly change any of those lines without killing the original vibe.

    Certain lines I could care less about, but don't change landmark basslines. The final decision is up to you though.
  5. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I'd say that it also depends on the type of cover and the audience. The more "poppy" the audience and the cover, the more you'll probably have to stick to the recorded line. If the cover is more rock/jam oriented and if the audience is more into a "style" of music (classic rock, jam bands, blues, etc.) as opposed to top 40, then I think you can get away with a bit more "creative freedom".
  6. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    Your gig, your call.
  7. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    I always try to learn the song note for note first so the band can get it right. After we play a song out for awhile it takes on a new form. If it's avery simple bassline I try to keep it simple. If I am learning a song where the bass is all over the place, I try to get it as close as possible mixing 80% original and 20% improvised.
  8. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Argh. I hate hearing covers that are "exactly like" the original. I mean, why bother? If I want to hear the original that bad, I can just pop the CD into my player.

    I hate musicians who insist that I play cover tunes "note for note", and I also hate audiences that expect that kind of thing.

    IMO it's perfectly acceptable to take a cover tune "outside", even to the point of changing the entire feel of the song. In many cases it's possible to do that and still play the original bass line note for note, but again, why bother?

    The only time I'll play someone else's bass line "note for note" is when I really like it. That usually means, if there's a signature bass lick that's an essential part of the song, it's probably part of what I like about it, which means it'll come out sounding "pretty close" to the original.

    Edit: I even hate going to concerts where the original band is playing the original tune "exactly like the record". Pink Floyd does that a lot, and frankly it's very disappointing. I like spontaneity and creativity in live performances.
  9. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Imo and ime 95% of the audience isnt going to know that the song isnt being played perfectly like the cd version, unless your version is a complete train wreck.
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I'm 100% with Nonsqtr

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Supporting Member

    Put your trade mark on it but some times the orgional line is called for when the song is built around the bass line.
  13. Jerry Ziarko

    Jerry Ziarko Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Rochester, NY
  14. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    My sentiments...

  15. Well, I personally AM a lazy bassist, so I almost never play the song exactly as its written. Of course the first few songs i learned were Hendrix tunes, but i didnt want to memorize all of Redding's little licks so ijust learnt the chords and played around with it. i do similar things with black sabbath songs but i also use the original lines as a structure, just adding or changing fills. That's probably why I was so keen on joining a jazz combo...you never do anything the same way twice :D

    When i hear songs covered, I personally really enjoy when people change it up, HOWEVER...i hate it when they change the words to some great songs...i just hate it (damn you, AC/DC! He sang "The Jack" saying everything literally..whats the fun...thats like singing "I've got big genitals!" in Big Balls!)
  16. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    I always try to get the signature riff as close to the original as posssible if there is one. Other than that I just play what I feel like playing. I once heard a cover band playing that old Robert Palmer tune "addicted to love" and the bass player was not even trying to play that riff. He was just thumping away at the root notes. AAAAAAAA/AAAAAAAA/GGGGGGGG..... etc.
    sounded lame.
  17. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    I think it can really go either way. For example, if you're paying homage to a certain band, I would expect you'd wanna play it note for note because it's like a respect thing (reference Nirvana's covers of “Plateau” and “Lake of Fire”, both by the Meat Puppets). But if you're playing a song because you think you can do a better job of it by putting your own spin on it, do whatever you think fits (Reference Coil's version of “Tainted Love”, which is completely different than the original in that it sounds like a cross between a funeral dirge and a love song to a syringe full of heroin).
  18. True, but I dig Nirvana's versions better :p ...you cant really duplicate the sound even if you play it the same. Feel free to play it the same, but you can still make it unique...those are some of the best covers...
  19. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    I agree 99.9% The only 00.1% difference for me is what could someone possibly come up with better than the lines in songs like "Stand By Me" or "My Girl" or "Walking on the Moon?" I really should not say better, but IMO, those lines set the mood of the song and are essentialy hooks within the context of the song. Cases like those are usually the only time I will try to play "almost" exactly but not quite note for note. But that is a personal judgement call.

    I usually shoot for a happy medium. For example, I have Police bootlegs where Sting will play the basic feel and embelish with taste and it is the same case with Jamerson on some live tracks I have of him playing. That approach is usually what works best for me, but taking a song "out" can be tons of fun too.

    The only time I play note for note is when it is requested of me.


  20. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    I do, too. :)

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