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Covers in an original band

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by SnowCal, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. My band aims for a new cover song in every show. Even if our original material doesn't change much, you're guaranteed that you won't have heard us play the cover song we're doing that night. More than anything else I feel it helps our songwriting. We steal a ton of ideas from our covers.

    My concern is that we aren't very original with these covers. We pretty much do them about as true to the original as we can. Like a good working cover band would. And I feel like that's pretty bad form for a band that is playing 90% originals.

    I've suggested making covers our own and playing songs that we can't really do true to the original. But I haven't really gotten a great reception to that idea.

    Is this as big a problem as I'm thinking it is, or should I relax and enjoy playing covers true to the original? I don't have a problem with doing covers, I just feel like doing replicas ain't cool for an originals band.
  2. kjpollo


    Mar 17, 2008
    When I was in an original band, the BL was for the most part VERY opposed to covers. But we did 2- Dirty Deeds and surprisingly Dont Change by INXS. Neither one was exactly true to the original but they were definitely recognizable.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Here's the thing. All you have to do is weigh it out. Express your opinion and start a conversation. If they are receptive, spit ball for a while and come up with some ideas. If everyone else either hates the idea of making them your own or doesn't care either way, then let it go and drop it. You should be able to say whatever is on your mind. But if they aren't picking up what you're putting down, it really isn't worth making a big issue out of it. That's not an original band thing. That's just band politics in general. Everyone should be able to say whatever they think. But if the rest don't buy into your idea, let it go. As long as everyone is respectful and doesn't ram your ideas back down your throat, it should work our fine.
  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Talk it over. Myself, I think the goal is to play music the audience enjoys - which makes "covers" fair game. To me there are no "covers" - just good music worth playing.
  5. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    The covers are helping your songwriting. If you just do all the covers "your way", you may lose out on some great ideas.
  6. CJ_Horror


    Aug 6, 2010
    I did heaps of covers in my original band, but we always did them our way, never like the original. We always like to change things to keep it fresh and make it to our liking, not to mention we were a heavy band doing covers like "Funky Town" ;).

    Making a song your own is fun and teaches you a lot. It can help you define your own style and explore composition. Most importantly, however, it's a hell of a lot of fun.
  7. tomnomnom91


    Dec 23, 2012
    I think there's great benefit in doing covers, even identically to the original. If you're playing to the average Joe in some crappy little dive, playing one or two covers in between your original can be necessary in keeping the audience's attention. I hate that it's the case, but it is. Also, playing covers can just be great fun and helpful to one's own songwriting, if you pay close attention to what you're playing. I've been in originals bands for years but we've always had a ratio of roughly 4:1 between originals and covers. Especially if you're gigging a lot, at a rate faster than you can write new songs and get them up to gigging standard, a cover or two can help freshen up your set for any regulars you may have at your gigs.
  8. Thanks for the feedback. If everyone thinks that an original band doing a cover or two every show more or less true to the original is okay, I'll drop the point with my band.

    And playing covers does help with our songwriting. Our main criteria for playing a cover is that it teaches us something that we want our originals to do.
  9. tomnomnom91


    Dec 23, 2012
    That's a good way of looking at it, for sure.

    While it definitely is ok to stay true to the originals (as I said in my previous post), that doesn't mean it's not worth at least trying different arrangements and such. If you really want to do a different version of a song, you could maybe put your own arrangement of the song together before you suggest it to your band? I did a cover of Katy Perry's Firework with my band recently, in the style of Placebo's cover of Running Up That Hill (very meta, I know). When I first suggested it my band all thought I was crazy, but I did a quick recording of what I wanted to do with it, then when I played it back to the band they said it was a great idea. Just a thought.
  10. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I entirely agree with you. Even the most distinctive original bands in existence like to cover the material of other artists from time to time - but when they do so, they like to put their own stylistic stamp on that material. In some cases, the cover actually outperforms the original recording. That's the whole point: To make that material their own - or at least their own particular version of it. :meh:

    What we're really talking about is the art of arranging...as opposed to the art of songwriting/composition, which is closely related of course, but most definitely not the same thing. It is a separate skill unto itself...and a most valuable one at that.

    Go for it, I say! :bassist:

  11. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Unless the covers are in a totally different style and you need to alter them to make them sound like a coherent part of your setlist, don't worry too much about it.
  12. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I respectfully disagree. It is necessary to first learn the structure of a song, before you can create your own arrangement of it. It is this act of first learning the song structure that introduces you to the creative process of the person(s) who wrote it, which in turn gives you ideas that you can incorporate into your own songwriting - not the process of replicating that song note for note, inflection for inflection, phrase for phrase. :eyebrow:

    Developing a brand new arrangement of a cover song actually requires far more creativity than does making an identical copy of it.

  13. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
  14. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    There's really no set formula for this. Sometimes taking liberties with cover material can result in really cool stuff. What version of Black Magic Woman are you more familiar with, Santana's or the original Fleetwood Mac's? Nothing against the Mac's version, but Satana's is definitely the more interesting one just in terms of arrangement.

    On the other hand, it can come off really uninspired at the least and a pure butcher job of the original at worst. For a while, there was a whole slew of bands signed to booking agencies around where I lived that were basically four-piece rock groups of mediocre talent playing "rocked up" versions of Top 40 - basically, bands barre chording their way through Lady Gaga, Duran Duran, and the odd 90s tune. I found it incredibly lame...not because they were playing Top 40 pop. In fact, I'd be VERY impressed with a band that did Top 40 and actually nailed the instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and all the other "ear candy" that goes into that music. I found it lame for the exact opposite. It just seemed like a lazy way to make a fast buck - learn the changes to a Katy Perry tune, play them as power chords through a Marshall, ignore any instrumental intricacies, have the drummer give it a pseudo-Ramones beat, eschew any interesting vocal harmonies, and then build a setlist of 40 more songs in the same fashion. Guess ya have to compete with DJs somehow.
  15. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    My Americana band really twists up our covers such as Billie Jean with a fiddle, I will survive with mandolin, Green River again with fiddle or Mando. We like to do them our way and add interest to the songs and keeps them fresh.
  16. HeadyVan Halen

    HeadyVan Halen

    Jun 11, 2010
    Be selective.
    Some covers just shouldn't be messed with ('I Wish' Stevie Wonder)
    Some covers are just beggin to for artist interpertation AFTER you play the 1st verse or so.
    Rule of thumb for us:
    Has to be reconizable enough for crowd to respond, but not note-for-note b/c juke box's already do that.
  17. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    We are an original band, but we seriously play covers (to the level of a tribute band) for the following reasons:
    1) They are fun to play and we enjoy them;
    2) Our audience knows them and enjoys hearing them;
    3) They help keep our chops up and challenge us (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension, Zappa, Yes, ELP, Vai, starting to eyeball some Between the Buried and Me... it took us almost a year to get "Dance of Eternity" down)

    We have a ration of about 1 cover for every 4 originals, and we often are working up originals alongside of covers (for instance now we're finishing ELP's Karn Evil 9 1st Impression part 1 while a new original instrumental).

    We had an awesome guitarist who has recorded with Marco Minneman, George Lynch, etc. that wanted to audition for us until he found out we did covers and then he balked. I don't know what the big deal is about covers and the either original OR cover band mentality. As said above, great music is great music, and if it's fun with the challenge of helping to hone your chops by playing music created by awesome players, why not do them in an original band? :ninja:
  18. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I agree. I think the basic issue here is that most players are pre-conditioned to think in terms of either/or, such that you must be either a 100% originals band, or a 100% covers band. That's unfortunate. :rollno:

    From my standpoint, any band that plays at least 80% original material is essentially an original band, even if the remaining 20% of tunes are covers...especially if those cover tunes are very carefully selected, developed & arranged to reflect the band's own individual style. That's really the key for an original band playing covers: Be very selective and very discriminating in the tunes you choose to cover.


    P.S. On a side note, if you guys have got the chops to credibly cover Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Zappa, Yes, ELP & Steve Vai, then you must be some pretty bad-@ass, hot players! :eek:
  19. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    Listen to Govt Mule, take notes. :D

    Many big name bands throw in covers to their set. There is nothing wrong with it, it doesn't make you any less of an original music band (even Rush put out a whole CD of cover music.)

    The approach that we take with covers is that we play them with the same sense of ownership and intensity as our original material. Rock it like you wrote it, never just phone it in.
  20. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    It really seems to be a cultural mindset that's primarily in rock music and its subsets (i.e., metal, punk, etc.). It may be some sort of artistic hari-kari to play covers in certain rock circles. However, you'll never be taken seriously in most jazz scenes unless you're intimate with the Real Book, and I can't recall a blues record off of the top of my head that doesn't have at least one cover on it. Country? Many of your favorite artists probably don't even write their own songs.

    I love rock music, but I sometimes just can't take the unwarranted pretentiousness that floods that genre of music.