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Finding your own sound vs. matching the original recording's sound

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by christianharger, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. Establish Your Own Tone

    31 vote(s)
  2. Match the Recording's Tone

    2 vote(s)
  1. So I've been playing with a top 40s style cover group for about a year now. I've recently been going back and forth in my mind over this issue, so I thought I'd bring it to my fellow TBers and hear your thoughts.

    When playing in a cover band, do you think you should try to match the particular tone of the bass part in the song you are covering, or stick to your own personal taste?

    My tone has always been geared more toward some of that Jazz bass, bridge pup nasally growl. I love that. But on a tune like, for example's sake, "Santeria" by Sublime, that tone doesn't match the recording's in anyway. Up until this point in my cover band life I've been trying my best to match the tones and sounds of the originals, but I do often feel like I want to be bringing my own voice to the table.

    Of course more than tone comes into play when we are talking about personal playing styles, but for the sake of this thread, how do you guys go about this issue?
  2. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    I play in a classic rock band covering 60's and 70's tunes the most part. I want a tone that fits with our particular band. It varies from stage to stage what seems to be the kind of sound we want, it amounts to a little fine tuning.......but I don't spend much time trying to come up with the sound of the original.

    We get our sound the way we want it during the sound check and I pretty much don't change it for the rest of the night, regardless of the song.

    The keyboard changes tone a lot of course, and our lead guitar some, but I don't change my tone much during a gig.
  3. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Sounds familiar. I generally have my sound and leave it at that. I try to play lines in a similar style. If we had a sound guy to ride the board I might change tones for tunes but once you get the mix set you kind of have to leave it. You can't all of a sudden roll to the neck pup and roll up the bass for a reggae thing after playing a bridge favored something.
  4. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    I have my personal conception of bass tone very clear and most of the times I stick to it. I only deviate from that "norm" when the bass tone of a particular recording is very distinctive. Not that I can get to match that exact tone, but I try as much as I can. For instance: I'm a fingerstyle player, but whenever I've played Yes' "Roundabout" or Tool's "Schism", I grab the Dunlop Stubby Triangle 3.0 I always carry in my wallet and try to make it work. Both songs can be played fingerstyle, but I think that the pick tone and attack are a very important component of those recordings.

    EDIT: My signature summarizes my feelings about this topic.
  5. You're in a cover band. Play what fits. Unless it's a Weather Report tribute, the bridge pickup sound probably ain't it.
  6. Dantreige


    Oct 22, 2009
    I don't think you need to nail it, just get close. My situation my be vastly different form your own so, of course, YMMV.

    My Situation: Top Fourty Rock and Country Band. I need to be able to sound like a precision bass, a jazz bass and sometimes a flubby sounding DB as well as a more modern sound. (read: top end grindy/metalic ala greenday)

    I can do this with my sansamp PBBDI and my precision lyte (it's a p/j) strung with rounds. I use two channels on the PBBDI. One is set as my neutral (clean) tone. I use this for most of the material we do, adjusting my tone knob to add or take away high end. (Plucking position changes the tone as well.)

    The second channel is more of a mid scooped sound that I use if I need to dig in, slap, or if I roll the tone down, I can get a flubby sound. (Again plucking position and technique can greatly change the tone.)

    None of the songs we do require any effects, but I do have the means to add them if the situation required it. (bass pod xt live) I prefer not to use it because I think it adds more complexity to setup for very little gain.

    You also need to consider the venues and sound systems and engineers you will be using. For me, it does not matter because we do sound from stage and almost always bring our own FOH gear. I know what I'm getting night after night. If you play venues that have house systems and rotating engineers, complexity may be worse or better depending on where you are. You'll need to be prepared for anything in that situation.

    There is nothing wrong with putting your own personality into a song. You need to be objective and do the right thing for your band. If your tone clashes with the song, be willing and able to change it so the band sounds good.

    Good luck!
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If I went for nailing the sound of the original recordings exactly, I'd need 20 basses and 10 amps on every gig. That ain't happening.

    All the best cover bands I've seen have some personality to their music, and they're not as concerned with nailing the original tones as they are playing with feeling and energy. They take those cover songs and make them their own. That is the important thing, not matching tones.
  8. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    Play what will sound best. If your personal tone doesn't sound good for a particular tune you should change it to what would sound best. You should have a repertoire of tones in your hands so that you are able to work with different musicians, different genres/styles, different venues..etc. So it is great that you have your own tone (many people don't), but you also have to adapt.
  9. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    The short answer is, "It depends." :meh:

    The longer answer is...it depends upon the type of arrangements your band prefers to use, which in turn is determined by your band's philosophy/approach to performing cover material.

    For many cover bands, the whole concept is to recreate, as accurately as possible, the arrangement & sounds of the original recording, performing material with which the audience is very well-acquainted. In such a case, you'd best try to replicate the bass parts/sounds from the original recording. Done.

    Other "cover" bands are not entirely cover bands in the strict sense of the term, but are actually hybrid bands, i.e. striving for their own sound, their own types of arrangement(s), their own distinctive vibe, etc. They just happen to play other people's material instead of writing their own - maybe because they're inexperienced writers, and/or because the band itself is still very new, etc. etc.

    In this second type of "cover" band, you have a great deal more creative latitude. Obviously.

    So what is your band's overall performance approach? The answer to that question will also answer the question you just posed... :meh:

  10. Yes, of course there's a balance between the two. But I guess my thinking is that everybody is probably leaning either one way or the other on this issue.

    The purpose of this thread was not to get advice on what I should do, but rather see what all of you are doing (hence, the poll). That being said, I've really I enjoyed reading some of your thoughts on the topic.
  11. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    that is true, people usually lean towards one or the other, none of which are correct (in my opinion). If you are working original stuff or you have more liberty to have your own sound then thats your chance, but if the leader wants you to play like Jamerson in one tune you really can't come with a Stanley Clarke tone (it will kill the groove). A lot of people get hired because they have a nice repertoire of tones and are able to play each one where they fit best, and a lot of people are hired because they got their own tone which makes them special. In the other hand a lot of people are not hired for not sounding special or not being able to get the right tone for a tune.
  12. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    OK. I personally haven't played in a cover band for many years. I had a blast doing it, and it was great training to develop a much broader, more flexible musical vocabulary. But I found it ultimately too limiting to the development of my own musical voice - which is what I really want to focus upon. Currently, I'm in process of developing a new original project for that very purpose.

    This is difficult to summarize well, but as one previous poster put it, in performing cover material, you must ultimately do whatever serves the song. But that's not as straightforward as it seems... :meh:

    It doesn't necessarily preclude playing a radically different type of part/sound from the original recording - IF you're playing an arrangement that's radically different from the original recording...in which case the key thing is to make sure that your part & style & sound is consistent with the new arrangement - not necessarily with the original arrangement. Because in some sense, the new arrangement makes it into a somewhat different song.


    Superstition - Beck Bogert & Appice

    Superstition - Stevie Wonder

    Superstition was originally Jeff Beck's song. If I'm not mistaken, he actually wrote it. But Stevie Wonder's arrangement, orchestration & production of Superstition put a very different spin on it indeed...

  13. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    I don't try to cop tones for covers with bass at all...I just go for one good tone for the night and play with my pup blend a bit for different tunes. However, if I wanted to make more of an effort I would bring a j and a p to each gig and mark the set list out song for song and match the bass appropriately. Realistically, a j and p will cover a lot of ground for covers.

    But for me...I hate switching guitars in a set...if I bring two basses I will play entire sets with one only then swap for the next set...often I play one bass all night.
  14. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Play everything however you want, sounding however you want. Make it yours!
  15. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    I really like to play covers. Somehow, over time, I change sound and tab to fit my preferences. I like to make it 'mine'. This adds an extra dimension. Some do appreciate it and some don't.
  16. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    This is why I have a hard time having more than one bass. I am thinking about a fretless but even then, the people I play/fill in with all have a fretted players for their normal guys so...
  17. JehuJava

    JehuJava Bass Frequency Technician

    Oct 15, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    ^^^^ This big time.
  18. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    it's worse for me on guitar gigs ...and i've been playing 25 years ....i can't serve two masters ...i'm generally only comfortable with one guitar. if i wanna switch guitars and feel groovy, i will generally play the one i'm swapping to for a day or two before the gig.
  19. I don't mind switching during the set. I usually try to bring a Jazz and a P bass to gigs, unless there's just not enough stage room.

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