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How do you chose songs to cover?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Marley's Ghost, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. Manager/Band leader decides

    5 vote(s)
  2. Democratic Vote - Everyone has a say

    32 vote(s)
  3. Randomly

    3 vote(s)
  1. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    One of the challenges we are facing in my band is deciding which songs to take on. What seems to be happening is that, after rehaearsal, everyone chimes in with song ideas. Our lead vocalist picks a few, then we all go off on our way. Inevitably, we come back to the next practice to find some of us learned a few songs, some did not, and someone decides and existing song should be dropped. I tried to create an MS Word doc for our songlist but some people just seem to ignore it. How do you manage your songlists in cover bands?
  2. I'm not in a cover band, but we've covered tons of songs in the past. Really, it's a band thing. For us, anyways - we're a 5 piece rock band, with no real leader or manager. It comes down to suggestions by the members, and only goes through if everyone agrees to try it. Of course, the stuff we cover is usually well-liked by all of us, so there's not much problem... it comes down to which would work better, considering our personal aptitudes and general band sound/style, as well as singing style and percussion/sound effects, which we can't always include.

    Just discuss it and make sure that everyone learns the songs agreed to. You don't have to use them all, and some songs just don't work. You can usually tell early on when a song isn't working out. But you do have to get an idea, so get a few extra songs in case and try a rough demo, preferably recorded. Remove the ones that don't work or that the band isn't feeling or enjoying.
  3. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    I choose them.

    Well, for the most part, anyway. I take suggestions from the band members, but I have had the final say in song decisions for a few years now, and it has worked out just fine.

    Having everyone throwing songs out just didn't work for us in the past, because we would all end up learning different songs most of the time, so rehearsals were spent with everyone getting up to speed with what each other had worked on. Now, with one person telling the rest of the band what songs we will be learning, there is less confusion, everyone knows what to learn, and rehearsals go much slicker.

    Just my .02
  4. We normally agree as a band on what songs will work. We are very tight as friends too, and have a shared vision for our band.That helps.

    One thing that is set in stone is this - if the singer can't sing it well, its out. Many times, in many bands, I have found that the musicians expect the singer to be able to sing anything from Gun's N Roses to Tom Jones. Sorry, will not happen. A guitarist or bassist doesn't have to be natural with a high C, it's there on the fretboard. A singer has to be comfortable with the key etc..

    The singer is your front, make sure they can sing the tunes you play. nothing worse than a bad singer.
  5. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    unlike other bands that i have been with in the past, we do NOT poll all the members for their own choices and then rank and learn them. We definitely look at what other bands do and work - we go to a lot of other people's shows.

    then we see if we can credibly do the song (can we do the vocals? do we have the pieces we need?)

    Then we give it a go.

    try it at a few shows. If it doesn't do well, out it goes.

    We definitely have tried to do "people pleasing" music. It's the name of the game in Northern Virginia.


  6. rfalter


    Jul 20, 2004
    Pasadena, MD
    Looks like voting is pretty common ... We handle new songs exactly like southpaw said. In addition, we try to cover songs that are NOT being played by other local bands, BUT ARE crowd pleasers. It is hard to get all of us to agree sometimes, but we have quite a "wish list" to work on.
  7. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    we vote as a group. Usually two or three from a larger list of potential songs. But, we also have a habit of dropping songs that just don't seem to work. For example, someone suggested that we do the song "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves. A very simple tune, but the drummer and the guitarist could not separate the rythm from "Good Lovin'." We dropped it right away.
  8. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    It should be the band leaders final decicion to what makes it on the song list and what does not.
  9. Regarding my solo project: If it's something that I think will help me in some way, I cover it. Right now it's teaching me how to do ghost rolls on my drum machine!
  10. Perfect-Tommy


    Mar 28, 2004
    My band is disfunctional. We have no singer, leader or manager. So how we decide what songs we cover is if someone knows the words, the changes and can sing it, we'll try to work it up. If it turns out cool, we keep doing it. :p

    That's the beauty of having multiple people in a band that can sing lead. It's also neat, cause you get to see the member's taste in music. So you'll notice our Sublime covers are always sung by our guitarist and the obscure 70's songs are the one's that I sing :p
  11. mwm70


    Oct 27, 2004
    We alternate picks between the four members, with everyone having an equal right of refusal. That being said, we have only been together 3 months with only 20 songs learned. We try to keep it to no more than two new songs a practice depending upon the complexity preferably only one. There is also a very clear line of communication on what song we are to learn and if it is obvious that the effort has not been put into working on it then it is moved back to the following week.
  12. Malus


    Feb 20, 2005
    San Antonio Texas
    I asked each member of the group I am jamming with to select 2 cover songs - which ended up being 52 minutes of music!

    Suprisingly - or maybe not - the 30-somethings picked heavy metal music, while those of us in our 40s (I'm 40) picked Beatles, BTO, Cream, Led Zeppelin, et al...definite generational gap there.

    I encouraged everyone to pick whatever genre they wanted (I would eventually like to expand my bass stylings with Jazz/Blues/Fusion, Raggae, Funk, etc...as I am the sole bassist and organizer of the sessions I have a bit of pull ;) )

    The idea for us is to improve our playing ability - not gigging - so the priorities (such as 'is the music appropriate for the venue/audience?') might be different thing for gigs. Eventually I would like the members who write and record their own music to bring that into the jam sessions as well. However it is very hard for most people to expose their 'darlings' to the harsh light of criticism(sic). Time will tell - as we are only just starting.

    As for managing the list - after everyone submitted their choices to me I ordered them from easiest to hardest (from a technical standpoint - probably pretty subjective in some cases) and burned audio CDs - which I then distributed to all the members. If everyone practices using the CD - then we will not only learn the same songs, we will all learn them in the same order - making band direction much easier during the actual sessions.

    For this to work someone needs to take the responsibility of collecting and organizing - I did this for my group. So, in a sense every group needs a 'leader' - even if it's just to keep everyone's choices organized. Perhaps you should fill that responsibility in your band?
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    This is how it worked for me in my last band.

    At the end of rehearsal I would outline, let's say 3 songs for the next week. I'd give every a copy of a lead chart and the lyrics, (this was an R&B band), and then we would sit down and listen to the song, while reviewing the chart and lyrics. This was my opportunity to note to the vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist, whomever, which parts of the song to take special note of, to really work on the next week, or whatever. Then, it was every person's responsibility to be "gig-ready" with the song the next week.

    I would take input from band members into which songs to play, but as band leader and musical director my job was to know the scene, know which songs would work with the crowd and with our instrumentation or vocal range, and create a set list that not only had good songs, but flowed from one song to the next.

    You can please some of the people all of the time, blah blah blah. It's true, some band members didn't particularly care for a song or two, and one occasion I dropped a tune because a couple of people didn't like it, but most of the time people came around to the common goal. Flexibility is key here, but even more important, is doing your homework. If you're choosing songs, you better be doing it well. Be organized and prepared, and choose songs intelligently with thorough research, not just because "you kinda like it."
  14. kansas666


    Sep 20, 2004
    Everyone in our band has been playing for many years in various bands. So most suggestions come from what has worked in the past. Most times they work out.
  15. Winemule

    Winemule Guest

    Feb 27, 2005
    I play what the bandleader wants me to play. If he asks for my opinion, I give it. But I'm not the leader, he is. And I'm down with that.
  16. Nazman


    Mar 4, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    I am in a 3 piece band..
    We each pick one song..and we learn them three songs..Then we each pick 3 more..
    If a song that someone picks doesnt sound good with us doing it then that person picks another song..so we are always learning 3 songs..

    Right now we are learning

    Detroit Rock City
    Come as you are
    And an original I requested

    Luckily no one has suggested a Skynyrd song..
  17. Tnavis


    Feb 25, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    My band does almost entirely original material, but from time to time we'll whip out a cover as a set closer. Usually, one of the members will come up with an idea during rehearsal, and let the rest of the band decide whether or not it crosses the "fine line between clever and stupid". Usually, it's a tune from a band that we can consider one of our influences, so we'll do a Police tune, or something by Prince, the Cars, the Clash, etc.