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Litmus test for determining if a cover band is any good...

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by the_stone, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. After much thought and internal dialogue, I’ve finally decided what my ultimate litmus test is in determining if a cover band that I’m working with is any good:

    Do they play “Folsom Prison Blues” as the 11-bar form or 12-bar form?

    I’m subbing in a new cover band for a few gigs. Nice guys, they can all play at a decent level, they’re not very busy yet but the gigs they are getting are decent. The set list is all over the place (Lady Gaga, the Beatles, AC/DC, the Clash), but they’re all good tunes that’ll please a crowd, and the sheer variety is fun.

    When we rehearsed “Folsom…” last night, my first thought was “let’s see which version they do,” and sure enough, it was the 12-bar form. Now, probably a lot of other bassists may not think it’s that big of a deal, and I’m pretty sure an audience would never notice, but it’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine when bands cover tunes and leave out “the big hook” – and to me, that 11-bar form is the “hook” of that tune, and a really cool hook to boot, considering that just about every other blues tune on the planet is 12-bars long. Plus, I never realized just how much I had listened to and internalized the form of that tune over the years until we played it - it just didn't feel right.

    I mentioned it after we were done, and to their credit, the drummer and rhythm guitarist both mentioned they felt the song sounded a little off. I think the lead guitarist didn’t even realize it until we were talking about it. We’ll see what happens at the gig next week; I think most of the guys in the band will be fine playing the 11-bar form, but the singer looked a little nervous. I’ll make sure to give her the most obvious 5-5-6-7-1 bass walk-up in the world to help.

    Anyone else got any of their own benchmarks like that?
  2. 1 song, 1 missed bar...that's it?
    The rest of the tunes are fine?

    Seems like litmus paper barely got wet
  3. The real test would be the audience reaction. If they enjoy it, that's all that really matters. People going to watch a cover band are, for the most part, not interested in music at a technical level. They wouldn't notice if it was a bar short.

    Now, during the set-break, there's a chance you may get the odd musician in the crowd that had a little bit to drink & wants to advise you on the song. Just deal with it at that time, with one person.
  4. jelly6466


    Sep 28, 2010
    We played Red Barchetta, note for note, last week and the crowd reaction was akin to if we had just distubed a medical procedure. Next song was I will walk 500 miles and there was a jailbreak to the dance floor for that three note ditty.
  5. miles'tone


    Feb 26, 2008
    Wales, U.K
    You HAVE to play Folsom the same way Johnny Cash did. HAVE to. It's what makes the song it's own thing. Any band who plays this just straight ahead 12 bar I immediately mistrust. Makes me dread what great song they will be ruining next.
    Makes me feel a bit ill actually
  6. tkonbass

    tkonbass I'm just one of the out-of-focus guys. Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Mobile, Alabama, USA
    Mistrust? Get over it. I would think most people don't care. We played FPB years ago and did it at least 25% faster than the original and in the middle broke into Working Man's Blues before finishing it off. It killed. Apparently it would have killed you too. :rollno:

    My litmus test (if I ever felt the need to have one) would be simple; does the band entertain? If so they pass.
  7. JaamE

    JaamE Owner of the GK Angry Bird amp

    Apr 13, 2011
    Olympia, WA
    I have no idea how many bars we do. We do it fast and a bit punked-out and we have a ball with it. Audience doesn't seem to care.
  8. jmac


    May 23, 2007
    Horsham, Pa
    This sentence is exactly what's wrong with the world. Right is right, wrong is wrong. There isn't any in between.

    Knowingly playing a song incorrectly and not caring is bush league.

    This is why we have people paying hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket just to watch a person lip sync.
    RandalPinkFloyd likes this.
  9. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    For a musician--

    Can they make their skills work in the moment.
  10. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Not that we currently play any Rush, but I certainly notice the same thing.

    My drummer basically detests Jenny (867-5309) and would love to drop it completely, but it gets the whole place going every time we play it.
  11. Dominic DeCosa

    Dominic DeCosa Habitual Line-Stepper Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 9, 2008
    Vero Beach, Florida
    DiCosimo Audio
    Most of the bands I've been in played Folsom as an 11 bar form. It was never a conscious decision. That's just how the song goes.
  12. tkonbass

    tkonbass I'm just one of the out-of-focus guys. Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Mobile, Alabama, USA
    Seriously, my sentence sums everything that is wrong with the world? You live in a mighty small and perfect world then. Who are you to determine how a band should play a song? Playing it different from the original is not wrong or "bush league" it's just different. And in most cases more interesting than hearing some "serious" musician like yourself think they are pulling it off perfectly.

    As far as your lip syncing comment its so inane and removed from the original topic it's not worth picking apart. As easy as that would be.
  13. My litmus test of quality is whether the drummer and bass player can get a tractor beam lock on each other going. I hear many bands that can't and the rhythm section sounds like two (or three) guys flailing and that's depressing to me. It's depressing because we are having difficulty finding gigs and somehow that band got one even though they sound like crap to me.

    STRINGSLINGER Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2012
    Omaha/Blair NE
    I understand all to well what you mean. And YES it needs to be played 11 bar. One of the bands I currently am in, I didn't want to join initially. I did succumb due the gui**** and his sister the church pianist were both siblings of my late High School music teacher / mentor. This band as a whole are savant's - chalk full of music in their soul with very little knowledge of music theory. How they played Folsom Prison was just as you mentioned. I corrected them and they were amazed at the difference it made. I have continued to work with them on issues of the sort, such as, don't transpose a song in minor keys to major keys for ease of the church pianists' playing, the ease isn't worth change. At first with said band I wondered what I am doing playing with them. However, seeing the progress they have made over the past 3 months, their confidence at gigs, and their enthusiasm to progress to the next level has made this project one of my favorites to play with. This is just my experience with this one band. Not all musicians take constructive criticism so positively. Sorry for the long response.
  15. Wow, you would REALLY hate the way the band I'm in does it then. We start off with Blackfoot's "Train, Train" and then after the first guitar break the singer starts singing FPB, but we are still playing the TT bit. Then after a couple of verses, we finish off with TT. Works out pretty cool, but not "correct" by any means.

    Actually, you can play TT all the way thru with the words to FPB and, IMO, it still works.

  16. Yeah, I know it's making a mountain out of a mole-hill (as other people here have also mentioned), but the reason that I picked that one moment out of the entire rehearsal is simply to say that, for me, it's one of those little details that speaks to the overall quality of the group. Yes, it truly doesn't matter if it makes the crowd and venue happy, and it's not like I'm never playing with them again after these shows because of this. It's just that, for me and my personal standards of musicianship, it's little details like this that make me want to work with groups again, because stuff like that keeps things challenging.

    Now, if they were doing mish-mashes of tunes, no big deal - I've played all sorts of crazy versions of tunes in the name of keeping things interesting and fun, and had a blast doing it. But this band is going for faithful renditions of the tunes, and song forms to me are a pretty important aspect of that.

    Honestly, I also posted (and posted in this forum) because I thought it could lead to some humorous nit-picking on stuff like this - kind of a variation on "How do you know you're not in the right band - when the drummer needs a roadie just to drive him to rehearsal" type of thread.
  17. miles'tone


    Feb 26, 2008
    Wales, U.K
    Aw come on Dude don't take it all so seriously! I play Folsom in my band and we all take solos over it (guitars, fiddle, flute, trumpet, piano, drums and bass) really eke the whole thing out and have a blast, and yes, we are entertaining so I guess you'd like it.
    Your bands version sounds cool too.
    All I'm meaning is that if you play Folsom (regardless of what you jam out on in the middle), the Folsom bit has to have the right form to it. If it doesn't then to me it says you can't be arsed to learn it properly (it's a cool turnaround, don't rip yourselves off), or worse, it means you can't tell you're playing it wrong.
  18. kev b

    kev b

    Nov 28, 2012
    It doesn't matter to the audience, but I hate to play homogenised cover songs whether it is the wrong bar count, playing campfire chords instead of the correct inversions, missing out ninths or playing roots when the record had a fifth in bass.

    How many bands still play Louie Louie with an E instead of an Em?
    Good grief it's all on the web, if you can't be bothered to work it out for yourself. Back in my day you had to keep lifting the needle on a 45 to work out a song kidstodaydon'tknowthey'rebornrantrant...............
    RandalPinkFloyd likes this.
  19. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    If there are girls leaving the bar in groups of at least three and using the word/term "ugh" in their discussion of the experience, then the band's a total fail.

    Seen it, heard it, not good.
    Usually happens when the band plays what they like over what an audience (IE: girls!) likes.
  20. After the 11th bar does it break down into the Djent Metal halftime groove?

    I have no idea what song you're talking about.