Playing covers with not exactly to a tee

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by perfdavid, Jan 27, 2006.

  1. Question for the more experienced cover band guys out there. When playing a song, is it really important to play it exactly like it is in the song or is it ok to vry it a bit as long as you play the major bass lines properly. I am referring to varying up the verse parts a bit.
  2. IMO it depends mostly on the song.

    I usually play R&B and blues where there is plenty of room to improvise and make the bass line you own. If you are playing something more pop oriented playing the bass line to a tee may be required. There are other songs where you can get away with playing the familiar part to a tee and change other parts to your liking.
  3. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    IMHO, if you are in a tribute band, you should try to be close to the original. If you are in a cover band, just get the "signature" parts right.

    My feeling is that tribute bands will attract hard core fans that expect exact copies. Most bar goers only need it to be close enough that they recognize it.
  4. jwl


    Jan 25, 2005
    if it were me, i would let the song decide how it will be played. for example; day tripper is pretty much a done deal. the way it was recorded is they way it would probably sound best. yeah you can play it with more distortion as i would and maybe re-arrange it, but it is what it is. long train runnin' by the doobie bros. on the other hand can be used as a vehicle for an extended jam. however the jazzy chords would be best played (tonally) as they were on the recording. imo. what i mean by letting the song decide is this; if you have a four member band with two rock players, a jazz guy and a pop singer and you want to play paradise by sade, do it your own way. sade already did it her way. if you want to rock that song up, do it. once that distinctive bass line kicks in every one will know what it is. every song has something that must be maintained as close to the original as possible so people will recognize it. like the riff from gimme shelter. or the the bass line from come together. but not every aspect of a song has to be the same as the original recording. i don't think it should be either. imo. peace, jeff
  5. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nino really nails those Metallica Vocals !:p I really thought they were pretty cool Nino:) :bassist:
  7. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    I have thought about this quite a bit and here is my take. If you want to play a song verbatim, you had better get the transcription and a recording of the song. Or else you could spend hours upon hours learning the song perfectly by ear.

    As stated before, it depends on the level of imitating you are doing. Sometimes just the signature licks will cover it for you. Other times it is the bass that identifies the song through out and you need to be pretty specific as to the notes and rhythm. But it will still almost never be perfect.

    One of the hardest things for me to figure out by ear is fast passing notes. There are a bunch of choices and they all usually work cause you have a target note at the beginning and end of each phrase.
  8. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    It not only depends on the song, and the target audience. It also depends on your band mates. Some musicians are sticklers for the original bass line, some are not, and others want you to be creative.
  9. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA

    You should hear Type O Negative cover Day Tripper. Sounds barely anything like the original, but it's done very well. They've also covered Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft, and Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young. They basically keep a similar song stucture, but it's way different in key.
  10. puff father

    puff father

    Jan 20, 2006
    Endicott, NY
    On most (not all) of the covers I've played, I think the original bass line is usually better than what I would have come up with anyway so I try to stick as closely as I can to it. After I've played the songs out a few times, I listen again to see where I've drifted off. Then I can usually dial it in much closer.

    Some songs, like you've said, lend themselves to jams while others just sound awesome as recorded (IMO). Beatles songs..., I love Paul's bass lines. I should be so lucky as to achieve his feel as it is sometimes.

    Also, there are lots of songs where the bass line is the "hook". They can become unrecognizable with a changed bass line.

    PS: I think I've learned a ton by apeing others bass lines over the years.
  11. buzzbass

    buzzbass Shoo Shoo Retarded Flu !

    Apr 23, 2003
    If there is a song with a signature bassline, I receate it exactly. If it's a typical 3 chord Charlie, I'll use the recorded part as a guide, but I'll also play what "feels" right to me. @0 yrs of covers and nobody's complained yet. I've even had people tell me, " I love what YOU did with that song/part".
  12. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    What I play also depends a great deal on what the rest of the band is playing...............It has to work with the band:eyebrow:
  13. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Several aspects:

    First of all, it is always a good idea to learn both the bass lines, breaks, and melodies exactly and work them over to see what other possibilities fit.

    Secondly, most bar patrons could care less about exactness and more about feel and volume. However, as noted, a tribute band should cop the act of the original artist.

    Now the interesting parts. There is no precise answer to the question. Our popular music is a combination of African "music as a language" and European "music as high precise art." Of course, there are other things thrown in, but those are the two poles, the yin and the yang. The African part says that you should bring something new, some clear new message to every performance. The European thing says you should replicate to as high a precision as possible the original intent of the composer.

    So, your answer will be some combination of the two elements, according to how the group "decides" to do it. The main problem is that groups rarely ever talk about this explicitly. I've played in bands where one different note from the recording resulted in mean glares on stage, and other groups where the original song was just an excuse to explore all kinds of musical space. Both can usually sell, presuming they are done musically, in a given club.

    So, ultimately you decide. The one hard line for either approach (or combinations) is to mean what you play and play what you mean.
  14. Dan Molina

    Dan Molina TalkBass Secular Progressive

    Jul 17, 2002
    Murr Town, California
    I hate when people butcher covers by putting their own spin on things.
  15. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    You mean like Joe Cocker? or Ray Charles? or Tina Turner?:meh:
  16. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    my band does punk rock & new wave covers ( ), and we basically attempt to play them as per the records because that's what people who come to see us want to hear... on the bass I try and nail what seanm called the 'signature parts' i.e. the bits I'D expect to hear if I heard someone else playing the song, although I won't try and replicate every 8th note and fill from every song

    we don't try and 'improve' on the original notes themselves - 'stylistic consonance' is a priority (our old guitarist used to throw in sweep picking and tapping fills in the middle of Ramones songs and I hated it) but we try and play tighter, louder, punchier, more dynamic, more steroidal :) than the original records
  17. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    It depends on the song-sometimes I like what has been done on the original recording, but think it could have been a little bit more expressive or full, etc. Other times things feel perfect the way they are and I leave them as-is.
  18. I think it really only depends on what you want to do - most of the time the audience is rather oblivious to the bass anyhow so you can really just hit the important obvious parts. With that said I play covers exactly right, generally speaking. I really like to test my ear and learn songs note for note, but it's just for me.
  19. It can also depend on what makes that part of the song great...for example,

    the bass solo "Bassically" befor NIB by Black Sabbath, is great on many levels, for many reasons. I heard a cover by Claypool, and he adapted it to his own style and tone, and it was pretty much a whole different solo. Many Claypool fans might like it better, many Sabbath fans might not. Personally, I disliked it, but just do it for yourself. You can't please everyone.
  20. Geezerman


    Nov 28, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I usually play the original, and then work on my own flavor during parts I think could use it.