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So I'm doing a complete scene transition...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jordy_on_bass, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. jordy_on_bass


    Jul 6, 2010
    Hey guys, not sure if a lot of these questions are in the right forum. So mods if you wish to move it, please don't hesitate!

    Anyways, I've been a bassist for about 8 years. Mostly playing in heavy metal and hard rock bands and writing original music. Recently I moved back to a place I was living for a couple of years and re-connected with a couple old band mates. Whilst the music written has been kick ass, I have thoroughly had enough. I bought a guitar rig for one of the guitarists to buy off me for a fairly cheap price, yet I didn't received a cent whilst they used it, we have no drummer, one of them has needed to get his guitar fixed for months yet it hasn't happened and also the general dismissal of 99% of my ideas. These guys just sit around smoking weed, playing video games and play guitar whilst collecting welfare. Whilst I haven't exactly 'quit' that band (and wont as of yet), I am putting it on the back-burner indefinitely - well, basically until they get their act together.

    A few weeks ago I was approached by a friend of a friend. Like me, he has recently moved back here and he used to play a lot of gigs with cover bands and wanted to get back into it since he used to make a good living off of it. He asked me if I would be interested in playing bass for a pop rock/modern radio cover band. Being slightly fed up with my current situation, I accepted. I went over to his house to just have a drums and bass session with a few songs we both knew (luckily, he is like a juke box. I don't know much popular music). He said that in the short time we had a jam, he could easily see that I could play bass in the band.

    Here are a whole bunch of questions I would like to ask guys who are playing in cover bands, have been in a similar situation or can basically answer any of my queries:

    1. How does the dynamic change in a cover band compared to a band that writes it's own music? Is there less ego problems when it comes to the task since the music is already written? Are the people who play in cover bands generally more professional than hard rock and metal bands?

    2. How does your band react to you improvising throughout songs? After learning some of the songs, I've found they are fairly simple and boring to play. So I've been improvising whilst practicing at home. Do your band members invite it or do they want you to play it exactly as it was written?

    3. Is playing in a cover band a primary source of income for any of you? If so, how many gigs per week/month do you play? If it isn't, what else do you do for income? (relevant for me at this point in time as I have recently been made redundant from my job)

    4. How often do you and your band rehearse?

    5. The drummer and I have differing views - he wants two guitarists whilst I think one guitarist and a keyboard player would be ideal. What do you think is the better combination?

    Any other information that you guys feel would be helpful would be much appreciated. I've never played with a group of individuals that I would call professionals, but to me a cover band would fit that moniker.

    I'm just a simple, self taught rock bassist that has a few chops and licks that I like to rock out with. I just want to make sure I go about everything the right way so that I can fit into a successful role in a band and actually make some money for my 8 years of work!!

  2. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    1. In a good cover band the material to learn will be decided upon ahead of time and everyone will show up knowing it

    2. It varies but I never cared as long as you grooved and hit the main part. Know your audience and most of the time that is going to be drunk, dumb girls who don't want to hear you wank.

    3. I've never know it to be. In most places you can only play on weekends.

    4. once a week if we are learning knew material.

    5. The best is to have a guitarist / keyboardist. I couldnt find one so I took up both instruments and dropped the bass for awhile. If you understand music theory you can teach yourself both pretty quick. Outside of that, keys have the advantage as you can do more of said femaile liked songs. If that isn't possible you can find punk covers of said songs.
  3. I've been playing in mainly cover bands for 40+ years, all these are IMO. IME YMMV etc.

    1. It depends upon personalities

    2. As 1. some bands want note for note as the record, others don't care as long as it sounds good.

    3. I have never done it as my primary income but in the 90's could have done so as gigs were paying well and plentiful. (Glad I didn’t go pro now). I was an engineer, now retired but still gigging.

    4. We rehearse once a week at the most, we don't play the stuff we know unless we haven't play something for a while and want to bring it back into the set. rehearsals are for learning new songs for us.

    5. I've been in bands with both combinations, both have pros and cons. A lot depends on what sort of covers, if you are doing mainly rock then I would say 2 guitars. If you want brass, strings, etc then go guitar and kbd.

    rant on. But be warned, kbd players have a nasty habit of walking all over your sonic space. If you do get keys then make sure from the off that he/she knows that you play bass and will not tolerate him/her in your space. You have been warned. rant off.
  4. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    It's just people playing notes, it's not really all that different. To answer your questions...

    1. Maybe, but don't necessarily count on it.

    2. Definitely depends on the band. Do they do rock covers of modern radio songs, or do they actually try to sound like modern radio songs? If they're rock covers and they don't care about capturing the style and vibe of the original, you will probably be able to get away with more. But if they like Rihanna and want Rihanna songs to sound like Rihanna songs, they will probably not be too happy if you try to make those songs sound like Asking Alexandria.

    3. I have a normal job and play 1-3 gigs a month.

    4. Rehearsals are probably a little more frequent than gigs, though not really regular. I don't much like rehearsal.

    5. Well, guitarists are a lot easier to find than keyboardists, but if you can find someone to play keys, great. Try to talk the drummer into giving looking for keys a shot. If you don't find anyone, go with two guitars.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    First thing that I wanted to say was congratulations on getting away from the waste of time that this other band sounded like! Good move, I'd say.

    I think ego is ego in any situation. But there's probably less notion of "I have to be a controlling artiste" in cover band situations.

    This REALLY depends on the song and on the rest of the band. In some songs, no matter how idiot-simple it is, you will ruin it by overplaying. U2's "With or Without You" comes to mind as a classic example - the bass line is just those same four root notes over and over again, but that's what gives the song it's vibe. Start running scales up and down and the song will be wrecked.

    In other cases, IMO, it's a great idea, even a necessity. My band is basically power trio + singer and we're adding Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night," another song with an ultra-simple four-chord repeatition. We don't have all the studio-processed layers going on that the recording has, so that's a song where we improvise all over the place with these sixteenth-note runs to fill out the sound. I think it works pretty well, but you have to be careful.

    Nope. This is just side money for all of us. I teach, the drummer's a mechanic, the guitarist works on ships at the Naval Yard and the singer's an IT person. If you want the band to be your main income source, make sure it's a group that ALL want to do that and prepare to smile with enthusiasm as you play Mustang Sally (or whatever the equivalent is where you are). Play what's popular, be ultra professional, and aim for weddings and corporate functions, which pay much better than bar gigs.

    Once a week for about 3 hours. If everyone's doing their homework, that should be plenty.

    I would vote keys player if you can find a good one, but they are in even shorter supply than drummers and bassists. They are often used to playing solo as pianists and organists and less likely to be interested in band situations. There are not a lot of songs where you really HAVE to have a second guitarist, but being able to add keys opens up the possible repertoire a lot. If you can't find a dedicated keys player, think about taking a rhythm guitarist but stipulate that he might be playing simple keyboard parts on some songs.

    Most cover band musicians (including me) are part-timers, not as pro as all that. Other information? A hot singerbabe never hurts, as long as the singing isn't lacking. :cool:
  6. A very good point. Everyone should come to rehearsal with their parts learned, not waste everybody's time working out stuff they should already know.

    Rehearsals are for tweaking arrangements and ironing out a few wrinkles, private practice is for honing your chops and working out and learning your parts.

    We usually decide at one rehearsal what we will look at next time. We occasionally will have a quick stab at something to see if it will work, just a verse or two with whatever words anyone can remember. This is usually enough to gauge if it is worth spending more time on learning it properly.
  7. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    I have been in original and cover bands and have found that both have their share of ego problems. This usually surfaces more in bands where I didn't know the people in the band very well prior to joining them. I have been in bands with people I have known for over 40 years and never had a problem. I am in a band now with someone I have known for 30 years. The rest of the band I had never met until a year ago. We all get along great. No egos at all. I think that in many cases the older the musicians are the less ego they are likely to have.

    In every cover band I have been in we have never improvised at all. We always tried to play as close to the original artist as possible. The reason for this is that the majority of people who go see cover bands to hear the songs the way they are used to hearing them. They really don't care about your interpretation of a song. Improvisation on cover songs can sometimes come across as sefl indulgence on the part of the musicians. There are exceptions but this has been my experience.

    I have made a living playing in cover bands. Usually gigging anywhere from 3 to 5 times per week. Its more difficult now because many clubs no longer have bands on weeknights.

    My current band rehearses twice per week for 3 hours per night.

    Your last question is difficult to answer. It really depends on what type of music you are playing, what else you plan on adding to the setlist and the ability of yourself and the guitarist. I like having a keyboard player because it opens more possibilities for additional songs.
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Just with regard to the gtr vs. keys question.

    An interesting thing has happened in my cover band. When I joined two and a half years ago, the BL/lead singer played keys (passably) on about 20-30% of the songs during a 4-hour show. We also had a female co-lead singer who played keys (poorly) on another few songs. This in addition to two guitarists (and the BL also plays acoustic guitar).

    Within 6 months after I joined the band, the female singer was gone. Not too long after that, the BL started cutting the keyboard songs out of the show and for the last year and a half we haven't even brought a keyboard out on gigs. The sound is MUCH cleaner without the keyboard and it also gives us a lot more room on the stages we play (which tend to run small in these parts).

    Keys can be an asset but IMO they have at least as much downside as good. And if you've got two guitarists who are reasonably talented and have a good understanding of dynamics and space, you can cover all but the really cheezy 80s keyboard sounds and horns pretty effectively with a two guitar lineup.
  9. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Ha, my idea of a great guitarist is one who will actually learn the horn parts on Shakira songs and play them. Synth-like sounds are not that hard to do with effects, but horn parts seem to be the hardest thing for guitarists to play a passable imitation of.
  10. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    In a former band of mine we did "Livin on a Prayer" which has a pretty prominent keyboard part. We didn't have a keyboard player but we had an ace guitarist who learned the part and played it fingerstyle on guitar and it sounded amazing.

    Now if you're gonna do a lot of Journey and that kind of material, keys would probably be a good idea... but then again, does the world need one more cover band out there doing "Don't Stop Believing" and "Separate Ways", seriously?
  11. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    As much as I would love to be able to do some more New Wave keyboard oriented stuff- I have to second, many of them will step all over your space, up to and including doubling every note you play on the bass. And many times this creates a WEIRD discordant vibe, that I hate.
  12. +1000000

    I've played with quite a few keys players some good, most bad.

    There are a couple of common problems with keys players :-

    1. They have 10 digits, most like to get as many down as possible.

    2. They spend hours and hours playing all the parts of a song, they learn how to do it from the off so they can function as a solo player. Most don't seem to grasp the fact that they are not adding to the song by doubling up the vocal melody or walking all over the bass, or weedling while the guitarist has a solo. The term keytard springs to mind.

    Having slagged them off in general I have played with a couple of superb keys players. Both were also guitarists, one was a good bass and fiddle player, the other a good drummer and clarinettist. The first one does not want to play in bands any more, the second subbed for us when we kicked out Phil Allspace and would have joined us if he had not been accepted into the Army Music Corps (on clarinet).
  13. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Since your an experienced bass guitar player, I would look for an opening with an established working cover band with not only gigs booked but a strong history of bookings.

    This sounds like a start up thing.

    Regardless of who your friend is or how he's connected putting a new band together and putting it out to market is a1 out of 10 proposition that you will see your first paying gig, considering the time it takes to recruit ( start ups generally don't attract experienced players) and the turn over you will more than likely experience.

    Many TBers will not like my opinion. However I truly believe it's reality.

  14. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    1. Ego problems and jerkoffs who don't put any effort into it still make themselves known in cover bands. There is no magic bullet for that, only a weeding out process.

    2. Depends. My regular band does a good bit of not being note for note while some songs we do are more note for note, while I've played in other bands who like it closer to the original versions. The old saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," applies.

    3. It is for me. It gets harder to make a decent living at it, but for some reason I'm in a good position where we make decent coin enough to where I don't feel a need to go out and get a regular job.

    4. Once in a great while we rehearse outside of the gig. Mostly we will rehearse at soundchecks if we have new songs to learn and the venue isn't open.

    5. Guitar/keyboards makes you more versatile. The problem is finding a good keyboard player willing to commit to a startup. They all know that they can get gigs if they're any good, so they are generally very choosy.
  15. jordy_on_bass


    Jul 6, 2010
    Wow, thanks for the input guys!!

    It's opened my eyes up about the keys thing, maybe two guitarists is more suited towards what we want to do. I'll put up a list of 20 songs (first half of a 40 song setlist I need to learn), they all seem to be geared towards two guitarists although I haven't seen the second half yet as the drummer doesn't want to bombard me.

    The hardest part I am finding so far is that a lot of these are songs I don't know well, some I haven't even heard before. Of the first 20 songs I got sent, I lucked out with knowing Enter Sandman and that was it!! I've learnt about 13 of the first 20 songs I have been sent so it's still a long road for me as of yet.

    OK, so the first of 20 songs;

    Betterman - pearl jam
    Mr jones – counting crows
    Iris – goo goo dolls
    The middle – jimmy eat world
    I alone - live
    Place your hands - reef
    Kryptonite – 3 doors down
    Boys of summer - the ataris
    Enter sandman
    Selling the drama - live
    Bullet with butterfly wings – smashing pumkins
    Sex on fire – kings of leon
    Californication – red hot peppers
    Zombie - cranberries
    When I come around – green day
    Drive - incubus
    Killing in the name – Rage against machine
    Run away train – soul asylum
    Plush – stone temple piolets
    Broken - seether
  16. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Pretty solid set list and you absolutely don't need keys to pull those tunes off.
  17. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008

    When the OP said covers, I was thinking classic covers.

    I'm 59 and while I've heard of the bands, I don't recognize one song.

    I'm out of touch, is there consistent paying club and bar work for that material?

  18. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Blue -

    I'm 46 and most of those songs aren't ones I'd personally be fond of playing... But I've heard most of them and they would definitely go over in most markets, especially ones with lots of clubgoers from about 25-35 yrs old.

    Actually I'm kinda glad to know theres bands out there tackling newer covers and not the zillionth rendition of Skynard, Stones and Tom Petty war horses and 80s arena rock.
  19. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Most of the songs on the list are almost 20 years old. :p

    Seriously, though, when I was doing the cover band thing in the early 2000's, we did a lot of these songs, they went over quite well, and we were paid well to play them.
  20. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    1. Professionalism is an individual thing. It has nothing to do with whether or not you play covers or originals.

    2. There is a time and place for going of on an improvisational tangent in a cover band. But just understand that it's not EVERY song. If you are doing ZZ Top, there's room to play around. If you are doing Journey, the crowd will want to hear it as close to the recording as you can get it.

    3. You can make a living in a cover band. But you will need to play some corporate gigs and weddings to get into any real money. Where I live, $1,500 is good pay at a club. But I have done dozens of weddings for over $5,000. The private stuff is where the money is. A lot of guys thing playing weddings is dumb. You may have to get over yourself a little bit. I actually like them. But I'm rare in that respect.

    4. Learning new songs should be done at HOME. Practicing with the band should only be for tightening things up and arranging songs if you want to put your own stamp on them. But at no point should guitar players be teaching each other parts during band practice. They should have already picked who will play what and done their HOMEWORK. Standing around watching others learn their parts is a waste of time.

    5. It really depends on the music. The optimum would be a utility guy. That's someone who can do a little bit of each. He would play backing guitar, keys, and acoustic. You won't be able to pull off a lot of modern (or classic) rock without two guitars. And keys playing the rhythm guitar part is terrible every time it's tried. Sorry but in most cases I agree with your drummer.

    The only advice I can give you other than that is to TALK ABOUT MONEY RIGHT NOW. Get everyone's money opinions out in the open BEFORE you start to play out. I can't tell you how many bands I have been in that fell apart because someone got pissed later on after we started playing gigs. Somebody will want more money if he drives further. Another guy will want money for booking gigs (which I think is fair) but everybody else will get pissed over that. Another guy will want a cut if he owns the PA (which is also fair) but for some crazy reason that pisses people off too. Talk about money NOW so that if anyone wants to leave or can't deal with the plan they can quit NOW before you do all the work that it takes to get the thing off the ground.

    Good luck!

    P.S. I have never seen ANYONE use the word "whilst" as much as you. Is that your favorite word?