Playing Cover Tunes

Posted: August 22, 2018 in Music
Tags: , , , , ,

Cover tunes are the mainstay with bar bands. A lot of bar bands do nothing but cover tunes. There’s nothing wrong with that; a lot of bands, including the Beatles and Stones, started that way. But it’s limiting, especially if you slavishly copy the originals.

It’s more fun to play a mix of covers and originals, especially if you do the covers in a manner different from and preferably better than the original recordings. The prime example of this is Devo’s version of the Stones’ Satisfaction. Unless you listen to the lyrics, you’d never guess it’s the same song. It’s a masterpiece on both counts, probably the prime example of “making a song your own.”

And then there’s the problem that audiences do not want to hear your originals, and they’re really not thrilled with greatly differing versions of tunes they know. So pander. Play the covers that you love and they love, but don’t waste time playing them note for note: as long as the rhythms are right and you’re hitting the signature licks, they’ll applaud.

With the bands I’ve played with, that means playing a lot of Doors covers. They’re huge fun to play (I love playing them without keyboards — filling in everything on guitar), and you can improvise your ass off as long as you hit the signature licks.

Sometimes even that’s not necessary as long as you keep the lyrics right. Sometimes not.

If you’re playing in a bar band, are doing both covers and originals, the best way to go is to copy the signature licks on covers, and then play in the same style. Or not (Devo) if you can do better.

Then listen some more, and find other covers. Then listen some more and make more improvements.

The punters (sorry, I’ve been corrupted by Brits) will love it, and they might not even hate your originals, no matter how good and original they are. Play ’em if they’re fun; ditto with covers. Just have fun — don’t slavishly copy — and have fun with all of it.

Cheers,

Chaz

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