Hate playing covers...

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by Andy Lights, Mar 2, 2016.

  1. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Totally agree. One of my bands is a cover band within a specific genre: 80s. (So there.) But even within that, we try to keep to a theme (mostly danceable new wave) and only veer from that narrow band when we need a change of pace or for a specific purpose. Seems to work really well because venues and patrons know what they will get and can dance the night away the whole time. We don't stress out about matching "tone" or even instruments (heck, we do it all with 3 guitars, bass and drums - that's right, no keys or synths).
    Last edited: May 11, 2016
    ac15 likes this.
  2. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sand Land
    Without covers original wouldn't exist. In fact there is no such thing as completely original. Everything is an evolution from something. Whatever you think you wrote has already been covered by a cover. All we do is just stir the soup, add a few spices and see how it tastes like now.
    Last edited: May 11, 2016
  3. ac15

    ac15 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    May 9, 2005

    Yup. I learned that lesson by accident, by starting a solo act where I was getting booked 4-6 times a week solid. Only in hindsight do I realize it is because I had a niche singing 40's and 50's jazz standards, Sinatra, Nat King Cole etc. I wasn't trying to do everything, I simply did that, and people knew me for that. I am convinced that if I "played everything" I wouldn't have stayed so busy.
    1955 and Marc Morfei like this.
  4. Tom Freeman

    Tom Freeman TDPRI Member

    May 11, 2016
    Ever since I started going to university in Toronto, I've made an attempt to watch music as often as I can afford to do so. I'll admit, I'm from a small town, so my tastes have probably had less diverse influences than anyone living in a city. But to be honest, I haven't really been drawn to the vast majority of the original music I've heard. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the local players, some of whom are now friends of mine, have a talent for writing. But the indie-singer/songwriter mentality seems to have inspired a number of people to write lack-luster originals where they stand up on stage with an acoustic guitar, strum a few chords while complaining about their feelings, and leave it at that. This may be have more to do with the university/college crowd than the whole Toronto music scene, but either way, it's not very inspiring when originals sound more homogenized than the covers.

    My musical background has incredibly strong roots in blues and rock from the 60's to the 80's, plus some folk (particularly Celtic and Canadian stuff) and a bit of jazz. I've been listening to this stuff since I was born, and have gotten deeper since I started playing guitar and harmonica. Each of these genres not only survives through a mix of covers and originals, it thrives on them. But what I'm seeing with my musical peers is (I suppose because of different musical influences) a reluctance to stick to this balance. It works when there's obviously talent present, but a lot of times the people wanting to write their own songs fail to draw many people.

    As for me, I've never been in a band (though that may change soon), and the most I've ever done was a couple open mic sets with friends. But, not to feed my own ego, each time I've gone up and played a bunch of "tired" or "cliched" blues-rock licks to covers of songs like Crossroads or Knocking on Heaven's door, the audience seems to wake up from a trance after watching the nth individual play yet another indie song on a strummed acoustic guitar. People like what they can be engaged with, and if the original stuff doesn't connect, then go with what's tried and true. It won't kill ya.
  5. briany

    briany Tele-Meister

    Dec 23, 2009
    Dublin, Ireland
    Sorry to bring this one back from the dead, but I stumbled across this thread and wanted to add something to it.

    For me, hating playing covers depends on the kinds of covers you're playing and how well you're playing them. I've been in band situations where I absolutely detest it because the band was simply happy to work up about maybe 40-50 songs of a repertoire and then basically stop rehearsing, leaving the same old stagnant LAME set list. Or, they may do new songs, but not rehearse for them. This means the new stuff you're doing is limited to 3-chord trick type songs that take almost no thought to play. No nuance, no getting together to work on an interpretation. Just sh*t it out. In short, if you're playing in a cover band where it's a 'that'll do' mentality, then it quickly becomes hell for anyone with a bit of musical ambition.

    On the other hand, if you're playing in a cover band that makes it a point to keep the setlist ever growing and diverse. A band that doesn't necessarily throw a song out because, "Oh, this has a horn part, and we don't have any horns.", but will actually put heads together to come up with a creative interpretation, then it can be really fun and musically gratifying.
  6. Martin R

    Martin R Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 26, 2008
  7. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Jun 2, 2003
    We primarily play obscure covers as well as our originals. I think it loses us some gigs but we are ok with that. Being a musician is always a compromise.
    We also play just a few gigs that require playing the very popular classic rock covers. Good money. So we take those but don't take the ones for average money like that.
    In the end, What's better? going out and playing for 3 hours and having fun or sitting home and watching TV?
    Some we cover:
    Lou Ann Barton
    Maria Muldaur
    Jon Scofield
    Trampled Under Foot
    Tommy Castro
    Robin McKelle & The Flytones
    Shemekia Copeland
    Albert Collins
    Robben Ford
    Ruthie Foster
    Etta James
    Koko Taylor
    Karen Lovely
    Lucinda Williams
    Dap Kings
    ZZ Hill
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018
    4pickupguy and Martin R like this.
  8. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    May 12, 2013
    Fort Worth, Texas
    We have nine originals we rotate and covers that we enjoy enough to keep them entertaining. Many ways to connect with an audience, cerebrally, emotionally or posteriorly. You get to play what ever you want as long as you manage, somewhere along the way, to entertain the crowd that’s financing your endeavors. Our drummer is also in a trad jazz band and they literally make stuff up all night long and the crowd hangs on every note. What may start off as a cover may end up who knows where. The audiences know this and expects them to wing it tastefully. They are playing Ft Worth live in downtown tomorrow night and I will have to leave work early and race there to get a seat. We are not so freeform but, we have our tangential moments as well.

    We cover:
    Stevie Wonder
    Johnny Guitar Watson
    Steely Dan
    Robben Ford
    ZZ Top
    Boz Skaggs
    Delbert McClinton
    Earth Wind & Fire
    Freddy King
  9. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    thread revival !

    reading back, very interesting by the way.:)

    For a moment there I thought we were all guitar players !

    I dunno, reading back, reflecting back, my journey was

    learn guitar ( multiple study books and after 45 years I am still learning )
    we used and still do, very well known songs to learn .
    become a quality musician ( not the same thing as becoming a good guitar player)
    then seek your personal desire

    to somehow look poorly on players who decide to play what we call COVERS seems a bit hypocritical in my eyes...

    How did we all learn how to play guitar ? We emulated Chuck Berry , played Johnny B Goode forever, then moved over to SRV or Don Rich....etc...

    Now we won't be caught dead playing those guys songs ? Is that what we are saying ?

    Thx Chuck , but now get lost ! :eek:

    Many of us will say I didn't want a cover gig anyway, what they may be saying is, I wasn't offered the gig . It doesn't mean we are not proficient players, we are just not prepared for that particular gig.

    I'm a great Carpenter ! Yeah but we need a Plumber...

    Cover band protocol, they don't have time to tech someone the material, they seek players who are already familiar with the material. Get a call on Tuesday for two gigs this coming weekend.

    Now we don't have to play any of that stuff, it's a choice. Nobody says we have to play haggard, Jones, Stones, SRV etc...It's a choice .

    We don't even have to play guitar ! Thats a choice as well.

    Me I just wanna play my Telecasters with amps behind me, at gigs, with real people in front of me. Thats why I own them ! :) Thats MY CHOICE

    I pretty much don't care what song it is, but I do wanna know what KEY it is in :cool:
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
    Hammerdog likes this.
  10. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Friend of Leo's

    Nov 15, 2010
    I prefer to play originals or obscure covers...however...

    When playing in a bar band, if you want to keep butts shaking on the dance floor and beer going down throats, you're going to have to play stuff that appeals to the basest portion of the audience's reptile brain--which means those over-done cover songs that most of us are tired of playing.

    This is my way to get around that--start off with a few familiar tunes--maybe not "Mustang Sally," but maybe a similar song or two (similar era, artist, etc.), such as "Midnight Hour", etc., and then throw in a couple of originals of a similar strain.

    Since we play Texas Roadhouse Music (Blues + Classic Rock + Outlaw Country), we can play a couple of familiar blues/rock tunes, such as George Thorogood's version of "Move It On Over" and SRV/Hank Ballard's "Look at Little Sister", and follow it with a couple of our originals in a similar vein. The audience is already rockin', and just assumes the original song(s) are some obscure tune they somehow missed.

    We do a similar thing with stuff like "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" and "Folsom Prison Blues", to be followed by a couple of our country-esque original tunes.

    Then, to keep folks on the dance floor without wearing themselves out, tell 'em, "Here's a slow one so you can grab somebody you love and snuggle up a bit..." Play a familiar slow tune the first time you do that, but late in the same set or in the next set, play an original slow song.

    By the time the people have seen us play two or three times, our originals are becoming familiar and they'll enjoy them just as much as the covers, sometime even requesting a few songs.

    All these things go out the window if the audience is hip enough to want originals.
    Jim622 and 4pickupguy like this.
  11. Jim W

    Jim W Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Too many mediocre song writers that perhaps writes one song that hits but the of their stuff all sounds the same. Most of the time just a bunch of lousy songs no matter how well played. I would rather hear good arrangements of a good song. Plenty of good songs that nobody knows.
  12. cyclopean

    cyclopean Friend of Leo's

    Aug 14, 2009
    innsmouth, MA
    you could write something completely original, but most people probably wouldn't like it.
  13. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    As a very good, well known local original artist says... " they are all originals, just not mine "

    The premise that a band cannot have an identity playing various covers is very false. The band that I play mostly with and have for 15 years, gets hired because we have such a diverse set list . We are not a basement band , we are not even a rehearsing band . We may get together for a polishing session if we have 5 or 6 shows in a row. Add a few songs , take some songs off a set list, add a few other ones etc...and go over some spots of poor memory .

    We have an identity, its called "we like your set list " !
  14. bill4519

    bill4519 TDPRI Member

    Mar 2, 2009
    I don't know. Coltrane covered "My Favorite Things" pretty well. Miles version of "My Funny Valentine" was satisfying. Jim Hall's covers of "Skylark" remain a favorite. I always enjoy an organist covering some of Bach's originals.
  15. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    May 30, 2017
    Silicon Valley, CA
    I'm a frustrated musician/songwriter. I'm mostly frustrated by my own limitations, but still enjoy doing it. When I go to hear bands (usually doing their original material but not always) half of me is just tapping my foot and the other half is trying to analyze WHY I do or don't like the song.

    Many original songs follow cliche formulas, which tends to annoy me, but if someone can turn a cliche on its head I find that entertaining. I find humor and bands that don't take themselves too seriously entertaining.
    Jim622 likes this.
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