How do you interpret songs?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by fred4321, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. fred4321

    fred4321 Tele-Meister

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    Hi,
    I had a discussion with some friends recently about playing covers.

    The argument went 2 ways-the song must be played as close as possible to the original as it demonstrates that you are a good player and makes everyone listening happy or its the personal interpretation (that isn't exactly like the original) that is important.

    Who's right?
     
  2. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    Are you playing for musicians or average listeners? Listeners don't care as long you have the "hooks" of the song. In 50 years of playing off and on, I have seldom heard an original artist play the song as originally recorded with but a couple exceptions.
     
  3. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I play everything better than the originals or I don't play at all.
     
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  4. davidge1

    davidge1 Friend of Leo's

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    In a rock band I used to be in, whoever brought the song to the band would play it for us once, then we'd start playing it. We never learned anyone else's arrangements. I don't see any point in trying to re-create someone else's performance.

    In another band, a traditional country band (all covers), we never even listened to the recording once as a group. The singer would just start singing and we'd start playing.

    Never spent much time learning anyone else's arrangements. Once in a while, if there's something that's key to the song you learn it. Sometimes I like to learn the guitar break just for my own sake.

    You play it by ear – there aren't any rules
     
  5. rangercaster

    rangercaster Friend of Leo's

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    Make the song yours ... Make it better ...
     
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  6. Bartholomew3

    Bartholomew3 Friend of Leo's

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    "I do them the way they should have been recorded"

    Expression from a jam-band buddy drummer who was amazing but never did anything the same way twice. 11 beers before breakfast does that to you after a few years.

    I do the signature lines when doing covers, the rest is me, take it or leave it.

    Knowing how to create the right part in the right place cold without memorizing the original lead lines is an art form IMO.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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  7. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    None of the above. Can't be answered in the abstract.
     
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  8. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    What's a "personal interpretation", though? Is it (perhaps unconsciously) playing the solo somewhat differently (though perhaps still recognizably) because that's how the spirit moved you, or is it making up your own solo from scratch, on principle?

    Or is it starting with Bob's "All Along the Watchtower" and ending with Jimi's?

    I try to learn the song as it is on the record because that's the thing I wanted to learn, though I'm not anal about Getting. It. All. EXACTLY. Right. Once I learn the song and I've played it a ton of times, a little bit of "me" will creep in here and there. It's unavoidable. Music is like speech; you can quote and quote and quote, but the more you use the quote the more your personal inflections will creep in.

    In the playing-with-others situations I typically find myself in, I'm the only guitarist, so on a two-guitar tune I might have to mash and fudge a little to get all the ear-candy parts in without the bottom falling out (happens a lot with Beatles songs).

    Sometimes I want to create a part that doesn't exist on the original. I've done this recently with Roy Orbison's "You Got It" and Shooter Jennings' "Rhinestone Eyes", neither of which has a lot going on electric guitar-wise, so I made something up. But in these cases I try to craft something that fits into the song I know, rather than jamming something in that doesn't fit.

    I suppose most of this goes out the window if you're in a cover band hired by a bar, or something, and you just give the people what they expect to hear. But outside of that, I'd say we all learn the thing, and over time make it a little more "ours".
     
  9. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Friend of Leo's

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    I don't over think,
    but I play just about all cover music ( many styles, but all cover)
    and play with folks who like to jam.

    Also, I will play ANYTHING I can play on electric or acoustic guitar ( depending on the kind of gig, from full band to duo to solo), I dont ever think " I can't play that song here, it's an acoustic song, and I'm playing my Strat..."

    That said, I mainly stick to the basic sound/melody/rhythm of a song, but often extend or even insert a jam section if it sounds appropriate
    Or say repeat verses or chorus- stretch things put if folks are either dancing, or actually getting into some jamming.. But wedding go to crazy- still have to entertain! Plus we really try to honor great music, not F**k with it too much as far as changing basics...

    But I am a bandleader so I just kind of play it ( the gig) by ear and band/ duo partners follows my lead.
     
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  10. Geo

    Geo Friend of Leo's

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    I think it depends on the song and even where or what type crowd you play it for.
    I'm usually okay with the above as long as the personal doesn't sound like a hack job. :eek:
    - example: Mustang Sally
     
  11. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    This has been discussed here many times.....with no consensus and frequently strong (opposing) opinions being expressed. I've done both. For many years, the band I played in did a lot of (mediocre) originals, and the covers we did were largely unlike the records....if it was a fast, rocking song, we did it slow and introspective. If it was a folky, laid back thing, we "rocked" it up.We actually achieved a level of modest fame for our originality and being a versatile band. But it dawned on me a few years ago....we did it that way because we were too lazy to put in the effort to "learn it right". Now, I want to (generally) learn it right. Arranging for a trio+frontman format, I take pride in duplicating keyboard parts on guitar, and often I won't get it "note for note", but I do everything I can to make the song recognizable. I do a number of Doors, Zombies, Traffic, and Animals songs, which often have a "key" keyboard (pun intended) signature, so I'm not duplicating the record, but it's usually "as close" as I can get. But I will never again use, "Oh, I'm just doin' it my way" as an excuse for not putting in the effort.
    Audiences will rarely if ever criticize a band for sounding too much like the original.....and I can't express the thrill (to me) of having people knocked out by a guitar rendition of the Light My Fire intro.
    Not for everyone, I get it......but don't be lazy. ;)
     
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  12. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Friend of Leo's

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    Yes.
     
  13. dan1952

    dan1952 Friend of Leo's

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    I respect the melody of the song. "Interpretation" is fine, but I really dislike people performing a song without even knowing the melody. To do so is pretty arrogant, to assume that they can write the melody better than the composer. Even a blues song like "Stormy Monday" has a melody, and deserves to be performed with respect for that. After one does that, at that point one can "interpret" it as one sees fit.
     
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  14. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    This is my take on it. I usually learn a song more or less note-for-note, and that's how my (now defunct) band would start out playing it. Then over time it would grow and change into something cool in it's own right. After a couple of years we'd have our own version, and it would always be very different from the source material.

    I think a cover should honor the original writer and artist(s), and should be a cool take on the original that takes it somewhere else. Unless you're in a wedding band and providing background music, I don't ever want to see a band play a note-for-note cover. In fact, I don't even want to see a band live regurgitating their own songs note-for-note like it was on the album (Joan Jett). Might as well put on a CD and some lasers and call it a rave then.
     
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  15. 8trackmind

    8trackmind Tele-Meister

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    Capure the "essence" of the song, beyond that it's up to you. Jeff Beck's verision of "Over the Rainbow" if the best example I can think of.
     
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  16. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    +1 Yup, this is me all the way. I learn note for note, but by the time I have nailed it, I have already put plenty of my spin into it. I think most famous guitar players evolve their own hits with some new twists just to have fun with it in a live setting.
     
  17. 985plowboy

    985plowboy Tele-Afflicted

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    Bit of both.
     
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  18. W.L.Weller

    W.L.Weller Tele-Holic

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    Is this, or is this not, a band playing Hey Joe? I had a protracted conversation about this in 1999 and it's set the tone for all of these conversations since.
     
  19. 57fenderstrat

    57fenderstrat TDPRI Member

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    I think I depends on the type of show/venue. If I had a gig where I was performing a whole album or something I would want it to be precise. If it’s like a highly regarded song I would want to take the solo or whatever as is to show people that I could do it justice. then maybe keep jamming on it with my own thing after though.

    Good things come from making it your on though like The Who with young man blues or summer time blues.

    I guess it just depends on the type of show, amount of people in your band, etc.
     
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  20. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

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    if it is a great song.... it can be reduced to 2 or 3 chords. If it can't, it isn't a great song.

    If I retype a hemingway novel precisely as I bought the book, is that good?

    if I take a great story and tremendous rhythm and break it a bit... is that good?

    bartender, another round.. right down here..
     
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