Is It Necessary To Cut Your Teeth In A Cover Band?

PhoenixBill

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It seems to me that there are many that think that you need to pay your dues doing covers before you can make the jump to doing originals.
Is that the right approach?

Why not just do your originals right out of the gate? Blow everyone away.
You’ll be playing to…who? Not a lot of venues will accomodate new bands that just do originals and there won’t be anybody in the audience. Second, playing covers can really advance your musicianship (assuming you pay attention to the way the original song is arranged, the chord voicings, etc). The Beatles represent the prime example of this: they cut their teeth playing covers every day for many hours, which got them tight as musicians and helped them recognize various chord progressions and styles.
 

brookdalebill

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It will help.
It teaches cooperation, what synergy is, how to harmonize, what people respond to, and how songs are crafted/arranged.
Cover bands are less common now, that’s probably a good thing.
Playing in cover/wedding/dance/bar bands taught me a lot.
It didn’t make me successful though.
I think the “X-factor” is still necessary.
It may the artist’s voice, appearance, or songwriting skills.
 

Flat6Driver

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It seems to me that there are many that think that you need to pay your dues doing covers before you can make the jump to doing originals.
Is that the right approach?

Why not just do your originals right out of the gate? Blow everyone away.
Ever gone to an open mic night where an "artist" brings his/her own material that doesn't adhere to any sort of music you've heard before. Or worse someone turns up to a jam session and tries to explain to the others that is has a umph feel and the first 11 measures are A then A#sus2 followed by F but not sure how long....
 

bottlenecker

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You’ll be playing to…who? Not a lot of venues will accomodate new bands that just do originals and there won’t be anybody in the audience. Second, playing covers can really advance your musicianship (assuming you pay attention to the way the original song is arranged, the chord voicings, etc). The Beatles represent the prime example of this: they cut their teeth playing covers every day for many hours, which got them tight as musicians and helped them recognize various chord progressions and styles.

The Beatles were 60 years ago. That world is gone.
There are lots of music clubs that cater specifically to original music. Most people who make original music, whether recording and touring, or just starting out, play clubs that cater to music fans who won't go out to see a cover band.
I have played covers, but I have never played in a cover band.
 

Dismalhead

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I've been in a couple of all original bands and songwriting is a separate skill from playing; IMO it's a lot harder too. You need to know how to put together different parts into a cohesive unit that all flow together seamlessly and then have meaningful lyrics in a memorable melody that draw the listener in. As highly as I thought of our stuff at the time, I'd guess out of the two bands I was in (about five years in each) we maybe had eight good, album quality songs out of all the stuff we wrote. We did get gigs and audiences liked us, but that was 25 years ago now and we never made any real money doing it.

One of the reasons to do other people's music is you don't have to reinvent the wheel. The melody is already there, the riffs and the changes are there, and you have (hopefully) decent lyrics. On top of that a good chunk of the audience will probably already know and like the songs you're doing.

I can say when I was in my all original bands I did kinda look down on the cover bands - "You're not a real artist because you're just regurgitating other people's ideas note-for-note." Don't see it that way anymore, and I appreciate a good cover for what it is. Heck, the last couple of years all my focus has been on learning some guitarists' songs and then putting my own little twists and turns here and there, but for the most part of each song it's note-for-note.
 
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CryptCaster

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Not necessary but it sure can't hurt.
Agreed. "Necessary" is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. "Necessary" means you NEED to do it. That's like asking if starting out in a cover band is the only way to doing your original work. It's not. There are tons of ways on to the stage. Will it help? Sure! Some people, surely. But maybe not all.

Point is: I think the big takeaway is that nothing is "necessary." You don't NEED to do your time in a cover band before you start or join a band that does originals. Just play the music that moves you.
 

Killing Floor

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I played, wrote, recorded and occasionally sold original lyrics and music starting from teens and made a living at it for a short while. It’s tough. But it’s also rewarding in a lot of ways. Nothing like being stuck in traffic and hearing your junk from other people’s cars and seeing them nod. In a strange way that’s cooler than live reactions because at shows people are already there for your music.

I’m not saying I am any good. Imagine helping a friend move apartments and the box of dishes you’re carting up the stairs breaks open, that’s basically me playing.

But after I got fully done from touring I started playing some covers in some events and eventually was able to do on-call subs for a few acts. Playing covers is really fun even if it’s not your fave genre. And I agree with the posters like @elihu and @brookdalebill that your skills accelerate like mad.

First time someone hands you 3 sets on a couple weeks notice you learn a lot about your skills and your work ethic. Don’t knock cover bands. That’s live music entertainment AND that’s what creates the audience for your originals once you grow out of your circle.

I still write and play new original junk and some fools even clap. But the jumping off points between original and cover are very different. You can get paid a lot sooner and a lot more with covers until you are Lizzo.

So keep on keeping on with your creativity. But maybe throw a cover/remake into your set once and watch how your audience responds.
 

Chiogtr4x

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It's a shame that so much time has gone by that those of us ( maybe older folks now) that love playing/gigging the fantastic music we grew up with ( for me '50's-'70's) keeping it alive, are relegated to being characterized as 'playing in a cover band'

As if it were not as good, artistic, something lesser, as doing original music..

We just did not ( and don't) think of what we did as playing cover music- we just loved it, wanted to participate/celebrate great music

*admittedly touchy about the subject, as I have put in a lot of (fun) work learning the music I play
 
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schmee

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It seems to me that there are many that think that you need to pay your dues doing covers before you can make the jump to doing originals.
Is that the right approach?

Why not just do your originals right out of the gate? Blow everyone away.
Probably necessary as there are very few gigs for originals. So get your chops down, mix in a few originals and keep it going until youir original release hits a million!
Or make an album and watch the 32 cents come in quarterly from online plays.....
 

sax4blues

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I'm not sure the question here. Is this talking about a person who knows their instrument but has never played in a group? What type of original music do you want to perform?
If solo singer/instrument I don't believe you need experience with band playing or covers.
If you want to establish a multi instrument band playing your songs then you would need experience playing in a group context. That's where the "cover band" experience comes in. It gives a cohesive context to gain group experience.

When I follow discussions about why a new player should learn/experience established knowledge, I often wonder what the response would be to an aspiring writing author who would ask, "Do I need to read a bunch of books? Can't I just start writing stuff?".
 
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Kandinskyesque

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I've always been more about originals in a band situation but still enjoy solo acoustic covers gigs.
With the latter you get to shape other people's songs into unusual versions.

My first band at school gigged regularly and even back then as 14-year-olds, we played 50/50 originals and covers (Clash, SLF, Jam, Stranglers).

I've played in covers bands on and off for 30+ years, sometimes just filling in for an absent singer, I've never really committed to them because they're mainly as an earner, but they also keep my voice and playing in a fit enough condition for recording original songs.
I played in a tribute band for a while but hated it because the carbon copy act just wasn't my thing.

I probably learned more in terms of stagecraft and tightness from playing covers than I would have playing originals only.
So, I'd say while it's not necessary, it is very helpful
 

Dismalhead

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I've played in covers bands on and off for 30+ years, sometimes just filling in for an absent singer, I've never really committed to them because they're mainly as an earner, but they also keep my voice and playing in a fit enough condition for recording original songs.
I played in a tribute band for a while but hated it because the carbon copy act just wasn't my thing.
That's interesting. Local guy a while ago on CL was wanting to put together a Scorpions tribute band. I do know a lot of Scorpions songs but I chickened out. Did you really do everything exactly like the original? I figured there would be some leeway.
 

Telenator

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Playing covers gives you a chance to play along with, and learn from some of the best players in the world.
You just can't do that with music that hasn't been written yet!

Playing covers gives you the opportunity to get a real good idea of what has been done already, and then take it a step further. Build on it.

99% of the bands I've played with who do cover tunes "their own way" have been a bunch of miscreants who were too lazy or thick headed to take the time and learn it the right way. If you've taken the time to play it "as recorded," then you have actually learned something. Taking it beyond that is then commendable.
 




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