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

bottlenecker

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Here's another musician I don't think started in cover bands. I've done sound for them a few times at a small listening venue in my town. As far as I know she's recording and touring this act full time. I don't know about all her musicians, but I'm pretty sure her bass player is a full time player, also playing in other bands. I'm posting this to demonstrate that there is a level for original musicians where it can be their job, without ever being on the radar of the tdpri demographic. And they play music clubs all over the country that feature original touring and local bands.
 

dukewellington

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Something to be said for hard work and learning about what it means to be a performer. Start playing the bars on the regular, and you soon discover it isn’t about you. It’s all about the people in the bar and what they want to enjoy, or you don’t get asked back. So grab that Bandit and learn some more Supertramp.
 

msalama

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Is that the right approach?

It's not that clear cut.

You'll obviously need some non-original learning material in the beginning and a band to play with once you're proficient enough, but who says your band shouldn't play their own songs, good or bad, with some cover stuff included in order to pull the birds? It's not a hard either-or IMO.
 

eddiewagner

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Not to be snarky, but does anyone here have any originals we may have heard of?
I „ composed“ and played the first and fourth album of the multicolored shades and wrote a lot of stuff for captain twang.
Lately my composer-diesel ran low and we are covering songs our own way. That’s good fun. The audience loves it too.
 

cyclopean

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I originally came from the world of classical music and traditional church music. With VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS.....that is "cover music".
I want to play the very best possible compositions available. IF your original music is honestly better than all of the other songs out there, then by all means.....play your own compositions. But I'd be willing to bet real money, it's NOT. Play the best of the best music that's out there UNTIL your own songs are better. AND... don't get a chip on your shoulder about how good or bad your own songs are. Be objective.....AND humble about how your songs compare to other stuff......not every song on The Beatles' earliest albums were perfect......there's always room to learn from your "betters", and benefit from their "knowledge".
And, by the way,.....there's a lot of great music by people other than The Beatles......BUT they're really the "touch stone" if you really want to "start". ;)
Or just start writing and gigging.

Don’t sell yourself short.
 

cyclopean

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Something to be said for hard work and learning about what it means to be a performer. Start playing the bars on the regular, and you soon discover it isn’t about you. It’s all about the people in the bar and what they want to enjoy, or you don’t get asked back. So grab that Bandit and learn some more Supertramp.
I’ve played a lot of bar gigs without being in a cover band. I don’t think I’d ever want to do more than one cover a set if it isn’t halloween.
 

cyclopean

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Its more an issue of getting gigs. If you want to play local pubs and bars...people want to hire bands that play the standards. You can always work some originals in, but its tough to get gigs playing originals.
What local pubs and bars? I see a lot of music in local pubs and bars, and i almost never even see a listing for a cover band.
 

guitartwonk

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I’ve never played in an all-covers band. I’ve never wanted to. So the answer is a definite No.

You do need to cut your teeth playing live though, whether it’s covers or originals. It’s the act of being in front of a live audience that really teaches you more than you’ll ever learn at home or in rehearsal.
 

loudboy

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It can help, but it's not a necessity.

The Beatles, Stones and The Who all started out as cover bands. Did OK, after switching to originals.

U2 never did covers, they wrote songs that they were able to play. Things worked out for them, too.

In my experience, as a player in both types, and working as an engineer in studios for a while, I've found that cover bands generally have better players, and can work quickly and efficiently but there's not much "art" in what they do.

Original bands are more creative musically, but can be pretty lacking in the chops department and need a lot of guidance or post-production.
 

Cyberi4n

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Nothing "hones your chops" more than learning what others before you have done, either in your chosen genre, or in complementary genres. Once you really dig deep into songs, you appreciate their commonality with others in seemingly very different genres, and see how musical ideas have developed. It enhances your own creativity no end. Also, when you deep dive into covers you become a better (imho) musician, you pick up new songs to learn quicker, and you end up getting more out of any jam situation you may find yourself in with other musicians.

Here's the rub...

There's no written law that says you have to take this to a live act, and serve time, before you are allowed to graduate to playing originals. Some of the biggest bands in the world started as original material artists, who profess to have hardly ever played covers; some of the musicians on here who play regularly in covers bands have never written a line of original material in their lives.

In a live situation, play to your audience. If you are interested in writing your own material, do so, and try it out. If you are interested in being in a covers band, then do so. If you want to do a mix of both, then do so. Audiences faced with original material ALWAYS appreciate a well-timed cover, in your own style. Similarly, if you play covers in a covers band, you can usually sneak in one or two of your own songs and see how they go down - it worked for Van Halen!

Covers bands tend to play more songs, get paid at the local level, and are (if you're good) always fairly busy. Original material bands do seem to struggle in this respect, with often gigs bringing in no money at all, and limited audiences. it's a labour of love, and therefore becomes more about "art" rather than "playing".

Most of the bands I've ever played in have been original material bands - one of them, Dead Is Forever, you can find on youtube, Apple Music and Spotify etc. I've found songwriting easier as time has gone on, mainly because i've done a lot of deep-diving into the genres I'm interested in, and learnt some of the more popular songs that motivate me (but not necessarily playing them live). At my age though, 49, I'd now much rather a regular "gig" with a decent covers band, which pays me a bit of weekend pocket money, and gets me playing live, which I love. I've always struggled to find something though, and not being particularly active on social media doesn't help.

Kudos to anyone who has the guts and motivation to stand up in front of an audience with a guitar strapped to themselves, and expose their inner musicality to the world. It doesn't HAVE to be covers, it doesn't have to be originals, but it HAS to be music. Otherwise, what's the point right?
 

HaWE

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People here haven't even heard of clubs where original bands play, apparently.
Same here ... and there are even no more clubs / venues left over.There are some large discotheques around here. Until the 90`s they still had cover bands playing live every saturday and sunday evening.
But the big time for cover bands was in the 70`s and 80`s, cover bands playing all over the region,but nowadays most time it is the "DJ" with his laptop.
And there is hardly a place left were you can hear local Bands or Artists,above all playing own original songs.It seems there is no general interest.
And until some years ago, every ( even smaller ) village had a pub or inn , but nowadays the most have closed.
 

cyclopean

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Same here ... and there are even no more clubs / venues left over.There are some large discotheques around here. Until the 90`s they still had cover bands playing live every saturday and sunday evening.
But the big time for cover bands was in the 70`s and 80`s, cover bands playing all over the region,but nowadays most time it is the "DJ" with his laptop.
And there is hardly a place left were you can hear local Bands or Artists,above all playing own original songs.It seems there is no general interest.
And until some years ago, every ( even smaller ) village had a pub or inn , but nowadays the most have closed.
Are there vfws or basements or churches?
 

HaWE

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Are there vfws or basements or churches?
There are churches were sometimes artists are performing live music.There are also some bands playing new modern christian music.
But in general there are not many places were live music is performed.
In our region we have one place, it is called "Music Hall" were you can hear national and international bands and artists.Most of the audience is from "the older generation" (I guess over 30 years old) ,but most of the younger people seem to prefer to go to a discotheque and dance to the DJ.
 

4pickupguy

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I started out in cover bands initially and then moved quickly to original bands. Fusion then new wave bands, which I absolutely loved playing in. There were lots of venues for original bands in Dallas Fort Worth through the 80’s/early 90’s. They were the funnest gigs I ever played. I had started a family and needed steady income and my wife (the singer) and I quit our band who went on to hire a singer named Edie Brickell and called themselves The New Bohemians. In the mid 80’s I auditioned for a touring country artist playing his material and only got the gig because I played the songs exactly like the records. (Little did the artist know I only did that because I didn’t know a single country lick). The band openly did not want me. The artist overrode the band and I was in. I woodshedded like crazy and quickly learned that country music is not as easy and basic as I thought. In fact, done right, it was very hard. The band helped me along teaching me better time-feel, how to take cues from the band and give cues during improvising etc,.. I learned to read charts etc,.. I learned to deal with situations when things broke or when we were forced to use crappy back line amps.. etc. When the singer came off the road we formed a cover band with another singer and were booked almost every night for what seamed like an eternity. Best bass player I have ever played with and a great drummer named Keech, who I believe still plays for Lonestar (just checked and apparently he does). The I joined a cover band called Reatta and did that gig for years. Great band with a huge following but, it almost killed my love for music as it became a grueling soul killing grind. My son was becoming increasingly ill and I needed a job that kept me home more so I had to quit. The band replaced me with a guy named Shane who, oddly enough, later started Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney Texas.

I am the player I am (for better or worse) today because of being forced to learn things that I would have never learned on my own. Country still infuses my playing almost 2 decades later. That time also taught me a lot about writing and arranging.

Having said all that. I don't want to be in a cover band ever again. For me personally nothing is more musically rewarding than writing a song that moves somebody. Nobody cares if you nail a Lukather solo,.. Writing a song that reaches somebody (anybody) is so much more fulfilling for me.

“If you want to be musician, get a career that will allow you to play whatever music you want. Don’t do what I did”…
~Frank Zappa (literally on his death bed)
 
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