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Why do some guitar players for cover bands struggle to play original sound

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  • Why do some guitar players for cover bands struggle to play original sound

    Hello my friends:

    I have worked with many cover-band guitar players and noticed that all of them struggle to play original tune.
    There are great guitar players, no doubt but I have noticed that if a guitar player do primarily cover music, they seem to struggle when asked to play an original sound.

    This assertion is not based on research but rather my own experience. I could get a guy to play an entire Rolling Stones album but the moment I say, lets play this song, then I can't even get the guy to stay on timing which seem to be the biggest issue.

    I am not a guitar player and I am always looking for session players but most of the players I have come across are cover band people and they just struggle with timing and playing anything else.

    I wouldn't say all guitar players for cover band are not good but it seem I am finding a trend.

    Does any of this sounds familiar or have you experienced the same issue?


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  • #2
    Lotta phonies in that business. To be fair it takes a fair amount of work to do music as a language rather than a mimicked behavior.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by 1001gear View Post
      It takes a fair amount of work to do music as a language rather than a mimicked behavior.
      Interesting topic, and that's a very interesting comment. Reminds me of the old joke "To make it in Hollywood, you need to be sincere. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."

      I could certainly imitate a painting reasonably well, but I would find coming up with an original painting difficult...seems like the same phenomenon.

      Then there's the question of how you choose to hone your skills. In a cover band, it's essential to be able to reproduce the sound, style, etc. with a great deal of authenticity. So I would assume people who do that for a living concentrate on developing those skills rather than coming up with original sounds, which will not help them make a living.

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      • #4
        I chalk it up to the fact that they've developed the skills they need to do what's important to them. Honestly, I work with a lot of musicians, and I find that the hardest people to work with are the folks who have never played anything but classical music. They're used to repeating what's written on a score, and that's it! They can't improvise at all, but nobody is better at sight reading a score!
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        • #5
          Originally posted by audioicon View Post
          Hello my friends:

          I have worked with many cover-band guitar players and noticed that all of them struggle to play original tune.
          There are great guitar players, no doubt but I have noticed that if a guitar player do primarily cover music, they seem to struggle when asked to play an original sound.

          This assertion is not based on research but rather my own experience. I could get a guy to play an entire Rolling Stones album but the moment I say, lets play this song, then I can't even get the guy to stay on timing which seem to be the biggest issue.

          I am not a guitar player and I am always looking for session players but most of the players I have come across are cover band people and they just struggle with timing and playing anything else.

          I wouldn't say all guitar players for cover band are not good but it seem I am finding a trend.

          Does any of this sounds familiar or have you experienced the same issue?

          It's off the beaten path. It's probably enough for some people to just find a way to play some music, and it may be gratifying enough just to be able to play songs they know and to play that part. 1001gear's answer works. It's one thing to step in the tracks someone else has left, and quite another to strike out on your own. Original music likely hasn't been listened to over and over, and then jammed along with until something congeals that resembles closely enough the target. And there's 'tab' for practically every hit out there.

          If someone has never spent more than 5 minutes improvising, it's highly unlikely they will do well with it in their first hour, day, week, etc...depending.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MrHarryReems View Post
            I chalk it up to the fact that they've developed the skills they need to do what's important to them. Honestly, I work with a lot of musicians, and I find that the hardest people to work with are the folks who have never played anything but classical music. They're used to repeating what's written on a score, and that's it! They can't improvise at all, but nobody is better at sight reading a score!
            There are classical musicians that can do more than just that. I'm one of them. But, like you say, those that have never improvised don't improvise well. Kids that only play football aren't very good at tennis. And just to clarify, classical musicians aren't repeating what's in the score, they are expressing what's in the score, hopefully. The latter (expressing) is considerably less mindless than what the former (repeating) might imply.

            Also, only the conductor and composer are privy to the score usually. The score is the notation for all the instruments involved. The players themselves normally have their own respective parts in front of them. Players in smaller ensembles might frequently refer the score, but again, they are reading their own instrument's part when rehearsing or performing.
            Last edited by RockViolin; 01-03-2018, 09:49 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by RockViolin View Post

              There are classical musicians that can do more than just that. I'm one of them. But, like you say, those that have never improvised don't improvise well. Kids that only play football aren't very good at tennis. And just to clarify, classical musicians aren't repeating what's in the score, they are expressing what's in the score, hopefully. The latter (expressing) is considerably less mindless than what the former (repeating) might imply.

              Also, only the conductor and composer are privy to the score usually. The score is the notation for all the instruments involved. The players themselves normally have their own respective parts in front of them. Players in smaller ensembles might frequently refer the score, but again, they are reading their own instrument's part when rehearsing or performing.
              My fiddle player is one of those guys that was raised on classical, but can improvise like nobody's business. I recently had need of a sub, and the guy that was recommended had been playing for 40 years, but never improvised or played by ear! I simply don't have the time or the energy to notate all of the fiddle parts for my entire set. Lead sheets and scratch tracks have to be enough!
              http://thekiltlifters.com

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              • #8
                The same applies to a lot of players who are sight readers too. Most have no clue how to improvise. The rare ones that can sight read and compose are usually amazing of course.
                Last edited by Makzimia; 01-04-2018, 02:11 PM.

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                • #9
                  Musician is a big word. There's a lot of territory. For quite a few it's probably close enough to a lifetime's work to attempt to master even one of the many disciplines. A dear departed forumite known as Angelo to many, Rudy to some, tried to line me up to play traditional Chinese violin for some project and I had to say no. I can go a lot of places and not feel like an impostor, and I know my limits, especially given the time frame he had in mind.

                  I'm reminded of the time a *mathematician* Jazzer friend of mine got lined up to sub for the orchestra pianist for a pops concert. (He's very good at what he does, has the jazz theory locked down and teaches it.) He had about a 30 second solo to play and that was it. He was freakin for 2 weeks leading up to it - the fact that he had to start when cued, play exactly what was on the page and finish exactly so had him practically breaking out in hives! He actually did alright, but it took some nerve and a bit of therapy from yours truly might have helped a bit.

                  Anyway, people need to line up the right guy for the job - not be snooty and look down their nose at what happens to walk in the door.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RockViolin View Post
                    Musician is a big word. There's a lot of territory. For quite a few it's probably close enough to a lifetime's work to attempt to master even one of the many disciplines. A dear departed forumite known as Angelo to many, Rudy to some, tried to line me up to play traditional Chinese violin for some project and I had to say no. I can go a lot of places and not feel like an impostor, and I know my limits, especially given the time frame he had in mind.

                    I'm reminded of the time a *mathematician* Jazzer friend of mine got lined up to sub for the orchestra pianist for a pops concert. (He's very good at what he does, has the jazz theory locked down and teaches it.) He had about a 30 second solo to play and that was it. He was freakin for 2 weeks leading up to it - the fact that he had to start when cued, play exactly what was on the page and finish exactly so had him practically breaking out in hives! He actually did alright, but it took some nerve and a bit of therapy from yours truly might have helped a bit.

                    Anyway, people need to line up the right guy for the job - not be snooty and look down their nose at what happens to walk in the door.
                    Well said!
                    http://thekiltlifters.com

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Makzimia View Post
                      The same applies to a lot of players who are sight readers too. Most have no clue how to improvise. The rare ones that can sight read and compose are usually amazing of course.
                      Presumably, Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart were all good players who could read well before or at least as they began to write. The two aren't mutually exclusive at all I don't think.

                      (You may know the difference, but many people don't. There's reading music and there's sight-reading music. Sight reading entails reading and playing whatever is dropped in front of you, cold. Some people are good at it to the point where you'd never know that they are playing music they've never seen or heard before.)

                      Most players are content to be just that, a player. In the classical world especially I suppose. Who needs to write when Bach, Beethoven and Mozart are at hand? Well for some reason I did, and as long as the violin part wasn't too demanding I'd be listening in awe at what Mahler was doing with the bass, inner voices, while I'm playing a long note at the top of the fingerboard, etc etc..

                      I started young, when I was 5. I learned Suzuki method, which is to say by ear for quite a while. I was 10 before I really began to approach learning to read music, and I was behind others who had been learning to read from the get go for quite a while. It wasn't long (14) before a corrupting friend had gifted me the Led Zeppelin album, The Song Remains The Same. I can still remember where I was standing when I had the thought to play along. From there on I was mimicking guitar parts or making up violin parts to hopefully compliment whatever was going on for pretty much every album that I got my hands on, whether it was L.Z. Rush, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, Tommy Bolin, Prince, Fripp, Herbie Hancock, AC/DC, Metallica, or White Zombie. Nobody was safe.

                      For some reason, to be a good classical violinist was not enough.

                      To the extent this is a derail, or an all about me post I apologize, and I shall not comment on my own amazingness, what little there may be of it.
                      Last edited by RockViolin; 01-05-2018, 01:59 PM.

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                      • Makzimia
                        Makzimia commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I have been lucky enough to play with many people far better than me. I have played with people who also sight read cold on the spot and do brilliant work, then asked to improvise, just lose it . As you say, some people are just happy to be players.

                      • RockViolin
                        RockViolin commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Me too. I get the impression though that it's cause to get all puffed up or something for some on the other side of the fence.. that most classical cats can't jam much, if at all, (which isn't surprising to me). Or that there's something about being able to read that will wreck a person as an improviser, which would not be true. Not all cooks can bake, but some can and I just think folks should be wary of painting with too broad a brush. FWIW I've been around some and the classical musicians I've known are far less likely to be tickled pink by by the fact that they can do something that some other musicians can't. ;-)
                        Last edited by RockViolin; 01-06-2018, 05:35 PM.

                    • #12
                      People who take lessons on an instrument generally learn to read music. Naturally. But what's often ignored, and I've ranted about this here and there, is learning to play by ear. Developing the ears is very important. I developed my ears throughout my adult life. There was the epiphany one time playing the juke box in a pizza place I was having lunch with a guitar player friend of mine (I play piano). He told me to focus on the bass line in whatever we were playing (on the juke box). He pointed out that the bass line held the "key" (not the key a song is in) to hearing/figuring out the chord changes. This was circa 1978. He was playing gigs in clubs when 5-6 nights a week gigs existed. Anyway, people had lists of songs they used on these gigs. Players learned them by hearing them and figuring them out. Simple stuff like "Proud Mary" , but also some more sophisticated chord changes like "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" by Stevie Wonder. People would learn this stuff by ear mostly.

                      I'm out of touch with current pop music. I do sometimes complain about what I call the 4 chord singer songwriter/EDM syndrome. 4 chords repeated over and over and over.

                      The composers' music that the classical players read on the printed page, those composers had ears. They had ears growing out their ears. They developed them intentionally. People like Bach did "species counterpoint" to develop their ears.

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint
                      Last edited by davd_indigo; 01-05-2018, 09:29 PM.
                      https://soundcloud.com/david-goethe/tracks

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                      • #13
                        Beyond the rules of progression and voice leading, Baroque through mid Romantic is actually quite riffy; albeit prolifically. the mystery becomes one of cognition, What, When, Why...
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                        • #14
                          Originally posted by 1001gear View Post
                          Beyond the rules of progression and voice leading, Baroque through mid Romantic is actually quite riffy; albeit prolifically. the mystery becomes one of cognition, What, When, Why...
                          For Baroque, with due respect to Bach and a fair bit less to Handel, I don't think anyone brings the riffs harder than Vivaldi.

                          Mozart and Beethoven are a toss up for me. Mozart is groovier. His 2nd violin parts are often where it's at and are a lot of fun to play and are sometimes quite difficult. Nobody else would have me preferring to play 2nd violin. Nobody.

                          Then there's Wagner, and Anton -does it twice- Bruckner. They'd be late Romantic wouldn't they? Early late?

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                          • 1001gear
                            1001gear commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Late middle.

                        • #15
                          Originally posted by davd_indigo View Post

                          I'm out of touch with current pop music. I do sometimes complain about what I call the 4 chord singer songwriter/EDM syndrome. 4 chords repeated over and over and over.

                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint
                          One more chord than most rock/bloooz.
                          Last edited by MrHarryReems; 01-06-2018, 06:44 PM.
                          http://thekiltlifters.com

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