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Covers: hi-fi, show-focused, or rearranged?

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  • Covers: hi-fi, show-focused, or rearranged?

    Hi all,

    what is your main way of arranging and playing covers with the band? I am thinking mainly about 3 possible approaches here:

    hi-fi: the target is to replicate a song perfectly i.e. note-by-note and with the sounds as close as possible to the original; corners can be cut (for example, when the original song recording has overdubs that would require additional players, or when the equipment available doesn't have exactly the perfect sound) but the principle is to keep modifications at a minimum; particularly, simplifying the instruments parts e.g. solos is not allowed

    show-focused: keep the song intact in terms of music and style, but instead of seeking perfect notes and sounds, focus on your own strengths; for example modify the solo to highlight your own skills, and use your favourite guitar effect or keyboard sound instead of trying to replicate the original exactly

    rearranged: significantly change something about the song, most typically the harmony, the rhythm, the genre, and the instruments or the sounds being used (modifying the melody and the lyrics is also possible, tho less common); essentially keep the song recognizable but make it clearly different

    I realize that in my own amateurish experience, I've always played covers with the hi-fi approach.

    On the other hand, when going and see someone else's concert, I largely prefer bands who rearrange them into their own versions, and the more modified compared to the original, the better!

    How do you prefer to play cover, and how do you prefer to hear them?
    Last edited by Li Shenron; 05-02-2018, 02:25 AM.

  • #2
    Currently in a band where the focus is def hi-fi. Last cover band tho was more rearranged. Which was fun. I like them both actually.
    Vocal Gear: Audix OM3xb, Boss VE-20 | Synth Gear: iPad running OnSong Korg iM1, Poison-202, Korg iMonoPoly, FM Player, Moog Model D, DM1 | Controllers: M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, Roland AX7 via Yamaha MD-BT01 Bluetooth


    • #3
      If it's not at least rearranged, I don't have an interest in hearing it. If I want to hear the song in its original form, I'll go ahead and listen to the original artist.


      • #4
        I strive for the hi-fi approach although there's no way that could ever happen. I get as close as possible with keyboard sounds without diving down a rabbit hole I can never crawl out of and I use splits, layers and occasionally samples to try and cover as much as I can of what's going on with some of these tunes.


        • #5
          As far as fidelity to the original version, the players themselves would have fits trying and then there's the problem of the signature vocals. There's that Lab Band that posts here. Every time they post something I feel like posting the original version.
          Originally posted by Unconfigured Static HTML Widget...

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          • #6
            Really just depends on the song.

            I come from the pedigree of trying to play every song note for note. So that is still the starting point. But with playing so much modern pop with what is still essentially a four-piece rock band (with two additional vocalists) format, some stuff HAS to be rearranged. A lot of songs are going to get a bit more 'rocked up' just by the nature of the instrumentation, but we never stray TOO far from the original arrangements. We don't go about changing sounds much, or melodies or harmonies or lyrics. We try to keep it pretty faithful, but it's going to sound more rock and raw and live.

            The exception being when we pull some songs apart to create mashups or medleys. Then it can kind of be a free-for-all.

            But I would say that the overall approach is to honor the song and respect what the audience wants to get from it (we talk often about keeping the 'meat' of a song) --- and remember that audiences focus mostly on drum beats and vocals. Keep those and honestly? Most people don't care a whit about which sound or patch you use or which solo you play unless it's something truly iconic.
            Last edited by guido61; 05-03-2018, 07:05 PM.


            • #7
              It's an important point perhaps that studio wizardry doesn't always translate to the live stage for the original artists either. My frequent impression is that live performances will be faster and more 'raw'.


              • #8
                Another important point (or maybe this is too vague to be a 'point' ) is that a lot of really just depends how good your band is. I've heard bands do arrangements that were not much at all like the original, but because the band was so hot the crowd loved it. And then there are those bands who are so bad that they are just doing the best they were able to come up with and using "it's our own arrangement" as an excuse.

                I guess the point is that you really just need to find that sweet spot for what works for you, and if the audience responds well, then you know you're on the right track. If they all start heading for the exits, then you'll know it wasn't the right arrangement or the right song for you.


                • Li Shenron
                  Li Shenron commented
                  Editing a comment
                  That's so true... I must say that I've been aware of the "it's our own arrangement" excuse since my very early days of playing music, and been always active in trying to avoid that. There is nothing to be ashamed of about being limited and not good enough, but you have to be honest with yourself and your audience.

              • #9
                I like to try to keep it close to what's on the record because I think that's what people expect to hear a lot of the time, but as ggm noted, you can usually only get part of the way to that, due to the inability to add all the parts that are typically done in the studio... so you compensate for that with the show and the excitement of the live performance, and bring a bit of your own thing to it.

                As far as solos, IMO, it depends on the song. If it's something that is so well-known and integral to the song (such as George Harrison's solo on Something), then I try to replicate the recorded version. If it's less well known, or more of a jam on the record, then I might do more of an improvised solo, or do a bit more of my own thing on it.

                As far as arrangements, I like to stick with the basic structure, but parts might get substituted, or morphed to fit the available instrumentation. Other times, I've been in bands where we completely redid things - changing the structure, doing a well known song in a different genre than it was originally done, changing the instrumentation and arrangement, etc. etc. It really just depends - on the band, on the gig - lots of things.


                "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                - George Carlin

                "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter


                • daddymack
                  daddymack commented
                  Editing a comment
                  you meant Clapton's solo...right?

                • Phil O'Keefe
                  Phil O'Keefe commented
                  Editing a comment
                  No, I meant Harrison's solo - while George had definitely learned a thing or three from Eric by the time of the Abbey Road sessions, it's definitely him playing the solo on Something, and not Eric Clapton.

              • #10
                I spent my early career in jukebox bands, where everything was note for note. It was a great training ground, but it got old very fast. By the time I was 22, I decided that a song is a song, not a particular version. I am always willing to learn the song as recorded, but I'm also listening for places to put my stamp on a make it evolve, somehow unique to my performing unit, do something different...otherwise, just hire a freaking DJ, y'know? Some things should be retained if you can't improve upon them, particularly guitar solos, and hooks. But 'improvement' is obviously subjective, and let's face it, you can't please everyone.

                As a songwriter, I have always allowed the band to interpret their parts unless I felt the original part I recorded or heard in my head was 'magical'. I doubt that when most bands finish recording, they look at each other and say, 'well, those are the best possible versions of those one will ever do anything different with them'.

                I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to play in a calypso-based band in the mid 1970s*. The original focus of the band was steel drums, and guitar was just there in the mix, but over time I pushed them on harmonies and instrumental interplay, and taking well known rock, folk and country tunes and twisting them into the calypso or reggae style, so we could do 'Hold'em Joe' or 'Matilda', and follow it with 'Amy' or 'Take it Easy', seamlessly sounding recognizable but definitely within the scope of the band's signature style.

                I can't even count how many times I've been approached to do 'tribute bands' over the years and I have [sadly] agreed to do a couple. They were stultifying. There is no creative process... it is robotic rote performance at its worst.

                *When I joined I was not only the token white guy, but also the only American. Everyone else was from Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, the when they asked me if I could relate to the 'island style', I told them 'of course, I was born and raised on an island too...Long Island...'
                Last edited by daddymack; 05-04-2018, 02:18 PM.
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                • #11
                  Depends on the music. I fall somewhere in the middle. The problem becomes when people alter it too much and becomes something unrecognizable or they miss a specific chord change.... that is crucial. I also see national acts ruin their own tunes live. Remember a lot of people like things presented to them as it was presented to them. Case in point is we do a Bob Marley tribute around his birthday in February. I do it in two cities and we get a huge response because we try to replicate it as close as we can. I don't screw with Marley stuff. It's not note for note but the bass lines don't change. You can't fake good Reggae and it's a specific music, a lot of guys can't exist in cultural music. Island people will have no problem pointing out mistakes, even if they are not musicians. You have to know what you are doing, there are a lot of layers. My wife is from Trinidad and even she knows if it's off.
                  "Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"


                  • #12
                    We try to get the "signature" parts darn close, and relax a little on the rest. I suggest a reality check by listening to the original group doing their cover version over periods of time....they're all different, but all correct. Remember, it might have taken them over 20 tries to patch together enough for the original release. Even the original group can't duplicate that playing it live, so unless you're a robotic type, just follow ^^^ line 1 and enjoy yourself!


                    • #13
                      Yes and if overdubs were recorded. A lot of bands stacked tracks also for a sound and that can be hard to replicate live. That's why a lot of bands record well but don't sound good live. You can always tell when it is sounding "thin" or something sounds like it's missing.
                      "Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"


                      • #14
                        Totally Hi-Fi. At least, as a keyboardist, I'm totally Hi-Fi. But, we're pretty much a tribute act that plays a lot of Journey and Kansas and Rush. And these are not exactly jam bands.
                        Last edited by Tullsterx; 06-19-2018, 08:48 PM.
                        Check my band: The Journey to Kansas ->
                        Key Rig: Alesis Fusion 8HD; Toshiba i7 laptop running Cantabile VST host with IK Multimedia Total Workstation Bundle, NI Vintage Organs, NI Scarbee Vintage Keys; Tyrell N6, Sylenth1, XLN Addictive Keys, NI FM8; Tascam US-1641 USB MIDI/Audio Interface; 2 x RCF Art 310-A MK III series monitors.


                        • #15
                          Well in that situation it makes sense.
                          "Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"