“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.“
Sir Isaac Newton
I completely understand the need for bands to want to perform their own songs. It gives you a sense of self-worth. Not to mention the pride in being able to craft your own songs. To be sure, no band wants to be known just as a cover band.
But, in as much as there is value in playing your own songs, don’t rush to purely playing own compositions. After playing cover songs for a while, some individuals in the band may express the desire to play some of your own creations. But with respect, sometimes early in a band’s life it may be remiss to play only original compositions at a show. It may reach a stage where it is in fact necessary to play more of your own songs but don’t jump the gun because a few necessary steps have to be taken before your band reaches that stage. And here are the reasons why.
The fact that you play other people’s songs doesn’t mean that you lack creative ability. You will probably tell yourself that the audience will think this of you. However when you harbour these kind of thoughts then you are focussing on the wrong things and worrying about things that you don’t need to worry about. Playing covers does not mean that you are performing an act of imitation. It is the exact opposite. A well done cover accomplishes the task of putting your own spin to a well-known song without altering it beyond recognition.
People are generally more receptive to songs they are already aware of.
As said earlier your band may be new and your own material may be inaccessible to the audience you are playing for. The risk you run of playing purely your own compositions is that the audience may not warm up to it. And if they don’t then a dull atmosphere is entrenched and you end up losing the crowd. Covers on the other hand take advantage of pre-existing popularity of songs and they immediately endear you to the crowd. Once you build this bond with the audience, you can throw in one or two of your own compositions.
However once you have your own record out whether it is an LP/EP or a plethora of singles and have popularised them through airplay and reviews then it is okay to play them live because part of the audience is already aware of them.
- Building your skillset
You can only learn so much from listening to music. Covers allow you to learn valuable musical skills practically. You get to learn different techniques and interpretations. When you finally come to creating your own music, the practical lessons you’ve acquired from playing covers can be applied.
- Finding Balance
Despite the advantages that come with playing covers, I must warn that care has to be taken in the songs and manner in which you choose to cover the songs.
First of all play songs that you are passionate about. Covering songs with indifference will translate to a very dull performance that could hurt your self-esteem and reputation as a band.
- Don’t play covers that highlight your weaknesses. If you after many attempts you are struggling with the riffs then that cover should never see the light of day.
- Keep your set list short with a healthy balance of cover songs and original songs. You don’t want to wear the audience out with too many songs. People have a short attention span and they can only tolerate you for so long.
Having said that I thought it would be cool to give a list of some local bands that have done some cool covers of songs that you may like.
Doveslimme – Smells like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Murfy’s fLaw – Billy Jean (Michael Jackson)
Powerslide – I miss you (Blink 182)
Rash – Shook me All Night Long (AC/DC)
The Seeds of Datura – Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
Bass II IV – Cheap Thrills (SIA) & Wave after Wave (Mr.Probz)
Irony Destroyed – Psychosocial (Slipknot)
These are the ones I can remember. Do you know any other bands that have done some cool covers? Leave a reply in the comment section down below.