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#1
I recently started a band. Right now we have 2 guitarists, a drummer, and a bassist. We are also very close to having a singer, probably a girl. We're trying to figure what to play. Should we learn covers or just start writing original material. I'm thinking learn a decent amount of covers so we can get out and play asap and just play much as we want and rotate the covers so we always have a different show. Then we start importing our originals into the setlist as we write them. Focus 75% covers for a few months and then focus mainly on writing new songs after we have a decent thing going. My other bandmates think we should focus more on writing originals and not spend much time doing covers. Try to have our first show be all originals.
Any input would be greatly appreciated!
#2
Work on some originals and covers at the same time.

Having covers in your setlist engages the audience because your playing something that they can sing and dance along to. Nobody will know your originals if your playing them in public for the first time.
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Last edited by Attenuare at May 24, 2011,
#4
do a few covers from bands you all agree are great or songs everyone likes, it'll help you get tighter as a band and develop what your sound will be.
#5
What are your goals as a band? Do you want to do original music and take it as far as you can, or are you just looking to get out and play? This is important, especially for band chemistry.
Last edited by neversleeps84 at May 24, 2011,
#6
They're different things. They have different expectations of them, play at different venues, play for different amounts of time, and get paid differently. If I hire a cover band for my party, I would not like it at all if you took the opportunity to show off some pet project whilst my girlfriend gets the shits...and we're both musicians. We paid you to be a cover band, not an originals.

The other bandmembers are very correct in saying that you should spend more time on original songs if you want to be an original band because.....you want to be an original band.
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#7
if you want to be a cover band, stick to covers. if you want to do originals, stick to that. DO NOT incorporate originals into cover acts. venues dont like it because most (if not all) of the people there will not know your original. its a buzz kill when you're playing a set then you hit a song nobody knows. i've been in bars where people were up and moving around having a good time, then suddenly stopped. you will never get a gig there again if that happens to you.

also, if you're doing an original act, its okay to throw in one cover per set. generally i find if you do more than that, the audience starts to question if you guys can actually write music thats worth their time to follow the band.

trust me here. i've been in both cover and original act bands. DO NOT mix them. you cant start off as a cover band and slowly incorporate originals like everybody seems to think. its different venues and different audiences.
#8
Quote by User_Name336
i
trust me here. i've been in both cover and original act bands. DO NOT mix them. you cant start off as a cover band and slowly incorporate originals like everybody seems to think. its different venues and different audiences.


Yep I personally find it amazing the amount of people who believe that. It's most likely because original bands get more of a following from the audience (fans), whilst cover bands get a following from the venues.

I'll expand further. Whilst negotiating a fee for an originals band, you say "I can guarantee 20 fans will show up, they'll buy your drinks and pay your cover. The venue hires you on this basis. If you do a good job, hopefully more fans will show up at the next show.

Now with a cover band, you'll be generally playing in busy pubs which always have 100+ people there anyways. All you have to do is to keep them there, entertained, drinking and dancing. You do this by playing popular songs that they already know and can party to. If the venue is impressed with your job one night, they'll hire you again.
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#9
All the stuff about the difference between cover bands and originals is good advice and I'd add that a god covers band will rarely be out of paid gigs whereas an originals band will struggle to find places to pay and will probably end up playing a lot of gigs for nothing or just drinks.

However if as i suspect you are a first band or very inexperienced then you are going to need something to play at your first rehearsals. Playing in a band isn't like playing on your own and there are all sorts of new skills to learn. You don't want to turn up and look at each other and find there is nothing you can play because there are no songs you all know. Its worth having a couple of simple songs at least that you all know and agree on, which you can learn before you meet up. This means you can get straight into making music together. It doesn't matter that you will never perform these songs in public or if they are corny old rubbish, the only thing that matters is that it gets you playing. Once you've played through a couple of songs you are warmed up and ready to move on to working on the music you really want to do,
#10
Quote by User_Name336

trust me here. i've been in both cover and original act bands. DO NOT mix them. you cant start off as a cover band and slowly incorporate originals like everybody seems to think. its different venues and different audiences.


I agree thats why my band goes by a different name for cover gigs (same exact band just a different name). I'd like to add that you've also got a folloing for a coverband specifically for the songs you cover, the audience may love what you are playing, but they don't love you, they love the songs you chose to play. an original band is the opposite, they enjoy you as a band, not just some of the songs you play.

the other thing is how do you differentiate between your own acts? like one day a fan may fall in love with one of your originals, then see your name as performing at a local bar, and your only playing covers, the fan will then leave confused and disappointed (something you don't want happening). on the other side of things, what if someone sees you at a bar thinks you do a great job covering their favorite song by bon jovi so they hear that you are playing at a different venue, so they get their friends together and go see you but you're playing original stuff that is nothing like all the cover stuff you play. again you end up with disappointed fans. yes it's fine to pull out an original sometimes at a cover gig or to pull out a cover at an original gig, but overall I believe that they are two separate things.
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#11
You really just have to choose if you're going to be a cover band or an original band. Sure, maybe a cover band can throw in an original song at a gig once in a blue moon and an original band can do a cover every now and then, but like AlanHB said, you're appealing to 2 totally different audiences.

That being said, I've played in cover bands and original bands, and while they're both fun I enjoy playing originals WAY more
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#12
Okay. We want to write originals in the long run. So we should just start with originals and maybe a cover every now and then instead of starting with covers and slowly moving to originals.
For originals it seems like me and the drummer are going to be writing the most of it. How different can our stuff be? He's writing some grateful dead sounding with long jams and stuff and I'm more writing bluesy, classic rock and an acoustic thing every now and then. I know we don't want to be playing hard van halen type rock then switch to folky bob dylan, that won't get recieved very well but how far is acceptable?
#13
Quote by Natrtatr
Okay. We want to write originals in the long run. So we should just start with originals and maybe a cover every now and then instead of starting with covers and slowly moving to originals.
For originals it seems like me and the drummer are going to be writing the most of it. How different can our stuff be? He's writing some grateful dead sounding with long jams and stuff and I'm more writing bluesy, classic rock and an acoustic thing every now and then. I know we don't want to be playing hard van halen type rock then switch to folky bob dylan, that won't get recieved very well but how far is acceptable?


Your band will sound the same on every song no matter how different you think it sounds. The same people playing the same instruments will result in the same sound. The Beatles went through a lot of different genres, and they sound like The Beatles on every track.

As for the rest, read the above posts closely, they're very clear. If you want to play originals, play originals. If you want to play covers, play covers. If you mix the two, you're destined to fail
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#14
Quote by AlanHB
Your band will sound the same on every song no matter how different you think it sounds. The same people playing the same instruments will result in the same sound. The Beatles went through a lot of different genres, and they sound like The Beatles on every track.

agreed. plus once you start mixing all the influences you guys all bring to the table, you playing a slightly different genre guitar riff in one song, or the drummer doing a punk pattern, or the bassist doing a jazzy walk just wont influence the song as a whole nearly as much as you might believe. unless you deliberately go from a country song to death metal (please dont do anything like this) your audience won't hear much of a difference.
#15
Quote by AlanHB
They're different things. They have different expectations of them, play at different venues, play for different amounts of time, and get paid differently. If I hire a cover band for my party, I would not like it at all if you took the opportunity to show off some pet project whilst my girlfriend gets the shits...and we're both musicians. We paid you to be a cover band, not an originals.

The other bandmembers are very correct in saying that you should spend more time on original songs if you want to be an original band because.....you want to be an original band.


+1^^

Now TS there's nothing to say you can't learn a cover or two in the mean time so you actually have something to play during the first couple practices. It allows you to get used to playing with each other while you work on getting some original material done.

But as everyone has already said, you need to decide in the beginning if your doing originals or covers and stick with it.
#16
Ok. Yeah we won't be switching from country to death metal. And well stick to originals. Focus more on writing those than trying to learn covers. We have a few learned so we'll keep those just so we have something to play at practice. Thanks for all the input!
#17
I find it funny that e eryone says not to mix the 2 but bars in my area wwont let you play unless you do at least half covers... Oh the reasons I will never play a bar
#18
Quote by winterXsolstice
I find it funny that e eryone says not to mix the 2 but bars in my area wwont let you play unless you do at least half covers... Oh the reasons I will never play a bar

thats cuz they want a cover band..... I guarentee that the bars that require at least half covers, would rather put a band that does all covers than only half covers.

also you should read the reasons people say not to mix both.
Quote by Dirk Gently
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#19
@winter - So there are NO venues for original bands? What a sad scene!

CT
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#20
Quote by winterXsolstice
I find it funny that e eryone says not to mix the 2 but bars in my area wwont let you play unless you do at least half covers... Oh the reasons I will never play a bar


Well yeah, popular bars want cover bands. You know, in the way that popular radio stations play the same songs over and over again.
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#21
Ok. I get the reasons why people are saying don't mix them and i understand all that and it makes sense. I agree with all that. But we are a very new band, I don't even know if we can qualify as a "band". Our first gigs are going to be at peoples parties and stuff not at Wembley Stadium. 4th of July parties, birthday parties, etc. people there are going to want us to play covers and not originals. Especially originals written by a bunch of amateur high school kids. Suppose we learned some covers so we can play at parties, school open mic nights, lunch, etc. and then once we have some decent originals try to hit clubs and stuff?? And our originals aren't really going to be something most people wanna listen too. Our drummer wants to grateful deadish 10 minute improvised jams...I don't think he relizes that 99% of high school kids are not going to enjoy that and that we are nowhere near good enough...
So basically, learn covers and play at parties and smaller things then once we have decent originals try to get gigs at actual places. Is that something we could do?
#22
Quote by Natrtatr

So basically, learn covers and play at parties and smaller things then once we have decent originals try to get gigs at actual places. Is that something we could do?


Sure as long as you don't mix the two, and hopefully perform under a different name than your covers band.
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#23
Quote by Natrtatr
Suppose we learned some covers so we can play at parties, school open mic nights, lunch, etc. and then once we have some decent originals try to hit clubs and stuff??


Quote by AlanHB
Sure as long as you don't mix the two, and hopefully perform under a different name than your covers band.


I'm obviously on board with the idea that you don't go out playing pubs/clubs/other venues with a straight mix of covers & originals, but the places this guy is suggesting they gig covers at while they work up some originals look so informal that I can't imagine any mixture of material being remotely a problem.

I mean, parties for friends/relatives, open mic nights...in schools? Why would a mix of covers and originals be a problem at any of those places? Assuming he means informal "hey would you play at my 4th of July party, timmy's cousin" kindof thing and not "We're a function band for parties, weddings, outdoor events etc. charing $X/hr...", but he did mention he's in high school, so assuming the former seems safe.
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#24
If you want to play originals, write them and play them. Play 2 or 3 covers (maximum) in between to get the crowd going. Also, playing covers at rehearsals will help you to develop a feel for eachother 's playing.

Our set starts of with an original, a cover, followed by 5 originals, a second cover, then 4 originals and we end the set with another cover to leave the crowd with a buzz.
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#25
^^^^ Read the rest of the thread mate.

Quote by Damascus

I mean, parties for friends/relatives, open mic nights...in schools? Why would a mix of covers and originals be a problem at any of those places? Assuming he means informal "hey would you play at my 4th of July party, timmy's cousin" kindof thing and not "We're a function band for parties, weddings, outdoor events etc. charing $X/hr...", but he did mention he's in high school, so assuming the former seems safe.


I do see your point and it is a good one, but still mixing the two at any function is still presenting a flawed product. The only difference between playing the flawed product at these less serious situations is that the consequences will be less serious. If you play something they don't like they'll still clap politely or walk out of the room at worse, rather than heckling you and not playing at the venue again. You can choose to present a flawed product or not, it's just up to you.
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#26
@Damascus and Alan - Given the more informal situation, how would you define the audience? Customers? Friends? Something else? What is the audience's purpose for being there? To dance and party? To meet chicks/guys? To share and support?

I think that the expectations of the audience do define what you can and can't get away with.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#27

I do see your point and it is a good one, but still mixing the two at any function is still presenting a flawed product. The only difference between playing the flawed product at these less serious situations is that the consequences will be less serious. If you play something they don't like they'll still clap politely or walk out of the room at worse, rather than heckling you and not playing at the venue again. You can choose to present a flawed product or not, it's just up to you.


How do you feel about songs like Muse's version of Feeling Good? Dropkick Murphy's Which Side Are You On? Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower (or Hey Joe)? Massive Attack's Light My Fire? The White Stripes' I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (or Jolene)? The Levellers' English Civil War? Eric Clapton's I Shot The Sheriff? All of those have been played live,and most are on albums made up of otherwise original material...there doesn't seem to be too much concern about them being covers. I appreciate that most of the above are pretty substantial reworkings of the original, but it's certainly not unusual for an originals band to throw a cover or two into a set. There's a band near me which always opens with Folsom Prison Blues before going on to play a set of original material - I've yet to hear them criticised for including one song by somebody else.

I think your points are valid for a cover band. People want to know the songs, that's why they're there - you're a more interesting jukebox, in effect. But there's a bit more flexibility for originals bands to mix things up. And, of course, it depends heavily on genre. A lot of folk, blues, and jazz bands would laugh at you if you told them they weren't allowed to play other people's songs because they were doing their own material.
#28
^The key there is "a cover or two."

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#29
Quote by axemanchris
@Damascus and Alan - Given the more informal situation, how would you define the audience? Customers? Friends? Something else? What is the audience's purpose for being there? To dance and party? To meet chicks/guys? To share and support?

I think that the expectations of the audience do define what you can and can't get away with.

CT


Well they're customers, and you're giving them a taste of something so that they may want more, like those people who give out cheese at the supermarket. Like this little bit of cheese? Well you can buy a big one just over there!

Quote by Samzawadi
Big bands play covers, you can too!


I don't really like comparing my own bands against industry heavyweights, you can also say that aussie band Youth Group got a number 1 hit with their cover of the song "Forever Young" in 2006. The only problem was that they were a punk/indie-rock band and the song sounded nothing like the rest of their stuff. They alienated their original fan base, and those who picked up the album were shocked to find indie rock on the album. Now the band has been on an "extended break" since 2009.

Actually recently (2 weeks ago) I played a really good gig with my originals band, and stuck a cover in (Boys of Summer). The most common comment coming from the crowd was "I really enjoyed that set, with the exception of the cover". Perhaps with covers there's a reference point there for the audience to compare it to, and if you don't meet their expectations of the song, then it can backfire. We're now removing the cover from the set.
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#30
Excellent summary there.

I appreciate that direct comparisons with big bands are risky - Van Halen get away with demanding a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out, for example, small bands will *not* - I just feel that you were a bit too categorical in rejecting all covers for all original bands.

you can also say that aussie band Youth Group got a number 1 hit with their cover of the song "Forever Young" in 2006. The only problem was that they were a punk/indie-rock band and the song sounded nothing like the rest of their stuff. They alienated their original fan base, and those who picked up the album were shocked to find indie rock on the album.


Yeah, fair enough. You do need to put some thought into how *all* the songs you do work together and whether they form a coherent picture of the 'Gigging Band #4326 experience'.

Perhaps with covers there's a reference point there for the audience to compare it to, and if you don't meet their expectations of the song, then it can backfire. We're now removing the cover from the set.


This is a very good point. My band's doing a couple of covers as part of sets over the next couple of days - a pretty straight cover of Fools Gold (Stone Roses), and a somewhat reworked Insomnia (Faithless), and we'll definitely take audience response into account when deciding whether to do so again. You'd be a fool not to.
#31
Quote by AlanHB
Actually recently (2 weeks ago) I played a really good gig with my originals band, and stuck a cover in (Boys of Summer). The most common comment coming from the crowd was "really enjoyed that set, with the exception of the cover". Perhaps with covers there's a reference point there for the audience to compare it to, and if you don't meet their expectations of the song, then it can backfire. We're now removing the cover from the set.


Not sure that had anything to with the fact that it's a cover Then again, I just accidently stuck my little finger up my nose trying to wash my face, and I understand it was a pretty popular tune.

Also, again, I agree with everything everyone's saying about covers & originals & gigs & so on, but at the level the TSer is planning to play? I've seen school talent shows and the like and it's difficult for me to believe that getting the same mix of originals & covers that a band gigging proper venues (whether originals band or covers band) is more important to a bunch of inexperienced high school kids than actually getting experience playing live in front of people at informal events no-one will remember, regardless of what they're actually playing.
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#32
We would be playing at informal stuff. We wouldn't be "We're a function band for parties, weddings, outdoor events etc. charing $X/hr...", It be at friends parties, 4th of July block parties, little stuff like that. The biggest thing we'd get probably is no more than 2 dozen people and that be a lot. And we would take audience feedback into consideration. If they didn't like something then we'd probably remove it and vice versa That's another thing I'm thinking. If we write originals it be better to figure out that they are bad at a little party we're playing than at our first show and realize our entire setlist is just a bunch of shitty originals. We just want to get out there and get experience playing and have fun.
The drummer wants to have the first show at an actual venue (and for where we live it be the biggest thing we'd ever do) and cover an entire album. Meddle and Animals by Pink Floyd. 2112 by Rush. Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin. I'm guessing that most high school kids don't want to listen to bunch of high school kids trying to play echoes. He doesn't realize we are nowhere near good enough to do that either. (He keeps changing his mind on what he wants to do). I think that if we did that we'd probably fail miserably. And if we did manage to pull it off then we're a "Pink Floyd Cover Band" which isn't what we want either.
#33
If you're looking for an excuse to mix them, we've supplied the arguments against it, just go with whatever you've thought from the start.
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#34
Quote by axemanchris
@Damascus and Alan - Given the more informal situation, how would you define the audience? Customers? Friends? Something else? What is the audience's purpose for being there? To dance and party? To meet chicks/guys? To share and support?

I think that the expectations of the audience do define what you can and can't get away with.

CT


IMHO, those audiences are primarily friends and well-wishers who are there to support you, share in some music, and who want you to do well.

Given that, I'd say it doesn't matter what you play, so long as you are trying to please them.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#35
Quote by axemanchris
IMHO, those audiences are primarily friends and well-wishers who are there to support you, share in some music, and who want you to do well.

Given that, I'd say it doesn't matter what you play, so long as you are trying to please them.

CT


On the flip side, how many times can you play to them until they stop showing up? I know my girlfriend definitely doesn't go to every gig I have, I'm pretty sure your wife may skip a few of yours

How long can you be satisfied with the family and friends as they slowly drop off? I still think that you should aim to create a product in the off chance that one of your family/friends/friends of friends goes "hey, you know your son's band would be really good at x event!". But if you present yourselves as sloppy amateurs with a flawed product, they'll just go "maybe I'll just get that good band for x event".
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#36
True, but you and I aren't playing open mics and talent shows and that sort of thing either, though.

How many talent shows are people going to go to anyways before their kid graduates from high school and moves on?

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#37
I have no idea

You could also say the market is a consideration too. In Nashville it became very clear that the venues for up and coming artists were open mic nights, all of which had an extremely high level of quality, and strict rules. The basic rules were "two songs, take turns" with four people on stage. You sure as hell didn't want one or both to be a cover, otherwise you wouldn't be showing what you're really all about.

If you did well enough at the open-mic nights, you were invited to participate in singer-songwriter nights, which were in a similar format except with 2-3 singer/songwriters taking their turns, and also being paid. From there they would be invited to play their own gigs.

You definitely would have to impress at THOSE open mic nights if you wished to step up.

But hey, if TS doesn't want to take it seriously, and pass up being serious until he's old enough or something, it's not like we could change his mind over an internet thread.
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#38
Are you looking for paid gigs? If so, I'd say don't mix. If you're just doing unpaid short sets at open mics or parties, I'd say who cares. Chances are high that any party you play is going to be populated with at least a handful of people that you know, and most open mics that I've been to were full of bands that played a cover, an original or two, and closed with a cover. You're not likely to get much more than a 3-4 song time slot. Though you could also go the opposite route there too, and just focus all your energy into writing 3-4 good originals and that's that...

I can see both sides of this, because I'm in a very similar position as you are TS. My band has been together a few months now (and in a seemingly perpetual search for a 4th member), and we're kinda struggling because writing originals can be very time consuming, and our practice time isn't very plentiful. Covers are easier for us, but originals are way more fun when everything clicks.

At the end of the day I'd probably take the advice of the people here who say to keep them seperate, but just keep in mind that it's not an absolute iron clad rule that you have to follow. Some venues are fine with mixing, just make sure you clarify before the gig. Especially if it's a paid gig.
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#39
Quote by AlanHB

But hey, if TS doesn't want to take it seriously, and pass up being serious until he's old enough or something, it's not like we could change his mind over an internet thread.


What the hell has Nashville's scene got to do with this high school kid and his start-up band?

They haven't been together very long, they're not experienced and they want to get experience by playing shows in an informal, forgiving environment. Have you you forgotten what it's like getting up in front of people as a kid whose never really done it before? Because it really feels like you're trying to shit all over this to prove a point that isn't relevant to his situation.
Quote by Ed O'Brien
“It’s not genius. It’s just that if you want something good to come out of something, you have to put in a lot of effort. That involves a lot of hard work, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears sometimes.”

http://urbanscarecrow.bandcamp.com/
#40
Quote by Damascus
What the hell has Nashville's scene got to do with this high school kid and his start-up band?

They haven't been together very long, they're not experienced and they want to get experience by playing shows in an informal, forgiving environment. Have you you forgotten what it's like getting up in front of people as a kid whose never really done it before? Because it really feels like you're trying to shit all over this to prove a point that isn't relevant to his situation.


Geez I'm sorry if I offended you mate. Axeman made the good point that it depends on the music and audience, I simply pointed out that Nashville has a serious open mic night scene happening and in that situation, you may want to take it a bit more seriously.

I feel that if you do wish to get further in a music career there is a point where you should start considering these things, but you're correct in saying that TS is probably not in that position.

But in terms of "shitting all over everything to make a point", well I don't feel I'm doing this. If you feel that I am, I'm sorry and here's a hug.
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