#1
Hey everyone! I am in a band that is currently working on our debut EP in the studio with all original material. We are playing a pretty big show soon (over 5000 people), and we are opening for Johnny Reid and Michelle Wright. We are stuck in a rut of deciding wether we should play all original material or if we should play some covers too because we are not well known. Any suggestions will help!
#2
If you are an originals band, play as many originals as possible, because you want people to listen to your own songs, right? And people won't listen to your songs, unless you play them. I would say covers are pretty useless if you play them exactly like the original band - that's what cover bands are for. So if you are going to play a cover, play it in your style. That's what most popular originals bands that have also played covers have done. They have made the cover songs their own, and if you didn't know they were covers, you would think they were the band's own songs. Just listen to Van Halen's "You're No Good". Sounds pretty different from the original.
Quote by AlanHB
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Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
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Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
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Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#3
I'm a strict believer that original bands play originals, cover bands play covers. If an originals band plays a cover, the audience will like it more than your originals, partially because they already know the song. If a covers band plays an original, they lose the dance floor.

I've played guitar for originals bands who have their EPs of originals music but play half covers live. People come up after to buy an EP, then pull out when they realise that their favourite cover isn't on there.

So don't play covers if you want people to listen to your originals.

I understand people haven't heard your music before, but you gotta start somewhere.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#4
I think that one cover is ok, maybe two if you have a really long set, altough it looks like the trend is going to all origial songs, at least here. A few years all local bands had one or two covers in their set, and now very few do. But yeah, dont put like half a set of covers, keep it to a bare minimum.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#5
Pretty much agree with the two comments above. If you have enough original material this is a showpiece event for you so show your best stuff, and the side that you want fans to love. One cover at the end is OK, it can show off how well you play with a song you already know people love, but only do a cover if it says something meaningful about you as a band. Just about all bands do the odd cover at some stage of their careers but decide if you are an originals band or a covers band and keep focus.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Jun 3, 2015,
#6
Play both. Great bands always mix in covers of their favorite influences and create a fresh vibe by owning it and making it theirs. If your original music is strong, it will stand up alongside these epic songs. If your originals are weak, you will need some covers to capture the audience.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#7
One or two covers maybe, closer to the end of the set. I agree with everyone else on here that you should use this as a chance to showcase your music, seeing as you ultimately want to get your original material heard.
If you do a cover, I'd suggest you choose something people know, but not something super obvious. For example if you play Smells Like Teen Spirit you risk looking like a bunch of 8th graders, even if you play it well. I'd suggest picking something that sounds like it could almost be one of your own songs, and is a little more contemporary. Personally I'm hesitant to cover anything from before the 90s (even though that rules out a lot of good songs, and there are definitely exceptions). With an original music band, your goal playing covers isn't to please everybody, but to connect the audience to one of your influences or to get some people in the audience to be like, "hey, that's cool, I see what they did there".
Don't know if that helps or makes any sense but I hope it does.
#8
Quote by Cajundaddy
Play both. Great bands always mix in covers of their favorite influences and create a fresh vibe by owning it and making it theirs. If your original music is strong, it will stand up alongside these epic songs. If your originals are weak, you will need some covers to capture the audience.


No matter how strong your originals are, it won't beat a song the audience already know and like. It's a bit of a trap because the cover could potentially entertain or otherwise re-engage the audience, but you will not be getting them to show up next time.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#9
If your original material is strong enough to get the audience interested I say do all originals, but if some of your originals are just "filler" for your CD and not really strong enough for a live show, an energetic rearranged cover could be your savior. I'd rather hear a powerful cover than a weak original. Maybe you can rehearse a few and have them ready if necessary. If the audience is giving you positive feedback stick with your originals but maybe have two really powerful covers ready to go. Like the Boy Scout's motto: Be Prepared.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Jun 4, 2015,
#10
Be prepared to have covers just in case your originals are crap? How about be prepared to write better originals?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#11
Quote by AlanHB
No matter how strong your originals are, it won't beat a song the audience already know and like. It's a bit of a trap because the cover could potentially entertain or otherwise re-engage the audience, but you will not be getting them to show up next time.


Difference of opinion I guess. We nearly always played both and the hot original tunes got the most requests to play again later in the night. Bahia, High Heels, I Don't Care, and Krafty Hands were our top ten singles that never made top ten but the fans loved em and asked for them by name. I should rework those songs as I think the music would still stand up today.

I was trying to think of an A-list rock band that never ever covered other's music but I couldn't think of even one. Everybody does it and the best bands make it their own and create their own groove instead of doing a note-for-note paint by numbers thing.

To capture an audience you need great songs and you really need to own them. Just playing through all the right notes doesn't cut it. Be the ball. People are very attracted to this.

JMHO
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 4, 2015,
#12
^ Yeah. I think the main point is to play them like they were your songs. It won't work if it sounds too close to the original version. That kind of covers are pointless. (For example I remember when the Finnish band Sturm Und Drang played a pointless Iron Maiden cover. It sounded very similar to the original - and the original actually sounded a lot better. It just had that kind of "trying to sound like Maiden" feeling.)

As I said, Van Halen covered some songs in their own style and did it well. I didn't even know "You're No Good" was a cover when I heard it for the first time. It sounded like Van Halen to me.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#13
It is also relevant how many you play in the set. The A List guys would rarely do more than one an hour, if you must cover a song, try to stick to that.

There's also the "why" you are learning covers too. If you are learning covers because (a) you need to fill up the rest of the set or (b) you have enough songs but people aren't interested in them, you are not learning covers for the right reason.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#14
Quote by AlanHB
It is also relevant how many you play in the set. The A List guys would rarely do more than one an hour


Ahem,
As long as we are willing to ignore The Beatles, The Stones, Clapton, Santana, Brian Setzer, Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Van Halen, Joe Cocker, SRV, KT Tunstall, Coldplay, John Mayer, Jeff Beck, Stryper, Norah Jones, Nirvana, Madonna, The White Stripes, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Aerosmith, BB King, Pantara, Tommy Emmanuel, and on and on and on.

Everybody plays covers and some do a lot of covers live. I don't like to put musicians in a "only play originals" box when it is based on a false premise. Play what you play well. Own the music and audiences will respond.

http://www.coversproject.com/

JMHO
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 7, 2015,
#15
I think we've had this discussion before

Your approach may have been valid in the 70s or 80s. Unfortunately it's not the case anymore. Even the guys you list will mostly play originals live.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Last edited by AlanHB at Jun 7, 2015,
#16
I'm all for ignoring that list of A-listers in favor of the 687 other A-listers that don't do a bunch of covers. Besides, saying "it worked for the exceptions" doesn't mean that it will work for everyone. Also there is a big difference between a performance going over well and it being memorable. If your fans are asking for your originals by name, they've probably heard you play a bunch of times at your regular spot. Nobody is going to ask you to play your originals by name after only hearing you play once, especially if they only remember you because of that Skynyrd cover.

I rend to agree with Alan on this topic whenever it comes up, particularly the part about how originals are always overshadowed by covers because the covers are more familiar to them. I don't see how anyone could argue with that, especially if they are saying that it's obviously just because you need better originals. It's not even just with covers either. There are plenty of famous bands that put out new material that is just as good as their older material, but it doesn't initially get a warm response. Why? Because they audience isn't as familiar with the new stuff yet.

But I would like to make a note that it does depend on the genre. Like if you were playing in a metal band you probably wouldn't be as likely to do covers, but if you play bluegrass you're expected to play some of the old standards.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#17
Quote by AlanHB

Your approach may have been valid in the 70s or 80s. Unfortunately it's not the case anymore. Even the guys you list will mostly play originals live.


Everybody is entitled to their opinion but really? 70s and 80s? Last I checked Pantera, Slayer, Def Leppard, Stryper, Coldplay, Tommy Emmanuel, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, AC/DC, Nora Jones, Garth Brooks, The Stones, and Santana were touring in 2012-2015 and there are a whole bunch of cover tunes in their set lists. Lots of heavy rock and metal out there also with zero bluegrass oldies. Don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

Still looking for that list of "687 other A-listers that don't do a bunch of covers (and never played covers while working their way up)." There simply is no such list. It is a figment of someones vivid imagination. Essentially everyone played covers on their way up.

In the end, we each believe what we choose to believe so if you need to put yourself in that "only original music or die" box, go for it. The rest of us will continue to follow a well worn path established by top touring artists who often play covers at their shows, especially while on their way up trying to get recognized and established.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 7, 2015,
#18
^^^ I'm not saying they don't play covers, just that they'll rarely do more than one an hour. Your argument is on the other extreme end, stating that it's ok to play 2-3 hours of covers, then an original. Obviously there's no middle ground to be found there.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#19
Quote by AlanHB
^^^ I'm not saying they don't play covers, just that they'll rarely do more than one an hour. Your argument is on the other extreme end, stating that it's ok to play 2-3 hours of covers, then an original. Obviously there's no middle ground to be found there.


I don't believe I ever made that argument. The OP asked about mixing in a few covers to their set. I agree, you don't, different strokes. Let's not put words in each others mouths to fabricate extreme views.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 7, 2015,
#20
^^^ You are disagreeing with "one song per hour", how many do you think is suitable?

Although you never straight out said it, I've inferred that you were in a cover band that played originals every now and then due to "requests later in the night".

Original bands might get the odd request here and there on the local scene, but usually not because they only play 1 set with no break, there's little opportunity for the audience to make that request. There is no second set, no "later in the night". This is why I think you were in a cover band. You are free to correct me if I'm wrong.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Last edited by AlanHB at Jun 7, 2015,
#21
Quote by AlanHB
^^^ You are disagreeing with "one song per hour", how many do you think is suitable?


I don't think it's necessary to put a 1-per-hr box around it. The pros don't. Play what you play well.

I have been in a lot of bands. Cover only bands, mixed covers and originals, originals only, opened for headliners, played frat parties, festivals, street fairs, dive bars and juke joints and on and on. People just want to hear great songs played with conviction. No one really cares if you wrote the song or not IMO.

I'll leave you with this tidbit from John Mayer. He is one of the finest songwriters that is currently touring and he has a mountain of original material to pull from. He has always and still often does covers. Make note of his openers and closers :

http://www.setlist.fm/stats/average-setlist/john-mayer-23d6bc3b.html?year=2010
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 7, 2015,
#22
^^^ The link you gave links to a set with two covers out of 17, starting and ending with originals, it mayn't be the list you were intending to send. I actually caught John Mayer on his last tour - he's great.

That's cool that you've been in a bunch of different types of bands, I have too. Although the sentiment that the audience just wants to hear "good songs played well" is nice, it's not true in my experience.

With cover bands in particular it can be really obvious. One minute you have a packed dance floor, but just play one song that doesn't go down well and it completely clears, leaving you to have to finish the rest of the song, eying off the setlist in hope to rebuild it again. It's not that you played it badly, or that it's a bad song, it just wasn't right for that audience.

The worst case scenario is that when you reach the end of the set, the CD player comes on and people stream onto the dancefloor while you do the walk of shame - surely you've done this before.

With the potential of losing the dancefloor, or never making one in the first place, I'd never throw an original song into a cover band - there's too much risk there.

Alternatively with originals, I have no doubt that "most" audience members wouldn't mind if you played half covers, half originals. You do get some every now and then wanting more original music, because that's what they've paid for, but for a young emerging band, they probably wouldn't mind.

However, as I stated above, the covers won't do much for the band's original music, as those audience members will not remember them, and they aren't going to buy your tracks.

Also from a selling standpoint, you'd be aware that most venues will identify themselves as an originals venue or a covers venue. So when you approach them you're selling them an originals band or a covers band. If you don't deliver on this promise, you're not going to get booked anymore.

Applied to a real life situation, lets take a cover band that plays an original and everyone leaves the dancefloor because they don't know the song. The bar manager reports back to the owners about the band, they'll be like "umm they played their own song and everyone left the dancefloor, lets get that other band".

Alternatively the cover band plays an original and it goes down really well. The audience still won't remember the song or come to your next gig in the hopes of hearing it one time in your four hour set. Apart from a brief moment of fun, it's done nothing for your original music. On the other hand a number of original venues actually place limits on the amount of covers that a band can play in a set, because it conflicts with what the venue is selling (original music).

I noticed above that your argument is that the audience would be quite happy with more originals, and that's probably where we are getting our wires crossed. I agree.

My argument is based more around selling your original music, rather than delivering a show that will entertain the masses with someone else's music. You will definitely not get as strong a response in the beginning, because your music is new and foreign. However in the long run it will pay off immensely, as you will build a fanbase, which is less likely to occur if people don't know your songs.

So with this in mind, I think it is appropriate to "put a box around it", at least to stop your covers getting in the way of the success of your original music (if you are in fact an originals band). I don't actually like playing any covers at all in an originals band, but I acknowledge the A-Listers you've mentioned seem to play about one an hour, so that should be ok.

Just as a side note, I really don't like comparing bands on the local scene to A-Listers in this way. John Mayer could take a crap on stage and it would sell out a stadium.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Last edited by AlanHB at Jun 7, 2015,
#23
Yep you missed it. By scrolling down there were a total of 10 covers in his 2010 tour set including openers and closers. He likes to mix things up a lot so he would not play them all every night but rather rotate them on different nights to keep the show fresh. Hundreds of bands do this as well.

I don't think dance floors are relevant to the OP as he is opening for a headliner at a 5000 seat festival. Not knowing his band, his set list, the strength of his songwriting, or the audience demographics it is difficult to predict an outcome which is why I always avoid the "only originals or covers only x/hr meme". It just doesn't apply in so very many cases. If your original songs are killing your connection to the audience, you need stronger songwriting skills.

In the end, we each believe what we choose to believe and you are entitled to your opinion. We will simply have to agree to disagree. Rock on!
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 7, 2015,
#24
Quote by Cajundaddy
In the end, we each believe what we choose to believe and you are entitled to your opinion. We will simply have to agree to disagree. Rock on!


Yeah looks like it.

As a side note, I'm sure you've played the usual "open for a community festival headliner" gig before, they tend to be really hit and miss. Although there may be 5000 people attending throughout the day, the actual amount who is sitting down watching the music can be pretty small.

Also to consider is if your band was picked as a support on the strength of yoir originals or your covers. This may deyermine which path you take.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Last edited by AlanHB at Jun 7, 2015,