What is your approach when learning to play a song? Do you try to learn how the artist actually played the song and then add your own interpretation or do you start with your own interpretation not worried about how the specifics of how the original artist played it?
It depends.

It depends on the song I'm learning and also if I'm going to play it in a cover band or just for fun. A more traditional song usually needs you to add something to it. Otherwise it may sound a bit boring. But some songs have clear riffs and clear structure and kind of leave less room for interpretation. They are already more "arranged". That kind of songs I usually learn note for note (but of course you can make your own version that is very different from the original version). Also, if I want to learn to do something that I hear, I play it as accurately as possible.

If you are playing in a cover band, I think your version should be pretty close to the original.
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I guess that depends why you are learning the songs to begin with. Are you learning them to play with other musicians? In that case you need to learn what everyone else is learning at least to start. Everyone in band can't show up to rehearse something that is their own version of the song. If you are learning the songs because you like that artist themselves and hope to emulate or absorb the style and technique of the artists. you pretty much have to start with learning what is already being played. After that you can morph it into your own style if that suits you.

I agree with Alan. If you are in a cover band, learn it as close as possible then go from there. You'll never get exactly the same tone and feel but that's good. It allows the audience to identify the song/artist and yet it still sounds like "you".
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Jul 9, 2015,
There is a good distinction here. Maybe I have watched Mark Walberg in "Rockstar" too much but although it is used as sort of an inside joke through the movie, there is a difference between a "cover band" and a "tribute band". I play in a cover band. We do songs from other artists and only a few originals. Our covers are not a note-for-note recreation of a song or playing style of that artist or band. They sound like us doing other artists songs. We work around the arrangements but stick close to the source. Nobody listening to us play would think we are trying to sound exactly like the original artists. That is not our goal.

A tribute band is one that wants to look, sound, act and play note-for-note recreations of a particular band or bands. I admire the hard work and talent of some the tribute bands I have seen like "Musical Box" (early Genesis era, awesome), Livewire (AC/DC), Physical Graffetti (Led Zep) and others. These guys play nearly note perfect covers. So the above question about how you approach learning a song depends on what your goals are. Cover, Tibute or just interpretation.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Jul 9, 2015,
I play my songs as accurately as possible. By ear. My ear isn't 100% perfect so that will automatically make me play it a bit differently.

I'd like to nail songs as 100% perfect as possible, by ear. I don't use tabs. I think tabs are great tools to help if I'm absolutely lost at a section. But the way people tend to use them (and how I did use them early on) is just no brain and learn every song completely off tab.

I got covers on youtube which songs don't have widely available tabs (only the paid ones have high ratings).


Look at how different these dudes play, they still manage to get a good performance going.

''I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes.''

-Jimi Hendrix
Last edited by liampje at Jul 9, 2015,