my band played covers for about 2 years to get tight as a band and about 1 1/2 years through we started adding jams and cahnging covers to make them our own. we've been playing for about 4 years together and been writing our own songs for about 2 years. so maybe after 2 years you can start writing stuff. sorry for kidna rambling. it really jus
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you should probably play covers until you are confortable playing together. if you are already comfortable, then you should start writing and if there is a cover that you want to do, then do it.
Well if what you want to do is cover then cover. But if you don't want to cover and you want to start working on your own songs by all means commence. It probably would help if you have been playing together for a while so a chemistry could develop. As far as ratio make as many good songs as you can, and if extra time is needed to be filled in a set list play some covers, but don't use all of your originals at each show.
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You don't have to do only covers for 2 years and then come to practice one day and try to write five new songs. Start learning a solid amount of covers, but if someone comes to practice with a cool riff or something, then start jamming to it. Eventually everyone will come up with a part to accompany the main riff. If the jam sounds good, consider making it into a song - add structure, lyrics, vocals, etc.

Basically, start playing original material when you have good ideas for original material. Don't completely skip learning covers though, they help out with chemistry and you'll have something to play at gigs while you work on new songs.
A lot of venues will either book original bands or cover bands. If they book cover bands, they won't mind if you do the odd original, but they'll be p*ssed if you do a whole whack of originals and the audience leaves. You don't want to have that kind of a rep following you around.

I say, make a decision which one you want to be, and market yourself to those venues and audiences. I spent years playing in cover bands, and finally met the right people for my original project.

With the original project, I met the players, gave them demos of the songs already written, arranged and recorded. The guys learned 'em and we've been gigging for about two years now doing almost exclusively original material. The only covers we ever did were a couple of Queen tunes we learned for a fun Queen tribute nite that was a fundraiser, and three seventies tunes for a '70's tribute that was also a fundraiser.

Not doing covers as a general rule hasn't hurt us one bit. We play venues where bands are expected to play original material, including clubs, outdoor festivals, and small concert theatres. As a general rule, the money is better in a cover band, but as an original act, you get to play venues you'd never get to play as a cover band. Also, as an original act, you're more likely to get media coverage, whether it be print, radio, web, or TV that cover bands basically never get. You get invited to open up for recording acts that come through town, which cover bands almost never get to do.

Make a decision and go with it.

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I think its quite simple, until you have enough solid original material, that has been rehearsed and well put together. You can't just one day decide "okay guys, its time to write an original setlist" it just wont happen. Just naturally start writing, and wait until you are confident enough to perform these songs. You may want to make the progression slow.
If you think you are ready to write some original material, then go for it. There is no set time to start writing original stuff. You should start when you feel the band has the chemistry.

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As far as ratio make as many good songs as you can, and if extra time is needed to be filled in a set list play some covers, but don't use all of your originals at each show.

I once went to a Nickelback concert, and they played Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting. You can always do the odd cover, but you shouldn't use all your originals in one show.
Only play covers and not originals if you aren't a good musician. Write some **** even before your practice and have the rest of the band learn it. Covers are allright as long as you have a good ratio to originals.
A lot of professional musicians earn the biggest part of their income playing other people's stuff.

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My guitar teacher just turned 70 and started playing professionally at age 14, he still plays covers. Looks like 55 years is about right.
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My band is just me and my brother (he plays drums and occasionally trumpet), and I've been writing lyrics since right after I started playing guitar (about a year and a half ago), and full songs for the last couple months. We've learned a few covers, and most of my two dozen origionals. Our first gig is on March 7, and our setlist is our two best origionals, followed by our best two covers. As we play more shows, we'll add more origionals, and lose the covers.
Covers are always fun. A lot of my favorite bands play random covers to break up a show. Tom Petty and The White Stripes do a lot of this and it's a lot of fun.
until the crowd knows your originals and even then there's no reason to stop playing them
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in my band we are only learning covers to use at early gigs untill we write our own stuff and then throw in some covers here and there

so only play covers for as long as you need to
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My band never played covers.

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Just play covers, and then as you write original songs, start adding those to the setlist and start taking away covers. Before too long, you'll have a completely original setlist!
my current band never played covers, and i've never been in a band that has.
my name is matt. you can call me that if you like.
i never thought i'd be in a band that played alot of covers, but what it does for us is gets us into clubs, and making money. so we will play a 3 sets of 40 min every night. we do alot of covers, but throw original stuff inthere as well.

what is fun about covers in my band is that i'll just start playing and singing, and the other guys will figure it out pretty damn quickly, 2 more runs through the song and it's in our repatouir.

anyways, always work on new stuff. but always jam out a couple of covers.
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When I started a band we just started with an original that the other guitarist had all ready wrote and we havn't done one cover since
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my current band plays mostly covers
but we have started writing originals like a month ago(we are a band like 2 months ago)
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Covers are a good way to get a feel for playing with your band and they'rea good starting point because it's more likely that people will recognise them.

the band i'm in began with a set list mainly of covers, but with three originals and we're currently weeding out the last few covers from our set.
you shudn't really overdo covers especially if youre tryin to be original

that being said there is nothin wrong with throwin in the odd cover every now and then

Example: Maroon 5 like to finish gigs wit a cover... usually something by the beatles, oasis or nine inch nails
Who says you have to do one or the other? Playing covers is a good way to get your band really tight. But you can start working on original material whenever you want. Probably better to start sooner than later as most of your early compositions will be thrown out after a bit of consideration (they usually suck, or end up sounding way too much like another song). You can be an original band and still play covers. Jeez if the Grateful Dead played ONLY originals... I can't even picture it. Theres no shame in playing a few covers, not even necessarily covers you play constantly, but here and there throwing in a cool cover is not a bad thing, even if your an original band. Just pick and choose wisely... sorry, but no one wants to hear a potentially cool band go up on stage and play Sweet Child O Mine or some else that seems to be a staple of every crappy amature high school band. Pick an obscure cover or something that you know is awesome that most people might not. People won't get up an leave just because you play a cover that nobody really knows, if its a good song people will dig it and dance and ****. Thats really my advice with covers.
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Last edited by trey-col89 at Mar 17, 2008,
My band so far has done only covers, we have enough to play about 2 hours with, and after we get those more secure we want to begin on originals. Each of us writes on our own, so we have more than enough to go on. And also, we've only been together for about a month.