Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Cover songs: nail all parts (use splits) or get the gist?


frogmonkey

Recommended Posts

I haven't played in a lot of cover bands- it's been mostly originals or jazz for my whole career. This summer I've got a sweet, steady, cover gig with a great soul singer... on Sunday nights!

 

There's no guitar player- Drums, Bass, Keys, Sax, Vox. There is a sax, but he doesn't really rehearse or do homework (that's another story). So if there's a part to play- or three parts to play- it's going to be me.

 

We're doing "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson. I programmed this crazy split on my PC3x to get the main chords plus a swell pad, one of the guitar parts (on clav), and the string lines. Three gigs into the summer, now, and I've been consistently failing to bring the vibe to that song. Tonight I finally said "screw it", dialed in a Rhodes on the PC3x and organ on the E3, and followed my instinct. Finally the song sounded good!

 

Splits are too confusing and limiting for me! I feel like a technician.

 

I guess I'm just curious to hear how other players deal with this kind of thing. What do you do when there are more parts than you can possibly cover?

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 34
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Although I largely work on my own material, I'm currently rehearsing with my covers band.

 

As I (& many others) see it, a 'covers' band is different from a 'tribute' band...

 

ie: you do your own interpretation of songs, rather than trying to do an exact copy of the original.

 

If I were you, I'd sort out a compromise to suit the song(s), & how you feel most comfortable playing it/them.

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What do you do when there are more parts than you can possibly cover?

 

Cover the important ones, of course. :)

 

This is a good question, but there are no easy answers to it. First of all, the overall vibe of the band is important. Are you doing covers "just like the record"? Or does the band have its own sound, and puts its stamp on the tunes it covers? That's the first important question. Obviously if the band is trying to be just like the record, then your job is harder.

 

The second important piece is, how can one guy with two hands cover four or five (or more) parts. In my experience, the answer is: you can't. At least not well. So in those situations I pick two parts in each section of the tune. I try to pick the parts based on what adds the most to the tune, and then I try to really nail them, while keeping the groove alive.

 

If the overall groove of the tune is there, very few (if any) audience members will notice that little parts are missing.

 

OTOH, if every single part is somehow cobbled in, but the groove falls apart, the audience will most definitely notice that. And not in a good way.

 

Hope that helps, good luck with the cover gig!

 

--Dave

 

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

+1 to what Dave said. The way I see it, at least as far as that song goes....MJ had like 4 or 5 keyboard players in his bands sometimes, and often each one was multi-tasking. Basically, don't feel like you have to cover everything, because it's likely impossible. On that song, I would say the string parts and the horn fills are essential, fill in the rest as you see fit. Depending, of course, on how faithfully you intend to play it. Nothing wrong with interpretation.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it depends on the band.

Do you use a click?

sequences?

samples?

can the drummer be depended on to at least get the tempo right?

 

I just had a quick listen to that song.

It's quite do-able and not that difficult, except for the bit where you said there's no gtr player. That will make you a lot busier...

 

How many keyboards do you have?

let's say two:

on the first one you've got the hi strings and lo strings [the first two figures you hear in the song]. Easy enough.

 

For the other one, I'd have two patches:

one for the classic el pno & strings, with a reverse vel on the strings so that when you play harder you get more pno, play lighter for more str. Then the other patch would be your brass swells. Have you got a patchup/patchdown switch? If not, set the board up so it's only one button press to go between the two patches.

 

I know you said you're not keen on the splits/layers thing, but it's worth it for a song like this. It's easier on some boards than others - I still keep my VFX-SD around because it's SO easy - a couple of double clicks, set a few parameters and save: ready! You can even tweak - and save - as you're playing.

 

The Triton was ok for this sort of thing too, but not quite as smooth.

 

 

The only other alternative is to have more boards set up, have the secondary ones as midi slaves to the main two, and either use mute buttons on your mixer [if it's within easy reach] or volume pedals.

 

Do you have to dance too?

:)

--

Merlin Zener

Australia.

 

CP70, DX7-II-D, VFX-SD, MRrack, TG55, reason...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

very similar situation here..Just joined a solid cover band (not used to it at all). I have spent a lot of time trying to make things sound perfect....I finally realized it is not possible. Like the others said, catch the important parts!!

 

I have been using splits, but usually no more than two (cause I am a technical idiot)...Sometimes I'll just use one hand on my upper board and one on the lower...

 

Sorry did not add too much...just my 2 cents. Good luck to you!!!

Gear: Roland RD700, Yamaha MotifES6, Roland Fantom FA76, Roland JP-8000, Roland AX-7, Roland Juno-106.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Two questions for the OP:

 

What does the audience like?

What do you like?

 

The answers I have for myself are:

 

The majority of the audience don't care. They're so used to lip-syncing and backup tracks that they're totally unimpressed if the keyboard player nails all the parts. They're there to party. They want a show. They want to be pulled out of their seats.

 

For what I like, over the years I've realized that I have much more fun (and can provide a better show with more audience interaction) and be more musical with just one instrument at a time. AP, EP, or B3.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I cop the main parts and any important little riffs. I try and get close to the original sounds on the recording as well. I'm not 100% accurate with them but close enough to get the vibe of the song. Some songs I learn note for note, others we do an interpretation of, so it really depends on the song and how the band is approaching it.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in a cover band that will take the big step and put on some authoral work. But the covers will remanin a big part of our repertoire.

 

We play mainly funk and R&B and the line up is similar to frogmonkey's band. I'm facing the same dilemas, and finding that the overal best solution is to strip the songs and reinterpret them with as much energy and self confidence as I can.

Let's take a walk by Raphael Saadiq turned into a Meters-like workout, things like that... It never stopped power trios to play bigger bands songs, so why should it stop me? And guitars are monotimbral, such as my Electro. :)

 

My drawbars go to eleven.

Gear: Roland VR-09, Nord Electro 2 61, Korg CX-3. Hear my music: facebook.com/smokestoneband

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a balance, Andric. When I did cover material, even reproducing studio versions of songs I'd written and recorded, I would usually try to reproduce all I could with splits, layers, programming all sorts of dynamic patch and control changes, etc ... and see if I could get comfortable with that. Then I would scale back till I found the performance for that song that allowed me to groove, have fun (and look like I was having fun!) while retaining signature licks/sounds ... if possible. Sometimes I would scrap the "gotta have the random ear candy" entirely and just go for groove! You have to work with what you've got in terms of instrumentation. I think live, vibe trumps production accuracy everytime, but it's a balance. Deciding what you can leave out and what must be in is part of the art of presenting the material. :)

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I'm just curious to hear how other players deal with this kind of thing. What do you do when there are more parts than you can possibly cover?

 

Sequence.

 

If it's at all humanly possible, I set up splits. I have 2 keyboards and sometimes have multiple splits on each board for a song.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's no guitar player- Drums, Bass, Keys, Sax, Vox. There is a sax, but he doesn't really rehearse or do homework (that's another story). So if there's a part to play- or three parts to play- it's going to be me.

 

We're doing "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson. I programmed this crazy split on my PC3x to get the main chords plus a swell pad, one of the guitar parts (on clav), and the string lines.

 

What do you do when there are more parts than you can possibly cover?

 

I do that song with one of my bands, we play 70's early 80's stuff, disco and pop stuff, pretty fun for a keyboardist, we use a classic setup guitar, bass, drums,

as i was breaking the parts apart and figuring out the splits and the arrengement, i found that it was imposible to do with only 2 hands (I was going for a dead ringer of the song) too much going on, 2 guitars, rhodes, string arrengement, full Brass arrengement, synth solo, claps, Cow Bell, So i sequenced it, the Percusion and brass arrengement brings a lot to the performance, and i can play the synth solo pitch bends without the song feeling empty, if you want to i can send you the midi file or audio if you preffer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the offer Maximus :) But if I'm going to sequence it, I'd feel better doing it myself ;) Hmmm... that might be fun. Actually, the drummer has a drum-machine/sampler/drum-pad in his kit, and he's already got some of the percussion sequenced on that tune. So the potential is definitely there for sequencing some of those parts.

 

There's a lot going on in that song, right? Quincy Jones... wow.

 

Maybe I'll just sequence the two guitar parts, and play the horn parts and some of the strings.

 

I'm a little afraid that sequencing will open a whole new can of worms, and I'll have to spend the rest of my days programming instead of playing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On that song, I would say the string parts and the horn fills are essential, fill in the rest as you see fit... Nothing wrong with interpretation.

Yeah, I wasn't thinking about the horn parts so much, like maybe the HORN player would learn those parts :D See my last thread: CLONK. I have a passive-aggressive fantasy about saying to the guy "oh, shall I play the horn parts on my keyboard, then?" But you're right, I should play them. (To be fair, the guy is an outstandin, experienced player who is my father's age, and he probably thinks he has better things to do than learn the horn parts to an MJ song).

 

very similar situation here..Just joined a solid cover band (not used to it at all).

Oh man, I'm having so much fun! I've always played fairly serious original music. Some of it has been decidedly uncool. I have to say that while there are definitely challenges to my musicianship in playing covers, it is much easier emotionally. I am not attached to this music; it isn't a mirror of my tortured soul :). The ego rewards are instantaneous-- we play a handful of current hits, and the gig is in a trendy bar. I'm actually getting a lot of mileage out of the charts I wrote for myself... teaching them to my teenage piano students! :D

 

What does the audience like?

What do you like?

Right? I have decided that, in this gig, what I like is to get the audience fired up.

 

...close enough to get the vibe of the song.

 

strip the songs and reinterpret them with as much energy and self confidence as I can.

 

Deciding what you can leave out and what must be in is part of the art of presenting the material. :)

 

So, I just quoted all this stuff that kind of sums up my own attitude about it. :) Well said, folks.

 

Sequence.

 

If it's at all humanly possible, I set up splits. I have 2 keyboards and sometimes have multiple splits on each board for a song.

And then 80's Dan chimes in with a different take. I know for a fact that Dan plays in a killer cover band. :) Dan I take a lot of inspiration from your posts about running a successful cover band! I'm going to try a little sequencing on a couple of tunes. It's definitely not the way I want to spend my practice time in general, but OTOH I like the idea of being that badass keyboardist who can do everything. :D

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To all the good comments here I would add... If you're doing songs that have guitar, and you have no guitarist, then any attempt to be really authentic is nearly futile to begin with. If you don't have the instrumentation of the original, then it probably makes more sense to come up with an arrangement that sounds good with the instrumentation you have, rather than try to figure out how close you can come to duplicating instrumentation you don't have, where you will almost certainly miss the mark. Better to do something that is your own arrangement but works well, rather than something more faithful but not as well executed.

 

Although it can be great if you can do both, your job is to entertain, not to prove that you can duplicate something. Especially if you can't. If you're onstage appearing to be working like a technician instead of up there clearly having a good time getting into playing the music, that's not as entertaining for the audience, either. Sometimes you do need to duplicate something (like the tribute band example)... but you still need to look like you're having a good time rather than working up there like an air traffic controller.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can see sequencing for 80's music, because much of that music sounded automated to begin with. Much of MJ's music is considered (and is) 80's, but nevertheless a song like Don't Stop should breath. I'm in the school that says if you don't have the instrumentation to come close to the original, then don't fall flat by trying. Do your own interpretation.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll agree 100% that it's better to leav parts out than to do them poorly or sacrifice the ability to put on a good show. But I also think that there is a misconception that having a sequence or playing to a click means it's going to be rigid and not breath. I hear this from people all the time. You can play loose and breath while keeping in time with a click - it's just quarter notes, there's room to do plenty in between. On the videos I posted in shameless plugs, we had to pay to a click because we did 3 takes and had to make sure we played the same tempo each time. 3 out of the 5 don't normally have one, and tha was our first time ever playing them to a click. I personally noticed a couple differences from normal for us, but I doubt anybody who didn't know would say "that sounds rigid, they must be playing to a click" - and those aren't typical mechanical 80s songs - I love rock n roll and sweet child breath.

 

But that being said - as long as you hit the key recognizable parts, most people won't notice what's missing.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very timely question for me!

 

The band I am in just had this discussion last night. If anything is a deal killer for me, it's when a band leader wants to stray into tribute territory....even though that reality is not even close to the practice. If you want to "cover the record" exactly, than you need to match up song selection with personnel.

 

For instance we play Jo Jo by Boz Scaggs. We're a 5 piece (all guys) with myself, lead singer, guitarist, bass and drums. Off the top of my head, this track has 2 keyboard parts, a horn section, two different sax solos, female back-up singers, 2 guitars, bass, drums and lead vocals. That would be at least 11 professional musicians involved with this studio recording.

 

You can see where I'm going with this.

 

If someone want to replicate this recording, we should not be covering this song. Yet, we have a pretty killer version developing. YET, the leader of the band wants to move closer to replication!

 

I'm one dude doing this as a hobby. This recording was made using professional musicians to cover all those parts in a studio. The expectation that you can do this live is something that will drive me nuts. I pretty much stated this.

 

Anyhow, this seems to be the classic rub with me. I'm going to cut and paste Dave's response!

Steinway L, Yamaha Motif XS-8, NE3 73, Casio PX-5S, iPad, EV ZLX 12-P ZZ(x2), bunch of PA stuff.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Depends on the song. Most we try to put our own spin on it.

If the song arrangement is too recognizable or we don't like our version after hearing the recording, then we work on it note for note.

 

Edit: Or cast it aside, sometimes songs just don't work for your lineup.

Boards: Kurzweil SP-6, Roland FA-08, VR-09, DeepMind 12

Modules: Korg Radias, Roland D-05, Bk7-m & Sonic Cell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I started playing in my first band when I was 9 or 10 years old. I remember spending countless hours wearing out the grooves in LPs playing them over and over at full and half speed to learn every single nuance - including the mistakes - note for note. As I became a more accompished player, I relied less and less on exact transcriptions, and more on musicianship, creativity and taste when making an arrangement. These days, about the only song I play note-for-note is "A Whiter Shade of Pale" only because I can't think of any way to improve on the original.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there are some rare specialized cases where some custom programming and keyboard splits might be worth it, but these are probably the exception. Here was one such case for me.

 

I have limited keyboard skills (mainly a sax player). I love Billy Joel's "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" and really wanted it to work great when we covered it. To make the orchestral part work, in between the end of the rock-and-roll part in the middle and the ballad part at the end, I programmed a custom performance on my XV-5050 so I could cover it with a simplified sequence of finger presses on my keyboard. I played the strings by pressing one finger at a time with my right hand, while the trumpet, french horn and trombone were all fired off by pressing one finger at a time with my left hand. The brass parts were offset by coarse tuning to achieve the desired harmonies while just pressing a single finger. At the close of this orchestral part I threw my hands about 3 octaves to the left, to an area of my keyboard mapped to an accordian patch, since this accordian part started right away. Our real piano player played the acoustic piano parts - I never could have done them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You really just have to figure out what the goal is.

 

A lot of bands to what everybody here is describing. If you are that band, do that.

 

We are a tribute band and do EVERYTHING like the CD. In our market, we make at least 3x as much as those other bands. Is it because we do it like the CD? Probably not. But that's PART of it. But if all you want to do is do it like the other bands doing the same thing, and make what they make, then don't waste your time!!!

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But remember, Dan, the OP's band already lacks a guitar player, so it's already not going to be a "like the record" band for a lot of material. Also, like you said, and as we know a LOT of things come into play in terms of how well a band gets paid. :)

 

As a differentiator, maybe the band will either have to have creative presentation that becomes a signature sound or have a really entertaining stage show, or a combination. Sounds like the band is backing up a specific soul singer, so not focusing on covering all bases with female and male vox of different sytles to be "true" to a record, it seems. What do you think, Andric? What is this band's goal or aesthetic?

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to take this off topic, but I have a question for those who are in groups that try to play it "exactly like the studio recording"

 

I know most of us keyboard players go through great lengths to try and match sounds to the best of our ability. What about the other players in your band? Does you guitarist switch guitars mid set from a strat to a les paul, to match differing guitar tones? Does he use an amp sim and switch settings to match? What about the drummer? Sonically, there is a world of difference between Stewart Copeland's Kit and Alex Van Halen's. Is there any effort made on your drummers part to match that. Does you singer try to mimic voices? Does he/she make an attempt to sound like Steve Perry or Billy Gibbons?

 

Or is it that us keyboard players are the only one expected to pay attention to this level of detail?

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say the important thing is to decide what kind of band you'll be -- what you want your reputation to be -- and then stick to it and do it well. If you want your reputation to be as a band that plays songs as authentically as possible, then you'll have to take whatever steps necessary and that might involve a lot of keyboard programming and sequencing. If you're going to be a "version" band, then make it interesting!

 

Personally, I'd always rather go see a band that puts their own interesting spin on covers. But that's a musician's attitude. The average club-goer is more likely to be someone who wants to here stuff as close to the original as possible.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're going to be a "version" band, then make it interesting!
and good. I've seen too many cover bands that a) don't sound like the original tune and 2) don't sound like anything I want to hear. :sick:

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to take this off topic, but I have a question for those who are in groups that try to play it "exactly like the studio recording"

 

I know most of us keyboard players go through great lengths to try and match sounds to the best of our ability. What about the other players in your band? Does you guitarist switch guitars mid set from a strat to a les paul, to match differing guitar tones? Does he use an amp sim and switch settings to match? What about the drummer? Sonically, there is a world of difference between Stewart Copeland's Kit and Alex Van Halen's. Is there any effort made on your drummers part to match that. Does you singer try to mimic voices? Does he/she make an attempt to sound like Steve Perry of Billy Gibbons?

 

Or is it that us keyboard players are the only one expected to pay attention to this level of detail?

 

 

Our guitar player usually doesn't change guitars per song, and he uses the same Marshall combo amp for everything, but he does use a Line 6 Pedal board and some stomp boxes to tweak the sound and put the right effects on it.

 

I use an amp sim and different sounds for R. Guitar parts, and change pickups, but not guitars.

 

Our drummer uses electric drums, so he can change up the sets to accomodate the song. He doesn't always go to the level of detail I would prefer, but way more so than most bands.

 

Bass sound stays the same.

 

Sound guys handle vocal effects - some better than others!

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...