Cover songs - how do you play them?

Starchief

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Vague question I know but for the folks here who play cover songs at gigs - do you play them exactly or for the most part how they were recorded? Or do your own thing that sounds good or somewhere in between? And I know it probably varies from song to song but if you deviate from the original, why? Is the original too difficult or too much work or too busy for anyone in the crowd to really appreciate, or maybe you like your style or play on the song better?

Just curious, something I and probably most here pay attention to.

Thanks
My take is the song should sound like the song so the foundation snd bottom should be spot on. Individual interpretation can be added in fills that don’t change the tune
 

f15c

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My goal is to help make the song sound right, so I try hard to play things as you hear them on the record. I’m not as technically sound as ANY drummer whose beats I try to play, so if I make any changes, it’s just to simplify while still keeping the core sound as “correct” as possible. I never try to add my own flair to “improve,” change or modify a song. When I’m learning a new song, I do a lot of listening to both original studio recordings and we’ll as live versions…always interesting to me to hear when the live version isn’t quite the same as the original…or even like the last time they played it live! So by listening to the different versions, sometimes can pick a version that works best for your playing style and sounds best with how your band is playing it—and still be close enough to “correct” to keep the crowd interest, singing and dancing along with the music. Rock on!
 

multijd

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musically, that specific, involved drum pattern is in no ways essential to that song.
Probably not that important in some songs but more important in others? I often think, “What would Steve Gadd do if he was on this gig?” I think we would accept and enjoy more “interpretation” if we respect the musician more. So in these situations where some are being so critical, is it because you don’t have an innate respect for the drummer in that band? Why? Has the drummer done something to lose your respect or are you just skeptical from the start? I agree with dcrigger, if the band is serving their function then no problem.

Going beyond that, in most of the playing situations, some personal interpretation is totally acceptable, inevitable and welcome. And if you add some “sweetness”, like Gadd would, then you’re golden.
 

multijd

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I don’t do many cover gigs. If I do it’s a show where the music is charted out and I’m reading a part and interpreting that. Or a band that knows what I do, has hired me to add that and probably isn’t playing things exactly like the record.

So it’s a bit ironic that I’m sitting on my porch on a Saturday morning looking through ‘charts’ for country tunes I’ll be playing this afternoon. It makes me think of an order of importance that I personally follow when charged with playing “covers”. So here is how I approach it:

1) What is the basic feel/groove? Is it a two beat, shuffle, train beat, rock and roll etc? it’s probably a basic beat that any good instruction book would teach to beginning drummers.
2) Does the groove change? What is the change and where in the flow of the tune does it occur?
3) The form of the tune is essential and again one of the most basic things I want to remember. Intro-verse-chorus-verse-bridge…Some songs are so basic I don’t need to write this out but others need a more specific chart written down so that in the moment I know where the song is going and what I have to do next.
**) side note. I want to play things that make the other musicians comfortable. That is my job!! I’m an accompanimental instrument with the goal of supporting the main voices in the ensemble which are the melody and lyric. That’s it. If the band sounds good most people won’t care how specific I am.
4) If there characteristic fills or beats that are closely associated with that tune I’m going to grab those.
5) I write out the basic rhythm of any important instrumental cues like intros or pickups that the guitar or bass or vocal might do. This way I know where the other musicians are. The basics of their part.
6) In the end I want to be able to capture the vibe/feel of the tune while supporting the other musicians and most importantly I have to be able to do it on the spot without hesitation, indecision or apprehension.

Here is a photo of some of my scribble notes for the gig this afternoon.

EFC6733A-2C0E-4048-BD34-4F8853F822A8.jpeg
 


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