Cover Tunes and original tempo (too slow?)

Bri6366

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While there is nothing worse than dragging, I tend to play the tempos faster and it's something I try to be cognizant of and reel in a bit, so I don't kill the feel of the song. There are occasions where the guys would ask me to deviate a bit from the recorded tempo for their own comfort levels. There was one song, I forget which one now, my singer asked me to slow down just a bit, so he would have an easier time singing the words. Made sense to me. But then my bass player would ask me to speed it up...lol.
 

NewBeat

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I've found that bands that play the same tunes over and over get bored with them and want it over with as soon as possible - gotta get to that next break - or for whatever reason, the band wants to impart more energy than a particular song or set actually possesses. Both could be remedied by learning new, better material but that's way too much work.
 

dcrigger

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I believe the original tempo is a reference point. That's it - that band on that recording sounded good playing at that tempo. That's it. It's an important bit of information... but not nearly as important IMO as "What tempo does MY band feel best playing? What tempo do WE play it the best? What tempo is everyone most comfortable with? Is this tempo serving our show, our audience best?" Some records are great to chill to - but live on stage just lie there. Or not.

My take - this is not part of the test. There are no "points off" for playing something at the "wrong" tempo (tempo different than the record). The whole test is whether the band feels good, sounds good and the audience is happy.
 

drummingbulldog

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Video recording of the band will tell you what's ok or too fast. I learn tunes tempos by the chorus. The chorus is usually the most "up" part of the tune & also the part that vocally is hard to sing fast. In the studio a few beats per minute forward or back can make all the difference in the world. Some songs are really challenging not to play fast just by the nature of the song style too. You will find if you play in bands long enough that each different band may have a different spin on the same tunes based on different players. When I explained to a guitar player once about the tempo of the chorus being the fastest part of the song tempo he himself quit trying to second guess the tempo. A few beats faster is typical but if every song is too fast or the singer sounds like they're rapping, it's not good.
 

el_37

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My biggest issue is when the song starts with guitar.
Our guitarist gets excited and starts songs too fast.
What I started to do is give him a stick click tempo or hi hat before he starts to reign him in a little.
My favorite is when the guitarist starts/counts off the song to fast and then tries to blame you........
 

EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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It always depends on the tune and the vibe. A Meters tune typically lives in a swampy but narrow range of tempos that feel right. That New Orleans thing really falls apart quickly if you push the tempos too much because you lose that magic in-between feel.

On the other hand, a typical Police tune would really suffer from laying back or even dragging.

Sometimes you want to have the drums lay way back and have the melody or leads be way ahead, like in any number of Zeppelin tunes.

If the guitarist or singer is frequently the one counting stuff off and the tempo isn’t working, make a deal where they can count in the band if you get to call out the song key. That will usually end all of that tempo nonsense.

If you’re not a full band member, or you’re a hired gun, play it where the leader tells you to play it and try to make it work as best as possible!
 

kallen49

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It always depends on the tune and the vibe. A Meters tune typically lives in a swampy but narrow range of tempos that feel right. That New Orleans thing really falls apart quickly if you push the tempos too much because you lose that magic in-between feel.

On the other hand, a typical Police tune would really suffer from laying back or even dragging.

Sometimes you want to have the drums lay way back and have the melody or leads be way ahead, like in any number of Zeppelin tunes.

If the guitarist or singer is frequently the one counting stuff off and the tempo isn’t working, make a deal where they can count in the band if you get to call out the song key. That will usually end all of that tempo nonsense.

If you’re not a full band member, or you’re a hired gun, play it where the leader tells you to play it and try to make it work as best as possible!
also played covers for many years and yes it‘s usual for “live“ to be 2 bpm faster
if the guitar player insists on playing “Baracuda” at warp speed it can be a problem...
digital metronome is a must in a cover band always I always measured and sent the actual bpm when exchanging notes re new covers and also noted bpm on the set lists I made...
 

RIDDIM

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When tempo is an issue - this generally occurs in cover situations- and the leader hasn't dictated what it will be, I find the original BPM and tap it out for the band.

I usually have Live BPM running as well. It's not perfect, but it helps when the happy factor takes over. Keeps us all honest. Later I'll check the recordings and see how much, or if, the starting and ending tempos vary. What's interesting to me is how sometimes a certain tune/band may push in certain solo sections - but return to the starting tempo by the final head. There is no solution to that other than using a click - assuming every one listens - but if the leader's happy, I'll live with it. Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.
 

RIDDIM

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I look up the original BPM on https://tunebat.com/ and compare it to my liveBPM app readings during rehearsal. If there is a big discrepancy or a disagreement on tempo I discuss it with my band mates. If we decide it should be a different tempo than the original at least we have some basis of an informed decision.
- Amen. I find having a tempo monitoring device quickly shuts down self appointed folks who have tempo concerns, assuming I'm not at fault.
 

chollyred

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In our worship band, we have our tempo, and Steve's (one of the guitarist) tempo. The piano player, bass player, and I can start off a song locked in together and then Steve kicks in. It's almost always slower than anyone else. It's really frustrating but we can't get rid of him. The other day, he started out a song with a calypso rhythm...except the song was in 3/4. Yeah, that was a train wreck.
 

Buckskins

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The tempo is usually higher with a live performance. It is almost always more "exciting" to play live and there is (hopefully) audience feedback. There is also less pressure to get it perfect than doing a recording session.
However, I have heard many a band play material excessively fast and that often makes the groove dissolve.
This can be true of even the most primal basic rock music. Prime example-The Ramones. The speed at which they could play live, song after song was amazing to be sure but, it lost something as compared to the records.
I feel that the more sophisticated the music is that the more damaging it is. Take Five played excessively fast would just not be right at all.
 

Ickybaby

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I make my cover band practice songs slower than they think sounds good. I have found that while playing, it sounds slower to the player than it actually is. Come on, how many of us have heard a recording of a performance we did and said “Damn! That was fast!”??? A lot of us I bet. Adrenaline kicks in and it’s off to the races.

Slow down, breathe, hear the spaces between the notes.
 

OffbeatDrumCo

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I look up the original BPM on https://tunebat.com/ and compare it to my liveBPM app readings during rehearsal. If there is a big discrepancy or a disagreement on tempo I discuss it with my band mates. If we decide it should be a different tempo than the original at least we have some basis of an informed decision.
I do essentially the same thing. When we learn a song, I note the recorded tempo in the setlist, when we rehearse I use the liveBPM app to see where it feels good. I would say 95% of the time by the time we have a song learned to the point where it's locked in we tend to play +/-2bpm from the recording. I really think that app is a fantastic tool for anyone (or any band) that doesn't want to play to a click.

The one thing I will add, is just be aware of your band around you while you're playing, especially live. If things start to get out of hand don't be afraid to step in and correct the situation. I saw a cover band a couple years ago play Cumbersome by Seven Mary Three and it was like a runaway train. They started fast, and just got faster, the drummer seemed oblivious, the other band members were struggling by the end. It wasn't a good look.
 

Corbin L Douthitt

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every Beach Boy tune was tooooooo slow.
Unless it was Hal Blaine on the recording--- the BB drummer Dennis Wilson-was not that good... the tempo had to be slower.. in those days there was a formula for songs to get air time-- 2.5-3 minutes- short song- few lyrics...slower tempo to stretch it our.. LIVE? that's different..
 

Slingwig26

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I'm playing drums in a rock band doing cover tunes.
I often find that the band, as a whole, is pushing to play the songs a bit faster than the original recording, especially on recordings that are not fast originally.
Do you, as the time keeper, try to slow it down, or give in and accept that the song should be played faster, when playing live?
I have a bass player pulling me faster and a lead guitar/singer WAVING at me to slow down, then, of course, it’s MY fault the tempo is wrong! BS! Life is to9 short to play with a holes.
 

chollyred

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According to our female singer its never fast enough. Coupled with her tambourine I might end up in prison for assault with a musical instrument.
I took the tambourine away from one of our female singers. Always too loud, too slow, and right in front of the microphone. I gave her a shaker to use instead. She doesn't use wither now...
 

Yamaha Chrome

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I use the pro-metronome app with the flashing light display as a starting point. I use the published BPM and when we learn it -if it feels good- we are locked in at that speed every time we play. Warned everyone that sometimes we might not be our best on any given day and will want a different tempo. Sometimes i will accommodate them- but it never fails the next time they want the original tempo back. Regardless they know I’m using the metronome so they cannot question the tempo. But yes before the metronome anyone in the band could alter the tempo. I put an end to it, they know I’ve got the beat. But still we’ve got a guitar that is constantly late! That’s a subject for a future topic.
 

michaelocalypse

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It depends.

The most recent band I was in would push or pull some tempos. We'd also cover a cover version of some songs, and then adjust that to fit us. When we first learned a song, I'd map it out and note the tempo. Then I'd at least start the song out at the recording tempo. Oddly, we played most songs slower than recorded, but that was our front man's style. There were a couple songs where someone would step in and tell him no.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. It'll work for some audiences, and not in others. I've heard bands cover a song flawlessly, but it felt like it was dragging. They were spot on, but it felt slow in the moment. Now if you make an adjustment, make sure everyone in the band can hang. If there's a tricky bass line, or part of the guitar solo really shreds, or the vocals require substantially more lung volume due to the diminished inhaling time, then don't push past the limits of what the dudes can do. If you come up against a limitation like this, I'd recommend keeping the mood on the chill and accepting side. It's better to have fun and keep playing than to fight over 2bpm.
 


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