10/15/2009-BAND PRIMER-Picking Songs in a Cover Band-Pt.1-Play Within Your Ability




-So you’re in a band-now what? I’m going to start with being in a cover band 1st and then, in later articles, go into doing your own songs. A good way to do things is to start with covers and then gradually add in your own stuff. But for now, let’s focus on the beginning.

-The 1st thing you should do is look at the band and see what the strengths/weaknesses are-or more specifically, what the limitations are-especially with your singer. This is closely followed by what genres of music you want to cover as well as what songs to learn-all of which we’ll cover in future articles.Many bands will make a huge list of songs that, vocally, goes all over the place. If you happen to have a singer who has a wide range-count your blessings. Most bands don’t-yet will subject their singers to all sorts of ranges. For example, I was invited to jam w/ a band earlier this year. They were having trouble finding a singer. One look at their set list reveled why. They wanted a singer who could go as high as Shinedown (“Save Me”) to as low as Godsmack (“Bad Religion.”) If possible, the singer should be the one who chooses the songs-since he/she will know their range & limits. Bands can get around this by changing the key of the song and this works most of the time. Even a 1/2 step change will do wonders. Make sure everyone agrees to this-some bands have “purists” in them and will not accept playing a song unless it’s exactly like the recording-key and all. When I was in a Black Sabbath tribute band years ago-one of the members would not change the key of the song “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” to accommodate the singer-who was already pushing his voice in the normal parts. When it came to going higher later on in the song, he would sound like someone was ripping his vocal cords out of throat-not good-yet that other guy would not change the key of the song. Needless to say, that song didn’t last long.

-This can also applies to the other musicians in the band. While guitarists/bassists/keyboardists can change keys (and drummers can still hit the same beats), their concern is usually one of technique & feel. Pick songs within your limits or-if you think you can work up to it in a short time-songs that are a little above your playing. I like to do that cause it helps me to improve my playing. There’s no use picking a song by Dragonforce if your guitarist sounds like Ace Frehley (KISS)-it just wouldn’t work. This works the other way too-Sometimes musicians focus so much on their technique that they can’t play simpler stuff without it sounding like a chops fest.While that might be nice for other musicians, most people don’t like it and let you know by leaving-not good for the bar or your band. Stay tuned for more next month!


About Wayne W. Johnson

Hiya-this is Wayne W. Johnson (WWJ) & thanks for dropping by to my site! I hope you enjoy your visit to my home away from home online. If you have any questions, comments and /or concerns about this site, please let me know via the CONTACT page. Thanks & best wishes to you & yours!
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