Drummer Cafe Forum

LOUNGE => General Board => Topic started by: Mark Schlipper on July 19, 2002, 01:31 PM

Title: covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 19, 2002, 01:31 PM
i have a question.  why is it that so many people play covers?  ive always been of the belief that if you are a creative musician that you would write your own material or work with other musicians who write (and create your parts).  and if you want to pay tribute to an influential artist, all you have to do is play.  if they were that influential, you probably learned from them and incorporate that into your own playing.  ive known people that play gigs like that for the money.  for them they dont care what they play as long as theyre playing because thats what really makes them happy.  and i can understand that (and am a little envious) but for the most part i dont get it, since most musicians seem to have day jobs anyway.

im not dissing anyone who does this by any means.  to each his own.  its just not something i do.  and im curious as to why so many people feel compelled to play someone elses music.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: BO733 on July 19, 2002, 03:01 PM
I agree with with you 563. I love to be in groups that write original material. I've played in cover bands before, and from time to time still get the chance. Personally I'd rather be writing. Side's right on though. It pays well, you're keeping in shape, etc... and IT IS a big musical universe.

Personally when I go to hear a band, I tend to want to hear original material. Sometimes though, I like to hear covers. A good band is a good band. But I know what you're saying. It's really hard to be an "artist" without compromising a little for the public. I mean usually the most popular bands are the ones that play covers. But it's all music. Even if you are playing covers there is room for your own style. I don't know. There are a lot of possibilities.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: JB007 on July 19, 2002, 04:21 PM
Most of the time, when I play a cover, I like to change the song a little. Also, I think that playing a cover is fun.

The only thing that is the same in covers I play is the Guitar, but it is heavier since I mostly play metal. I like to change the drums to what I like to make it sound similar, but not the same.  

Oh, and I am sure playing in a cover band does pay the bills, but I have never been in one.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 19, 2002, 05:27 PM
i wasnt trying to insinuate that playing other peoples songs makes you less of a musician.  (if i came off that way, sorry) this isnt about right and wrong.
every artist has thier own way of doing things.  and i cant argue with any of those ways :)  

i hear a lot of "covers pay bills" ... for me (key word - me)  thats not a good enough reason.  ive never wanted to play something because it pays.  i dont write with any regard for audience acceptance either.  if acceptance and/or money comes, great.  but i dont write with that goal.  i.e. "well, this song is a little long ... people will loose interest after about 5 minutes, better shorten it" ... its more like "well, 12 minutes is a little long ... oh well, it works best that way"

if you are truly happy playing covers because for you its the simply the joy of drumming (or whatever) then more power to you.  im envious of that ability actually.  

it might be that many drummers are "drummers" ... in the classic sense, that they focus on providing rhythmic accompanyment to a lead player, and not necessarily participating in the writing other than arranging thier parts.  again, nothing wrong with that.  but it would stand to reason that if you view your self like that, then there is little difference between playing one of your guitarists songs and one of van halens songs.

as for sidereals statement about "has to do with just playing" i dont think that covers are required for that.  an all original artist can play out just as much.  will they get as many street fair gigs? or bigger gigs in general? maybe not.  they maybe relegated to the coffee shop.  but its still playing out.

interesting discussion, by all means feel free to keep it up :)
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: BO733 on July 19, 2002, 05:45 PM
563 -- Hey I hear you. Everyone has their own gigs. You're absolutely right; there is no wrong or right about it. It's all personal preference. It's great to keep an open mind. That's why the cafe works so well. It helps to break molds. Or more like stereotypes. Maybe someday I'd like to play in a 70's disco cover band and make X amount of money.

But tonight I'll be playing a cymbal and a snare drum with brushes with an original songwriter/band. I won't get paid much, but I'll be doing what I want. If someone says "Hey, come and play a wedding for cash", I guess if I DESIRED to do that I would; regardless of pay. I love to play so usually I don't turn down anything. Unless of course there is something conflicting. Also though, that's my style. And if I can make a little money and have a good, positive experience, I'll save the money to buy that new set I've been eyeing.

Drumming is an art form -- no doubt about it. How you make your living and how you choose to live are all personal prefences. Maybe a good question could be something like, "What or how do you view your art as?"
The answers will be different for everyone. But it is a great thread and it questions integrity and desire for expression etc... but also it brings up society and art vs. entertainment. There's a lot here. :)
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: marker on July 19, 2002, 06:08 PM
A couple comments.

For one thing, not everyone has the creative ability.

Audiences easily accept familiar things.  They frequently ignore unfamiliar things.

I play music, cover or not, for love, not money.

So, got a great cover gig, something I'll love?  I'm all over it.

So, got a great original concept, and some capable musicians?  I'm all over it.

I guess I'm a drum lover, not a drum whore.

I just love this,  so that's why I  do it.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Bart Elliott on July 19, 2002, 06:23 PM
The general public wants to dance and listen to what they hear on the radio or see on MTV. Your original music isn't familiar to them ... and quite frankly, I don't think most people have the brains to figure out what good music is ... so they just go for what is spoon-fed to them (ie. if it's on the radio, it has to be good). The music industry knows this, which is why they spend big $$$ to get their music, regardless of how good it really is, in front of an audience who will buy it. I'm not trying to be cynical, but that's the way it is unfortunately. Perhaps it's a little over simplified or it's my own spin on things.

I've been hearing a lot from artists in Nashville, etc., who state that they've noticed independent labels & artists being pushed more than ever. If you're not signed on with a major label ... you might as well forget it ... so they say.

So playing covers is definitely a way to stay busy, musically speaking.

Here's another little Bartman analogy for you to ponder. It's like giving a dog medicine. You have to give your pooch something that he wants to eat, and hide the pill inside. The same goes with the general public; give them the music they want (eg. cover tunes), and sneak some of your original music in the mix. They'll be more receptive ... and chances are will think it's a cover tune and ask you who recorded it!  I've seen this happen again and again; it works.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: JB007 on July 19, 2002, 07:21 PM
I agree with everyone, originality is good, having fun is VERY important.  Money, important to some. Not really to me, but thats me.  And, like bartman said, thats what I like to do, play cover songs, but add some of original stuff.  The people like it, but you know that you wrote it.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 19, 2002, 09:46 PM
first lemmie say i think were all on the same page here.  we all want to enjoy playing and play what we enjoy.  whatever it is.  and thats awesome.  

which brings me to an interesting thing i noticed in this string.   there have been several mentions of the idea of playing for the audience.  why do you (as in those of you this may apply to) cater to the crowd?  

sidereal already said why he does, he has fun with it, he digs watching girls dance etc.  in that regard he isnt necessarily playing for the crowd.  hes just playing what he digs and it happens to be much like what the crowd digs :)  which in turn = more girls dancing = happy jim = more drumming = more girls dancing etc ;)  (im not picking on you man, just using you as an example)

me, i have to maintain a decent day job (which i actually dig, so its not all bad :)) to be able to maintain my musical life.  i have the same general philosophy as sidereal, play what you dig, and dig playing it.  it just so happens that the music i really dig isnt really commercially viable :(  but the sacrafice of not making a living off my music was one i was willing to make.  again, to play what i dig.   would my soul be raped? no.  thats a bit severe :)  im just not interested.

Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Jazzman on July 19, 2002, 10:22 PM
I used to visit the places ahead of time that we were going to play at to see what was hot for the crowd.  That is what we did, plus a little more for the edge.

The reason you play the crowd is for attracting the crowd.  The owner's wanted to get the crowd as big as possible.  Big Crowd = Big $$$$$$.  And guess what you were asked to come back to play some more, why because the people were having a good time dancing, listening, and pointing to the drummer that was cool on the skins, or anyone else in the band that was charged.

I was in a 10 piece band with three singers, and we would tear up the place, we used to work the night clubs 3 times a week.  We didn't practice, we just removed our covers off of the equipment, warm up, and come back when it was time to play........and ALWAYS on time.

Yes we played cover songs, and had some work of our own, but the covers attracted the crowd every time.  We played very close to the cover as much as we could.
I must say I was always charged in front of a crowd, and felt in the pocket or groove with the boys. :)

Something to add to the mix folks............

My fade-out......

Jazzman 8)
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Bart Elliott on July 19, 2002, 10:29 PM
Sidereal ... I didn't mean to make it sound like playing cover tunes is only a means or a bad thing.

I love playing ALL music ... as long as it's good.

But ... there are limits to what you can do if all you do is play cover tunes. You can play clubs, private & corporate parties ... and that's about it.

It's interesting how we say that we play covers so that we can make money in music, but in reality, there is a breaking point where you must play originals or work with a national act.

Play originals ... you starve.
Play cover tunes ... you survive.
Play with a originals again ... but with a national act ... you prosper.
I'm just being silly with this.

I do see your point Sidereal ... and I'm right there with you. Like I said, I love all music as long as it's good. I enjoy playing with an original band or original material because I'm able to be more creative. With cover material there is a certain amount of expectancy for everyone to play what is on the original recording.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 20, 2002, 10:13 AM
Play with a originals again ... but with a national act ... you prosper.

AHH! thats what im doing wrong! :)  sorry ... mocking myself here.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Nubblehead on July 20, 2002, 01:36 PM
Well i don't know what to make of all this Covers or Originals stuff. I have done the original route...playing others peoples originals, not mine as I can't write music...and you know what...it is just like playing covers....bass, snare, hi-hat...ya know? Only you play alot of "opening" sets to indifferent or unappreciative "show us what you've got" people for ZERO money. If your lucky you get a break and a song hits etc...it is like hitting the lottery really. And I admire everyone who has staid the course and made it, it is some accomplishment.
     Move forward. Married, kids, over 40...I have a "cover" band now. I get to go out and play a few times a month and it is a highlight just to have the chance to play for dancing drunks..playing the tunes they want to hear. I'm "up" on what is on the radio...something i can't say for most people my age who i work with who stopped listening to "new, current" radio 20 years ago. I have so much fun playing in front of a live audience I feel lucky to have what I have. When we cover a song it is played the way we play, not note for note "GB" version. I approach every song we cover like it is my own with my style stamped all over it, just like it was an "original" song for me because it is in a way. I go 110% all the time. It is fun. I get some $, but nothing that can pay the bills...this is all done for the LOVE of playing at this point, and I still love it. But not for a minute do I consider myself ANY LESS A MUSICIAN than ANYONE playing "originals" That is elitist BS that I have no time for. If you play out, in front of a crowd in ANY working band you are a muscian, covers or originals. Just to have a real band is an accomplishment anyone should feel great about and lucky to be in. there are alot of elitist "musicians" out there who don't play out who think they are great.
    I work sometimes in a small music store...if i had a dollar for all the pompous people who come in bragging about their great band etc...who when asked "Where are you playing next" have to answer..."Well, we don't have any gigs right now...we're looking for a new bassist....insert any excuse here...." this goes for original people and cover wannabee's too. So  I salute anyone who has the fortitude to put up with the tough economics of having ANY type of band, and the personalities that come with it, and the aggravation of rehearsal space and gear transportation, and PA/lights, cheapo club owners etc. If your playing out, count your lucky stars, covers or originals, because there are thousands who envy you in your position as it is a tough road to travel..if it was easy everyone would be doing it. And if you are in a "cover" band don't take the cheap "not a real musician" shots lying down. At least you are doing something musically with your talent and hopefully having some fun too! It isn't all that easy to do either. And if you had happened to bump into Scott Stapp from Creed in Florida eight years ago...it could have been you in Creed, not their present drummer. So he plays "originals" (someone elses in a way), so what; he is good, but maybe no better than you as a drummer...He was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Count your blessings for what you have and play on...you never know what tomorrow may bring.
At least you are playing the drums somewhere with somebody. :)
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 20, 2002, 07:58 PM
there are a few parts and its not all for sidereal if youd like to read on.

We could sort of go around in circles with this and I could explain it in different ways. (No, 565, I don't play covers to watch girls dance. You picked out one thing and assumed that was the reason I do it, which is not true. You're missing the point.)

whoa there nelly ... im not antagonizing anyone here, as i said in that post, i wasnt picking on you.  i was just saying that you enjoy playing music (whatever it may be) to happy crowds, thats it ... i singled out the dancing girls to represent happy crowds since you yourself mentioned them, thats all.  and i think we all understand why you play.  at least i do :)  i thought i had made it clear that i was totally in agreement with you and on your side.  if that wasnt clear consider this a public apology.  and feel free to private message me if youd like.

i thought this was an interesting topic.  which brought up insteresting issues (why do you play what you play, who do you play for, etc) if everyone thinks im just insulting them regardless of my continual attempts to dissuade that notion ill gladly ask bart to just delete this whole string.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Bart Elliott on July 20, 2002, 09:24 PM
i thought this was an interesting topic.  which brought up insteresting issues (why do you play what you play, who do you play for, etc) if everyone thinks im just insulting them regardless of my continual attempts to dissuade that notion ill gladly ask bart to just delete this whole string.

It is an interesting topic .... and no, I don't think anyone thinks you are being insulting. It's so hard to type out the tone of what we mean. I get so impatient sometimes that I just get sick of having to clarify all my words so that they are not misunderstood. Sometimes you just got to spew and clean up the mess later ... ya know?!   :P

I think everything is cool ... or kewl ... depending on how kool you are.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Jazzman on July 20, 2002, 09:29 PM
Guys/gals........this is a good thread.  Nubblehead, you've realy centered on the typical joe blow doing his thing in public.  I see and understand all points stated here from all.  

I used to play in some awful places, where no one really cared for the group, they just wanted sound, a lot of it and loud.  Frat houses where people were dancing with beer kegs on their heads, acting stupid and throwing up all over the place.  I've also played in some real nice places too, where the band was apreciated and thanked for the performance.  Usually played cover stuff, it is what they wanted to hear.

All in all, wether it be the cover scene or original music, playing in a band with close friends is really something, if you can stick together for more than a year!

Yes I have heard some folks brag about their bands too just to talk a big line of crap.  It is the result of what I am going to tell you, and something we've all been through.

Many years ago I had started a few bands myself, trying to keep things together.  It was very hard to keep people focused on the music, practice, and getting work.  I can't tell you how many times I had to find people that were deticated to playing just covers.  That was complicated enough.  This one guy had to go back home in another state after college, this other guy couldn't play anymore because his father thought we were playing too loud, another father had a noise meter on us to verify how loud we were playing.  Another father didn't want his son playing the organ because he was afraid that his son would fail in playing the panio.

Why is it then a real pain to have group stay together? I'll tell you why, commitment, the wife, the kids, the job, the relatives, the other friends, and you just being flat tired.

Covers are easier for someone to do just listen to the tune, practice it and go play out to have fun.  How hard would it be to do original work and have people always comming and going in a group......there is no bench mark for the song, (I don't know if that matters to some of you).

If any of you are in a band and stay together it is because your wipped into shape and realize that in order to have fun.........the wife, the kids, the dog, the other friends, the job, the relatives all need to fight for second place.  I applaud all of you that are sticking to it.

I'm through with the band scene, (although some of my friends want me to get back into it again), and glad, now I'm in my own studio comming up with my own creations, me doing it all, no one else to blame, the wife, the kids all grown up, no dog, and having a blast.
I have clients that come in from time to time to record their demos, and albums.  Sometimes thats a pain too, but I'm happy.

Folks as long as you are having fun, commited to music, enjoy being around other people, make some money, get turned on enough to be charged in front of the crowd.........that's what it is all about.  Doing a good job for those that you are playing for gets more work, more money (and gets you out of the house). ;D  This attitude is carried in the studio as well.

My opinion......keep this thread going.  All of us have issues to discuss......this is a great place to do just that.

Keep the faith........I am.......need to at my age.  :P

Jazzman 8)
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 20, 2002, 11:26 PM
I think everything is cool ... or kewl ... depending on how kool you are.

straight from the fridge  

its funny ... i was at this audition today and we were talking about covers.  niether the band or i are particularly interested in doing any, we'd rather write.  but i found myself less concerned with the notion than i was even a few days ago.  they mentioned playing a george harrison song at a show shortly after his death. because they are fans.  they mentioned incorporating some nick drake lyrics in an original tune they wrote because there were some accidental similarities, and drakes a helluva writer.  there was a time when i wouldve been ... well, kinda put off by the idea.  not "oh my god whata sellout" kinda put off, more of a "well, we can do better" ...  anyway.  this time around i found myself thinking that it was all good.  

i dont want to play covers.  i havent turned that leaf ;)  but the idea is easier to swallow than it once was.  because of our discussion here.  the idea that its simply about playing music you love, and loving the act of playing it.  

anyway.  im done until someone says something else that i can use to mock myself with :)  keep it up.

p.s. - straight from the fridge was a slang term used in pulp "rebel youth" novels in the 50's.  see? im straight from the fridge daddy-o.

Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: paul on July 22, 2002, 10:09 AM
I think bands today are in too much of a hurry to write original material.  Something I haven't seen discussed here (sorry if it was and I missed it) is the way that playing cover material helps you learn new grooves and to develop your own style.  As you learn the parts others have played you decide consciously and unconsciously which parts will be incorporated into your own style.

I also think that most bands don't write very good original material, especially young bands.  How could they?  They don't know anything yet.  My sincere apologies to all you 16-17 year olds who are going to leap all over that, but it's true.  Your experiences have been quite limited at that age, and that lack of experience shows up in the material you write.

In the bands I've played with I never cared whether the material was original or not, as long as it's done well and interestingly.  Hell, even most jazz artists mostly play cover material (formerly called "standards") that we try to put our own stamp on.  It's still a creative process, and I have no trouble admitting that "Stella By Starlight" or "Day Tripper" are both better compositions than anything I'm likely to write myself.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: BAnimalG on July 22, 2002, 12:02 PM
I am currently playing in two cover bands, and working on original tunes for both.  We love playing other people's music, because it is the easy way to build a fan-base and, in essence, shove your original material down their throats, and then get their opinions of it.  It's easy, and helpful to the pocketbook at the same time.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Mark Schlipper on July 22, 2002, 01:17 PM
you make some really good points paul.  it was mentioned (though not explored) that a lot of original material is weak.  i guess its just been my goal since taking on music in earnest to write well.  so i stuck to original material, weak or not.  its as much a learning process as playing covers.  just a different one. and  i prefer to get that influence from others by simply listening to others.  but thats just me :)

will i ever write material that will be considered as classic as orff's carmina buriana? or anything by miles davis or the beatles?  probably not.  but its really hard to say because so much of that has to do with exposure and audience exceptance (even if it is posthumous) whose to say there isnt some guy in a 3rd floor apartment in downtown chubbock idaho that has just finished a symphony to rival beethoven's 9th.  or some 16 year old who has written a pop song to rival brian wilson.  so have confidence in yourself and your creative energy.  give it a go.

i think the goal of any musician should be to have your own unique voice.  can you do that playing covers? i dont see why not, look at coltranes "my favorite things" ... certainly not as it was written, but it is identifiable, both as the song itself, and as coltrane.  (yes, i have begun to change my tune as it were :))  but i still think that your unique voice would sound more strongly in an original tune.  simply because its 100% you.  not your interpretation of someone else.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Jason00 on July 23, 2002, 07:17 AM
. . . I get to go out and play a few times a month and it is a highlight just to have the chance to play for dancing drunks..playing the tunes they want to hear. . .  (At least you are playing the drums somewhere with somebody. :))

My thoughts exactly.  As Michael J. Fox put it in the timeless classic "Light of Day":  "One hour on stage under the lights makes up for the other 23."  No one in the group I'm with has the time to work up any original stuff--family, "real" jobs, 2 have their own businesses to run.  We enjoy listening to the music we play and the bar crowd enjoys dancing to it, so it seems like we all win.
Title: Re:covers and whatnot.
Post by: Big Yummy on July 23, 2002, 07:44 AM
When I was in a hardcore punk band, we were booked into a bar that usually hired very professional classic rock cover bands.  

I didn't want to play the show, but our guitarist said not to worry about it.  "Just play a few riffs that they know and the audience will accept anything."

So we're up on stage, he plays the opening riffs to a Led Zeppelin song, we break into some anti-social punk song, and the crowd's up and dancing.  It was the weirdest thing.  

For the rest of the night, he set up all the songs with riffs from Deep Purple, Floyd, etc. and it worked.

Similarly, I was in a bar in a northern Ontario mining town where a band played a Ska version of Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage".  It was hilarious.  The horns were tooting away at twice the tempo of the song with this happy, lilting rythym over a one-drop beat from the rhythm section.  

The reaction from the locals?  "Yeah, Floyd!"