My band and I covered Mister Rogers’ “It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood,” and it sounded really bad.
And I’ve learned some valuable lessons from watching the Facebook video.
We looked ridiculous — four grown men huddled around a mic playing out-of-tune toy instruments (except for Ben, the guy playing melodica…he actually sounded good).
People usually get a kick out of seeing us play this song.
But we sounded really bad this time. Well, I sounded really bad — I was singing off key and doing all-over-the-place vocal “runs.”
Yeah, not our brightest moment as a band (and somehow the only video from that night that ended up online).
So to avoid being like me and my band that one time, take note of these three things you’ll need to make sure your cover songs sound good. (Note: these tips are not for cover bands).
Keep it classic
If you pick an obscure song, no one will even know it’s a cover. Play a song people can sing along with.
Songs that pretty much every band covers:
- “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show
- “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones (above)
- “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
These are all safe bets. But if you want to get creative, cover a pop song in your own style. It’s fun for you and for the audience.
Don’t overdo it
Surprise is an underrated aspect of a concert.
If you do covers too often, each cover will have less of an impact. Also, people might start thinking of you as a cover band, not the original artist that you are.
I feel like 2-3 cover songs per 2-hour concert is safe. More than that, in my opinion, would be too much.
You’ve got to nail it
A band that nails cover songs every time is Walk off the Earth (example above). You might even get people to like your version better than the original.
But if you butcher a song that everyone loves, everyone will hate you.
The best way to approach this is to cover a song in your own style. That way, it’s not directly comparable (or contrast-able) to the original.
And practice the heck out of your covers. Know the song by heart, don’t bring music stands with the lyrics. It just looks bad and unprofessional. (Although some people use an iPad attached to their mic stands, which is more subtle and doesn’t really bother me personally).
But most of all, just have fun up there…
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