A do and a don’t when covering songs

Covered Bridge Park 6
Covered Bridge Park 6 by elviskennedy, on Flickr

Let’s face it, even if you are Bobby Dylan, some of the greatest songs were written by somebody that isn’t you. There are bound to be songs that inspire you to further greatness, songs that touch your soul. If you are a musician, cover songs! Cover songs expand your repertoire, teach you more about your craft, and allow potential fans to find you.

I have a few things I think about when I am covering songs and I hope they are helpful to you.

As the Audioslave song says, “to be yourself, is all that you can do.” Or more explicitly, don’t attempt exact reproduction. Is there a place for that? Yes! However, I am talking specifically about adding songs to your performing repertoire. If you can sound just like Beirut, great! But If I really want to hear an exact reproduction, there is always YouTube. Make the song your own! Find your voice in the song.

do maintain the intent. This is key. By maintaining the intent of a song you can play it in unforeseen ways and still rock. Example: Amanda Palmer’s Radiohead covers on the Ukulele. Yes, in her version of “Creep”, the angst is a little different, but it is still there. She captures the overall feeling of feeling weird.

There is of course much more to say on practical covering methods, but these are two important bits for me.

As an example cover, I played this Linkin Park song:

On the banjo:

events: look for me in downtown IC in front of Mayfair Apparel on Linn St at 4:30-6:30 on August 16! I’ll be rocking out some covers and originals on the sidewalk.

What is your key advice for covering a song well? Leave a comment to let me know!

William Stonewall Monroe


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