Cover Band Question: what process do you use to select songs?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Eskimo_Joe, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. Eskimo_Joe

    Eskimo_Joe Rocker, roller, way out of controller Supporting Member

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    I'm not referring to the criteria you use for deciding which songs to play, I'm literally talking about the process you follow.
     
  2. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Member

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    Decide which song I like and that I think my guitar player/singer can sing and play at the same time. Learn his parts, learn my parts, teach him his parts, take it to the rehearsal pad and work it out with the drummer.
     
  3. Anchorage42

    Anchorage42 Member

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    Pick songs that we all enjoy playing (with veto power), stuff that we know works the crowd and at least 1 song that allows each player to be featured wellon their instrument.
     
  4. thefishingline

    thefishingline Supporting Member

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    it has to be what the singer can sing and he guitars can handle otherwise why bother
     
  5. Gas-man

    Gas-man Unrepentant Massaganist

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    Songs that will go over with normal people, not just songs musicians like.

    Cover bands have huge problems generally in this area.
     
  6. 21stcenturykid

    21stcenturykid Member

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    Is it likely anyone will dance to it? no (do not choose)
    yes- continue to next option.

    is it in the singers range and can the band do it justice? no (don't choose)
    yes- learn it.

    try it out out at a gig- did anyone dance to it? no (bin it)
    yes- play it again. Simple.

    (note this is for a wedding/function band. Criteria should be entirely different for a rock covers band)
     
  7. MKB

    MKB Silver Supporting Member

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    Our exact process as well. If a particular member can't cover his part, the song is dropped (although that is rare, keys can always be changed).

    Personal preference sometimes is applied, but rarely. We target our product to our audience. We also try to spread the lead vocals evenly through the band; give everyone a shot if they can sing lead.
     
  8. mcdonaldkd

    mcdonaldkd Member

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    Same here. It all starts with whether or not girls will dance to it.

    Any one in the band can veto a song suggestion, however. There are just too many good songs to get hung up on any single one. This keeps harmony in the band and keeps every member interested.
     
  9. Eskimo_Joe

    Eskimo_Joe Rocker, roller, way out of controller Supporting Member

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    Most of this is criteria. I'm trying to understand process.

    My band has meetings where everyone comes with a list of songs and we go through them all and everyone has to approve unanimously. Unfortunately, it becomes a cumbersome, long, ridiculous process which most of us walk away from frustrated.
     
  10. Paleolith54

    Paleolith54 Member

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    Sounds like you are focusing too much on process, honestly. The process part isn't rocket surgery. Either it's a dictatorship or it's not. If not then all get a say, you discuss pros and cons, and a consensus emerges. If this is not happening without the need for more rules or greater methodological rigor, I'd say you don't have the right people together, which no process is likely to fix.
     
  11. Alister

    Alister Supporting Member

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    From the standpoint of a listener or patron (which is what I normally am now), and from the standpoint of having played in cover bands for 30-odd years, a couple of observations are pretty easy, for me anyway:'

    1. If it's a 'democratic" processed band, you get a ton of variety and eclecticism. Sometimes, to bizarre degrees. Jethro Tull's 'Bungle in the Jungle,' followed without a break by Ramones, followed by the Dobbies or something. If you're me, you go, "WTF???" But the audience doesn't notice a thing.
    The musicians, though, tend to be very versatile and willing to serve this variety. These bands tend to be popular for this very reason.

    2. If it's more of a dictatorship or leader/backup guys type of paradigm, the material is usually way, way more "consistent," pretty easy to trace to one or two members' tastes. This is the kind of band that tends to have a following that has the same taste, but also struggles with an audience that's more general or doesn't share that specific taste. Some of this category of bands might as well be "tribute" bands, even though they don't call themselves that. I've seen bands like this play an entire set of, say, Foghat, or U2, or you-name-it.

    Even in 'genre' bands like blues or alt-country or what have you, I still notice this kind of general breakdown.

    When players come and go, though -- as, face it, they do in cover bands especially, all of this breaks down in an instant, and 'Category 1' can go Category 2'.
     
  12. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Here's how you pick a song:

    1. Can the singer sing it?

    If not, you can't do it. Sorry. If your singer can't sing the material you guys want to do, you have to make a decision. Either change the material you want to play, change the key (if possible), or find another singer who can do what you want to do.

    2. Can you guys play it?

    If not, you can't do it. Sorry. If you guys can't play the tune then you need to make a decision. Drop the tune, or re-arrange it so you can play it. Or you can look for better musicians that can do it.

    3. While there are millions of songs out there, if you can't sing it it won't fly. There's no point in doing it. If you can't play it, ditto. So depending on the skill level of your band, and the style you guys are into, that may drastically limit the number of tunes you can do. It could limit it so much that you really have no choice but to do those remaining tunes.

    4. But if you still have choices after this limiting you can NOT do unanimous votes. It's going to have to be majority because someone's always going to not like something (and again, you may not have much to choose from at this point). If it's always the same person who's complaining about the material, then that guy's a problem. If half the band is always complaining, you guys might not be the best fit, or it might be time to re-evaluate the band's goals.

    5. You have to understand that, when you go out and play a gig, you're not playing for yourself, you're playing for your audience. Some "artists" choose to ignore this and do what they want to do. Others understand the concept. Neither is "correct" but in general, by and large, and typically, if you are not playing material that appeals to your audience, you're not going to be playing many gigs. So the PROFESSIONAL goes out and identifies a market FIRST - is there an audience for what we're playing? If yes, then play it. Better than anyone else. If not, sorry, you need to do something else, or understand that you're either going to end up playing in the garage "for fun" or gigging rarely, to people who don't care about what you're doing. You *SHOULD* pick only those songs that your audience is going to like (not what YOU THINK they like, but what they really actually like).

    Good Luck,
    Steve
     
  13. FenderBigot

    FenderBigot Supporting Member

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    Our process follows this:

    #1 - Can either of the singers pull it off?
    #2 - Can our audience enjoy it? Meaning... danceable or is it a "listening" song?
    #3 - Does everyone want to play it? (toughest of the process)
    #4 - Can we play it?

    In the end... we wanna enjoy what we're playing as much as the audience/crowd. Last practice we had a one hour brainstorming session on new song ideas. Each member threw out what they wanted to do and we then voted. I shot down "Mustang Sally" but we accepted almost all thrown out by each member. We ended up with 12 new songs, 8 of which were deemed "danceable" by all.
     
  14. Gas-man

    Gas-man Unrepentant Massaganist

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    Dude, no one WANTS to play MS, but you do it because it works and at a wedding or other high paid gig people expect you to play it.


    I'd love to hear the songs that made the list.
     
  15. Ros

    Ros Silver Supporting Member

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    Our process is very similar to ones posted here with the added influx of requests. If we hear a song requested at a gig that we don't know we put it into the process (i.e. can we do it, is it in the singer's wheelhouse, etc.). We'll even ask around as we mingle during breaks for song suggestions. We've had people come out to see us at our next gig to hear their suggested song.

    We also tend to do a lot of local radio listening for ideas.

    -R.
     
  16. ggwwbb

    ggwwbb Member

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    We'll each come up with about 4 or 5 songs, then weed thru them based on if our singer can sing it or not, and if we can make it our own. Sometimes it can be time consuming, but if we can't get it nailed down fairly quick, we'll usually go on to the next one. I'm usually the one that learns the song first, then I help our bass player (who is a great player, but doesn't play by ear very well) learn the changes. We've learned songs as quickly as 15 or 20 minutes and some its taken us a couple of hours or so.....
     
  17. GulfportBound

    GulfportBound Member

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    I put a good blues group together a little over a year ago. (Lineup: Drums, bass, keyboards, and yours truly on guitar.) I made it plain as day when I put the band together that I didn't want us to sound like every other blues band in town. As part of that (we write our own material, too; we have four or five originals in the book now), our covers would be drawn from that vast blues repertoire that hasn't been beaten to death and back and back again by every other bar band on the turf. In other words, our band repertoire assuredly does not include the like of . . .

    Stormy Monday
    Rock Me Baby
    Pride and Joy
    Cold Shot
    Tush
    Hoochie Coochie Man
    One Way Out
    Statesboro Blues
    Crossroads
    The Thrill is Gone (this one hurt, because had it not been for seeing B.B. King live that summer and then hearing this number when it was released in late summer 1969, I never would have tried to play a guitar seriously in the first place, but it's been beaten to death and back and back again, alas)
    Further On Up the Road
    Have You Ever Loved a Woman
    Crosscut Saw
    Born in Chicago
    Sweet Home Chicago
    La Grange
    Blues with a Feeling
    One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
    Red House
    Voodoo Chile, Slight Return
    Walking By Myself
    Killing Floor
    Key to the Highway
    Tobacco Road
    Help Me

    . . . among others.

    So, what do we cover? Among others:

    I'll Play the Blues for You (Albert King)
    Who's Been Talking (Howlin' Wolf)
    Crawling King Snake (John Lee Hooker)
    Fattening Frogs for Snakes (Sonny Boy Williamson)
    Money's Gettin' Cheaper (Jimmy Witherspoon)
    Diving Duck Blues (Sleepy John Estes)
    One More Mile (James Cotton)
    Honey Bee (Muddy Waters)
    The Same Thing (Muddy Waters)
    Mary Ann (Ray Charles)
    Flor d'Luna (Moonflower) (Santana)
    Blues at Sunrise (Albert King)
    Get Out of My Life, Woman (Lee Dorsey)
    East-West (The Butterfield Blues Band)
    So Hard to Share (John Mayall)
    All Blues (Miles Davis)
    Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City (Bobby Bland)
    Raunchy (Bill Justis, though we're basing our version off a remake Link Wray made)
    Drinkin' Wine (Stick McGhee)

    It may not seem like much of a repertoire until you factor in that we stretch a lot of the numbers out and have decent jams on them. Other than that we don't copy the original arrangements like human musical Xerox machines, we're liable to change the key to accomodate my voice; I have a deep voice, maybe a little unusual for singing blues, and I got pressed into singing because almost nobody else in the band wanted to sing (though our bass player is stepping forth a little more with singing, and he's good at it), so often as not we might adjust a key to fit my range. It's not that hard an adjustment to make. (One example: Jimmy Witherspoon's "Money's Gettin' Cheaper" was originally cut in D, and he had a high shouting voice. I couldn't hit that range with a baseball bat. So we changed it to G and in that key I could handle the song.)

    We have a rule when we pick out our covers, too---if even one guy isn't comfortable with the song in question, we just won't use it. It doesn't matter which guy is uncomfortable with it; I'm considered the leader of the band but if one guy isn't comfortable with a song I might like to try, we just forget that song. I'd rather everyone be comfortable with what we're playing than force the issue on a song even if it's a song I love, and the other guys show me like respect when I say I'm not comfortable or don't like a certain song, or don't think it's really a song for our style, such as it is. We also drop a cover if we hear another band in town doing it, we're that determined to be as unique as we can with what we do.

    So far, people who've heard us like us, not just for the way we sound and play but for our repertoire choice. They know they're not going to get the same old junk with us that they might get with the others in town.

    Since we've got a decent book of covers, moreover, we may get to the point where, after we add another few original songs, we might go from there to consider dropping one cover number for every new song we come up with after that. Who knows? So far, it's been working great for us.
     
  18. ggwwbb

    ggwwbb Member

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    :aok:aok:aok:aok

    I've been considering putting together a blues band aside from my regular classic rock band and was thinking about doing the same thing. Not that theres anything wrong with all the "standards", but I love hearing guys do stuff that you don't hear all the time. My rock band does "Messin' With The Kid" by Junior Wells (with a little bit of the Blues Brothers version thrown in...) and it goes over really well and it would be one of the songs that I'll want to do in a blues band, along with "Ain't That Loving You Baby" by Link Wray.
     
  19. Gas-man

    Gas-man Unrepentant Massaganist

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    The other thing I would add is singers get more input than other members.

    If you are just playing the damn song there isn't much of a reason you should object to anything (as long as people will like it).

    Singers get to have more say because they are doing the heavy lifting of the band.
     
  20. GulfportBound

    GulfportBound Member

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    I've thought about "Ain't That Loving You Baby" myself. (I love Jimmy Reed's original version.)

    And I know of one band who mashes "Messin' with the Kid" to the version Steppenwolf came up with---their new lyrics included a final verse in which they thank Wells for not minding if they copped the song! ("Tighten Up Your Wig.") I could be wrong, but I've heard Wells got a big kick out of that . . .
     

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