Do you feel that playing covers (only) limits development and/or personal satisfaction?


Senior Member
I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks of this.

While there is no doubt that I (like most of us) have gotten better over the years, I negate the joy in that to some degree by choosing to cover more and more difficult material. I may be demonstrably better than I was last year but I just feel a never-ending sense of challenge as I try to master progressively more difficult material. In this case, the measurement is external to me as determined by the original drummer. It's a binary thing; either I played the parts note for note or I did not.

In my case the goal is to play the original parts faithfully. I would be off the hook instantly if this wasn't the case but that's my deal, even if it isn't always possible.

By way of contrast, the above is never an issue when I compose original parts. I always play them right and I'm not better or worse than the original composer because it's me. The competition is strictly internal.

In some sense, the greats escape the comparison. We'll never know if Tommy Aldridge would be humbled trying to cover Steve Gadd because that just doesn't happen on a regular basis. Can Keith Carlock do a convincing John Bonham? We may never know.

I'm mindful of what happened to Neil Peart when he attempted to play jazz on the Buddy Rich tributes. The knives came out in a hurry.

The greats stay in their lane and determine their own reputations. Sure, they get compared to one another but it's generally a subjective comparison and not really objective. More opinion than fact, in other words.

I wonder if I am missing out on some joy by not working on original music more. My only competition would be myself so there's some relief in that but more importantly, my own style would develop if I worked on originals. Right now that isn't really happening.

Kind of a rambling post I know but I'm sure you get my drift. Maybe those of you who left cover bands behind to work exclusively on originals can comment. Did your style flourish and did you feel happier because of it?
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Gold Member
Like you I did pride myself in trying to duplicate drum parts while in an 8 piece horn band doing covers. Zoning in on Seraphine was fun and challenging while doing Chicago tunes. I remember doing original stuff back in the day with the areas premier rock guitar player..i wasn't really ready but I got to dive in young and green. Rusty somehow saw something in me that showed promise I guess. It was super challenging coming up with good parts that grooved and fit. Doing original stuff (for me) carried alot of responsibility and hard work. I constantly had to fight wanting to be Bonham or Paice. My own voice suffered comparatively which greatly bothered me. In my mind I just didn't stack up being hard on myself. I started thinking not either one..stop this foolishness and be the best ME I can be but what a difficult road. I DID feel a far greater sence of accomplishment doing original I was SOMEBODY. You walk around thinking your Mr. cool. faded quickly while recording but in time I grew to accept my own voice. All in all original material is where it's at if you want to develop and grow from my ugly duckling stage to stage swan (hopefully) far more gratifying.


Senior Member
I came from only playing covers when I started out in the 90's/early 00's to suddenly get "thrown" into original acts, sort to say. At the beginning I felt like everything I came up with was either a direct copy of what I heard other drummers do, or I felt the part was not as thought out/good as more professional drummers would have done it. I might have copied a lot of the drummers I used to cover in the beginning (I remember at least one incident with the first original band I got into, were I was supposed to do a drum intro to a song, and the only thing I came up with was a direct copy of Mike Portnoy in one of the Liquid Tension Experiment songs... It stayed like that until the band dismantled shortly after, but I was very limited creatively at the time), but I started developing my own style bit by bit, I believe. It definately took a while for me to get comfortable with it, but I'm really glad I went with doing mostly originals over time, it just feels more rewarding to me. Suddenly you can record your own albums and get people interested in hearing your own work, it's another level of satisfaction, to me at least. When you get mail from people all over the world who want to buy a signed vinyl/CD, it is a special feeling even though you are not by any means making a lot of money of it. At least it feels more meaningful. I enjoy doing covers too, at least the ones I feel is somewhat more demanding to do, or a song/artist that I really like/have history with. I do respect the musicians that only do covers though, I guess you have to try to master a lot of different styles, that might be the most rewarding feeling of it (?). I might go that route later on in my career as I feel it is less work than making your own music, but I feel I come up with good enough parts now that I can be proud to record and will ride that horse as long as it feels right. It might not be the best economic choice to do in most instances, but I feel it makes up for it if you really like the music you are making and can feel/hear yourself grow as a musician.
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1 hit wonder

Well-known Member
Covering stuff faithfully used to be my thing and it's probably the educational aspect that determines that it's useful.

Last year when I returned to performing I joined with a young player who taught me that you don't have to do that and taking artist liberty is pretty damn satisfying when covering songs.

Producing originals is the next step to further creativity.


Senior Member
I used to play technical metal and progressive rock and now find myself enjoying cover songs. The easier the better lately.

Not that I don't mind a cool Walk Away type song to get the chips out, but I find myself digging more Petty and AC/DC type stuff.

Those songs are just as fun to play as some of the more technical or complicated ones.

More importantly, playing is playing. I used to consider covers to be woodshedding and keeping my chops up so I never grew stagnant for when I needed to do more complicated gigs.


Platinum Member
I suppose it depends on the individual.

I played in a lot of cover bands in my early 20's, and then one night of playing the same small bar 3 nights a week, I realized, this doesn't make me happy, this is not why I wanted to become a drummer. So I stopped, moved to Los Angeles, joined an original band, and never looked back.

Technique: I think playing exclusively in original bands is actually limiting in technique. In an original band, you tend to play only 20-30 minute slots, sometimes a 45-minute slot. So you spend a lot of time in rehearsal and on stage playing the same 8-10-12 songs over and over again.

Whereas with a cover band, you tend to play 4 different 45-minute sets a night. There is way more variety.

Some years ago I woke up one day and I realized I hadn't played a shuffle in years and years, because the bands I was in didn't write shuffles. I had to re-teach myself how to do it. Sometime prior to that, I had gone back to one my teachers because I realized my technique had become rather stiff after playing nothing but the same 10 songs for a year and 1/2.

Personal satisfaction: Much, much higher for me with original bands. I'm not saying covers can't be fun, they are, but it's nothing compared to the deep satisfaction of coming up with original material.

My last band didn't even try that hard, as it was very niche music aimed at a very small niche of music lovers. But we got fan mail and CD sales from Russia, Brazil, Germany, the UK, and all over the United States, and all over the world. A prior band, I hadn't been in 10 years when I got fan mail from Europe looking for a copy of our EP. That stuff doesn't happen with a cover band.


"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
I play in an original band occasionally. I've played mostly covers in my journey. I get no more satisfaction from one or the other. I get satisfaction by playing drums because it's the best thing I feel I can do. Plus I look cool doing it :)


Diamond Member
I grew up "playing covers" by playing along to albums. I cut my teeth learning and playing along to stuff in the late 70' and early 80's...well, really, even still do.

so in a way, I would say no. But, I feel like if I had played along only to "money beat" stuff, I would have progressed slower. As a kid, I played along to/learned Motown stuff, cool bop jazz, 70's prog rock, 80's metal and punk and 80's new wave

I played in original bands for almost 30 years before I got into cover bands, and the bands were always something uptempo, and technically challenging. My cover bands have been country and rockabilly, blues and old school swing/jump blues stuff

after having gotten into the cover band thing - which I always actively avoided as a young person b/c I thought it was a "cop out" - I realize that that attitude is stupid (as much of our young decisions are), and that being in a cover band is a different challenge for sure. One of the things I also learned is the years of having to come up with original drum parts really helped me learn phrasing, and how to learn an existing song very quickly. Original bands also allwoed me to "become mysel" as a drummer ,and not get pulled into a lot of "arbitrary rules" about drumming and being in bands

I still play in 2 original bands as well

and I think the BIGGEST lesson i learned in my 20's is that every musical opportunity is a learning situation, and that I am never done fact, it would suck to be "at the end" or The Best...I would be terribly bored if there was no more to learn/I could do everything


Well-known Member
I actually prefer to do covers, because most original tunes are simply awful. Really bad. Terrible.

That said... My current band just recorded two originals. They sound pretty good.


Platinum Member
Only thing limiting me is my skill level ;). Not so much on bass, though, and I have done writing and cover playing concurrently the whole time.

I don’t think there’s anything but good to come from not limiting your horizons. People with singular styles can become popular and known for them, but last I checked, that ain’t us.


Senior Member
I've managed to go my entire life without ever being in a band that plays covers. *though I would argue that standards are just jazz covers* the weekly jazz jams that we host during the summer might be considered an evening of covers. However - those are more for community members to come to sit in and there are actually 3 or 4 drummers that do show up, so I'm not playing all night thank goodness.

No radio covers for me - I absolutely hate it. We've been playing originals for nearly a decade now and it's the absolute best.


Platinum Member
I don't learn more and more difficult material because those aren't my goals. I have no desire right now to learn more difficult music or write original music. I enjoy playing songs I love for people who want to hear them. To me, that's fun. Learning a hot new groove in 7/4 (a.) doesn't sound like fun and (b.) isn't going to help me at all right now. I work on what the music I enjoy playing requires, and I learn those things. Sometimes they are difficult, but sometimes their not, and either is fine with me. That's what makes me a better drummer, and I enjoy the process.
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Senior Member
I found some covers forced me to learn/count new things-rhythms, etc. which never would happen with originals. In fact my home playlist includes music with particular parts to learn, ie.: Hendrix songs for triplets and ruffs, Petty for speed, etc.

Chris Whitten

Silver Member
Can Keith Carlock do a convincing John Bonham? We may never know.
Can he do a convincing Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Bernard Purdie or Rick Marotta? I would say yes. I supported Steely Dan once and Carlock had to play convincing versions of all the Dan classics.
I find covers are a GREAT education. They force you to learn what other very successful drummers choose to play. If you just play somewhat in the style of, then no you won't learn much. But if you try and get inside the groove, copy at least some of the fills, it is a great education and SHOULD be demanding - if you are doing it properly.
A lot of the covers I see on Youtube the drummer is not doing a convincing job, hasn't really copped the feel and is often even playing the wrong bass drum and hi-hat parts.