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

moxman

Silver Member
Learning covers is not limiting at all.. in fact just the opposite.
Originals - pros - creativity skills and improvisation - with the right band the sky is the limit but in most cases it's a hard sell (getting a crowd following etc). Recording and performance/show is key - social media, EPK and merch! If it's not an organized, success driven group.. then be prepared to play a lot - but have not much to show for it after investing time and energy etc.
Covers - pros - learn from the masters and up your game.. limited as to how far you can go.. ranging from regular club gigs to.. well paid weddings and events ..to travelling tribute bands etc.
Both are equally good.. it's whatever you want to do.. try both!
Personally - I follow the money - as it indicates the degree of success eg.. that people are willing to pay for your efforts... and how organized the band is.
 
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Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I like both but my main gig right now is in a tribute band so I'm laser-focused on playing like someone else.

I've always found trying to get into another drummer's head and play their parts, with the correct feel, to be both challenging and rewarding when done well. One of my more recent breakthroughs is understanding that copying a particular drummer's set up further helps you better understand how and why they orchestrate their fills around the kit.

Originals are interesting too. It can be tough moving your focus onto listening to everyone else's part to hear where your drums should be and what they can or should do. With the last original band I was in we had the luxury of rehearsing in a home studio, so we'd always record every practice and writing/jam session. That way I could lay down something basic on the fly but have recordings to go back to so I could really listen to what everyone else was playing and woodshed more interesting parts in between band practices.
 

TMe

Senior Member
I suppose it depends on the individual.
Exactly. In my case, I found that playing originals led me to being stuck in a rut where I just played the same stuff all the time, without learning anything new.

I'm sure I'd be a much better drummer if I'd spent more time learning covers, even if I never took them out of basement but just worked on them as study projects. So that's what I'm working on now.
 

John Q. Drummer

Active Member
Playing covers did not limit my development. If anything, it opened new avenues to do things. And provided infinite inspiration for ideas.

But as time went on in my last band, my personal satisfaction plummeted. Speaking for myself, playing only covers started to kill my soul. I never intended to join a covers only band. It was supposed to be a 50/50 mix of covers and originals. That changed over time to 95% covers/5% originals. We went months without playing any of our own songs. We had two albums worth of material being played on multiple radio stations but our shows became almost exclusively covers. There is nothing wrong with that, other than that’s not what I signed up for. I opted to leave the band and am now focusing on finding a new situation more to what I was looking for all along. I still fill in from time to time with my previous band but it only reinforces my wish to find something else to focus my efforts into.

I think playing covers is a good thing in general, but for myself, it can’t be my only outlet. Kudos to the folks who can play covers only and not go crazy. I couldn’t do it. Kinda wish I could. I would have way more opportunities to play right now.
 

Al Strange

Platinum Member
For many years I was cover averse and saw them as a necessary evil to flesh out a set and get the crowd onside. That said I did enjoy playing them when I had to, although other than key signature elements I tended to throw my own bits and pieces into them. Always, always copped licks and grooves off my favourite players but I never really wanted to play exactly like anyone else or learn anybody's parts note for note. :unsure:
 

bud7h4

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

Playing covers and creating music are not the same thing (obviously). If you're doing one exclusively, you aren't benefiting from doing the other, which is by nature limiting development. Regarding personal satisfaction, that's entirely subjective I guess.
 
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BruceW

Senior 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.
This applies to me, as well.

I'm not now, nor will ever be, a virtuoso. Or even a "great" technical drummer. There are dozens of far better and more capable drummers right around me, that I know of. Lord knows how many more are about that I'm not aware of... However, our band is always working. We always have positive reactions and repeat gigs. We have fun providing entertainment for folks. When they have fun, we have fun.

Would I like to be more capable, certainly. Do I have the time and environment to make that happen, nah... I'll do my best to improve here and there, and to be faithful to the songs we play, but I'll never play them note for note. I do try to make sure I get close on any signature parts, things that the lay person would recognize. But no one in the crowd knows whether or not I'm copying the original completely or not. Unless they are a drummer who is capable of such things...

Our band did create an album during the height of Covid, so I did get to work on original music. It is a different kind of fun, certainly. The whole process was very interesting. When we finally got it completed, our leader said "never again".... (this is the third one he's done, my second one) of course, a couple of years later, we're talking about doing it again over the winter, perhaps, bwahaha. My drumming on those CDs is rather basic, for a number of reasons, my ability (or lack thereof) and the method by which we need to record things primary among the reasons. But I'm proud of the finished product, certainly the most recent album. Moreso for the complete songs than my particular parts, which dovetails nicely back into my primary motivations for playing.

More power to those of you who can and do get to that technical level. I'm always inspired hearing it.
 
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dcrigger

Senior Member
I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks of this.
I hope this doesn't come off as "picking apart" your post... you touch on a lot of stuff in ways that I believe many could relate (and agree with)... I, on the other hand, have always come from a much different place on this overall topic... anyway you asked, so hear are some of my thoughts...

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.

And it is this definition as to the goal, the point of playing covers where we very much differ. "Playing the original parts faithfully" can be on my list of goals, when playing/learning a cover - but it is rarely at the top of that list.

Personally when I play a cover, I'm not there to serve at the alter of some recording.... I'm there in service of my band, in service of the music being played as it is actually being played... Sometimes that does entail playing something very close to the record - but oftentimes, not so much.

Of course, the original recording is always a prominent reference and thus very influential. But just re-creating those notes is only being part of a drummer... the rest of it involves actively asking the question "Is this working?", "Can I do anything even a bit differently that will make this band, right here, right now, sound better, feel better?" And if so, then what is more important "getting my gold start for playing all of the original notes correctly" or making my band sound better...

IMO it is a fantasy to think we, as musicians, are judged by how well we imitate the record. If that is the mission - then the DJ's will always beat us - and for a lot less money. And to think our live bands every really sound like the record is pretty absurd. Besides the missing polish of the mix - few bands come anywhere close to reproducing all of the guitar and keyboard parts - or heaven forbid - the huge amounts of BG vocals. And while we might be able to cop a good imitation of quite a few drummers.... our lead singers certainly can't. And that's the part, the audience knows best of all.

So of course if you ask them, if they want it "like the record" - because they simply don't understand what is really involved. Fact is - they want it to sound good. They want it to make people happy.... make people dance.... make people have a good time.

And so that means in the course of playing covers, we'll be saddled with having to play them too slow or too fast (because of limitations within our band), we'll oftentimes need to play them too soft.... and the fact is... oftentimes the original parts don't work, when played slower or particularly softer.

And here's where the journey of learning to play covers and playing originals become one and the same....

For me, when playing with a recording, learning a cover - I'm not just learning "the part". I'm learning the music (the form, the structure, the breaks, the hits) and then I'm using the original part to figure out why the drummer chose to play it. How does the part work with the music/ WHY does the part work with the music? What might the other choices have been? What do they sound like? Feel like?

Then when I play that song with a band, I task myself with the job of playing what I think will work best for that band, in that room, on that day. Oftentimes the result will be remarkably close to "playing it like the record". But I'm not doing it by rote, by simple imitation - I'm playing it by choice. I'm choosing to play each note, because I believe it best serves the music we are playing, not because it is "arbitrarily deemed correct".

And this - of course - is the exact same process I then use for originals. Obviously I won't have a previously recorded performance to start from - but I might have the composer's demo - or his or her's verbal or tapped out suggestion. Then just like with covers - I use my musical sense and vocabulary formed from playing dozens or hundreds of other songs to lead me to play a part appropriate to this new song.
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.
And speaking of composing.... creating drum parts is not composing.... I know many drummers, even those quite revered, insisted on mis-appropriating that bit of terminology. Drum parts are at most - an arranging element.... and orchestration device. Only very rarely are the drum parts we create a part of the song's composition - they are essential elements of the arrangement of that song we are working on - but not of the song itself.

For example, The Beatles' "Come Together" - Ringo created an iconic memorable drum part for that song - it is a major contributor to that recording of song's vibe and feel. An essential part of that musical arrangement. But not at all a part of the composition.

As any decent singer/guitar player can prove with just voice and guitar.... that's THE SONG. that's the Composition.

Making up that is composing. Making up a drum part to go with that is... making up a drum part to go with it.

And I only bring this up - because this belief in "drum part composing" seems to reinforce the notion that all of these cover song drum parts are sacred and precious. IMO they are not. They are great. And reflective of some of the greatest applications of the art and craft of playing drums - but most were not even remotely created to be "frozen in stone" "composition" etched in granite - they are simply great performances. Stunningly great performances.

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.
The fact is - none of those guys actually think of it that way. If Plant and Page were pondering whether to ask Keith Carlock to play - the question they would be asking themselves wouldn't be "Can he sound like Bonham?" but rather "How would he sound with Led Zeppelin?" In the working world, there really is no "covering Steve Gadd" - there is playing with Clapton... playing with Chick Corea.... playing with Steely Dan. A few different drummers have played "Aja" with Steely Dan - none of them were "covering Gadd" - they were playing "Aja". Certainly Gadd's original would inform their approach - but it wouldn't dictate it.
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.
Sort of different topic - Peart wasn't frowned at for not playing more like Buddy, but for simply not playing the music that well. None of the other drummers on those tributes played like Buddy at all - but they did play the music well.

And I guess that is the main point - playing the music well.

I've played with dozens (at least) cover bands, casual bands, wedding bands over the years - never once making it a priority to play anything note for note in its entirety. Focusing always on making the band sound great, the music sound great. And whether I played something "different" or not, never ever came up - because I did the best I could to make the band feel good, sound good - and to feel they were in good hands, so to speak.

Full disclosure - of course, there have been gigs where things needed to be very consistent - very much the same show to show. But these were mainly Broadway type shows or some concert acts doing very specific things. But cover band work.... never an issue...

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?
 

davezedlee

Senior Member
i've never really played covers, but a part of playing original music is coming up with something that brings a song "to life"... and seeing as there is no precedent, the onus is on you to "do something good"

your limits and abilities and ideas get tested constantly as you accept/reject various possibilities for each song, THEN you have to further create so that you're not playing the same thing for each song across your entire set

copying other people gives you insight into what THEY did, but doesn't test your own voice

there are countless "drum cover" vids out currently that have zero personality, but competent ability

not that there's anything wrong with that ; )
 

Sonar Dave

Active Member
Covers can get boring sometimes. While I usually tried to cover the drum part exactly, I'd occasionally throw in a ruff or an accent. The band usually chose songs that were somewhat challenging.
 

Polska

Member
I've done both cover and original bands and enjoy them both for different reasons. Currently I'm in a cover band and love it. 2/3rds of the songs we are doing I've never heard before (as I'm not a big Americana listener on my own), but they are really good songs. I'm having fun learning music I've never listened to before, which is a challenge, and it's great to play in front of people who enjoy these songs. Just because you are playing covers doesn't mean you have to slog through the tired old classic rock collection. Find something different and run with it.
 

Spreggy

Silver 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?
On your own originals, you dictate the style. On someone else's, they dictate the style, and hopefully give you a long leash. So there are still constraints, but I think it's way more fun than covers.
That said, covers are also great to play in my experience. It is what you make of it, and it's plenty challenging to try to nail 20 different drummers' vibe in one night.
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
To the OP, it's not for me to tell you what you get out of either, but for me, technical accomplishment is just for my own self-satisfaction of learning. When I get in front of an audience, the taste to exhibit chops in... well, tasty places is just as important as the chops. They don't care what complicated do-dads I pull off. They want the music to feel good, and I get that- it's what I want also, when I see a band.

I was an original music snob for the first dozen years of my playing life- wanted to create, put material into the world, and see what rewards/recognition came my way. Well, I got creative satisfaction and not much else, besides minor local respect/adoration. (And I disagree, re: composition- drum parts are definitely composed, and although it may not technically meet the definition of composition that songwriting copyright companies and the Library of Congress adhere to, my opinion is not alone. REM split songwriting 4 ways because the other 3 valued Berry's contributions enough to not split hairs over it.) Then I finally tripped and fell into a cover band when I had nothing else going on, and figured I'd rather play than not. I learned that I'm still utilizing my craft for the benefit of others- exacerbating their good time for the evening, making heads nod, butts & hips shake, and feet shuffle- and it felt GREAT. I don't feel I have to play anything but the most iconic parts note-for-note (that fill before the last push in "Don't You Forget About Me", for instance), nor do I have to reinvent every part either. (And to be fair, I didn't stick to every note of my own composed [and recorded] parts in my original music, either.) Something else that helped was the realization that every session/tour gun that I already had tremendous respect for (Freese, Colaiuta, etc) is playing covers also- albeit with the original composers, for the most part- because they weren't there at the beginning either. So, other than tremendous talent :LOL:, there's no difference.

So I continue to play in cover bands, and original bands here & there when I can, and I appreciate what each gives me, which makes me give to the public. In both scenarios I remain true to myself rather than trying to cop this lick or play a song like that guy. The end result is that I'm still having a blast, else I wouldn't be doing it.
 

Chunkaway

Silver Member
I have played in both original and a variety of cover bands - mostly swing/real book cover bands, but still- and far and away, I MUCH prefer to play with original acts. I would go so far as to say I would no longer play in a cover band of any kind. Of course, I would play a cover or two in a band situation, but I am looking to play originals first and foremost.

Why?

I greatly appreciate the ability to be creative, to put my own personal stamp on the music. I also find it more fulfilling to work with other band members to create a song together. Of course the downside is just trying to get people to come out to a show, but I digress.

I have nothing against people playing in cover bands. My hat is off to all of you, and I know it takes dedication and skill. I'm also thankful for cover bands keeping live music out in the world.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
I don't play covers exclusively, it's too limiting. I'm way too creative for that. I play along with thunder, wind chimes, outer space sounds, whatever is different.
 

_Leviathan_

Senior Member
I avoided playing covers in favor of playing in originals bands for years. But for the past 2.5 years I've played in a band that mostly plays Black Sabbath covers. I've had a lot of joy in mostly trying to stick to the spirit of what Bill Ward did with the band, but still get to play my style. I love Black Sabbath and have fun playing the songs and trying to mostly emulate Bill's style that I admired for years.

To be fair, there are originals bands that ask you to play the material that they came up with prior drummers in their style, or ask you to mostly replicate what they did. And there are guitar players/bandleaders that have treated me as a replacement drum machine for "their vision" of bands. I think originals take a lot of time to come up with and require people who are agreeable to drummers playing the way they want in order to play creatively. The originals bands I played in that I had the most fun with were bands that accepted my input (some songs co-written based on rhythms, ideas on arrangements, lyrics), and let me play the way I want. It isn't always like that.

I've found even playing songs that I wouldn't necessarily enjoy listening to alone can be fun covering as a group. As long as I get to express myself playing drums, I just like playing the drums.
 

jda

Gold Member
I think you start out playing covers - to get your feet wet- for at least some twenty years- then when fellow musicians you associate with start to bring in originals- I hope for you and were for me- pretty good. Some were 'hit' like with Lyrics; other's from 'other musician friend (singular) were instrumental jazz tinged Songs. I found those too equally good to play.
Playing covers is one of two ways. You are starting out and everybody is sort of at the same level. Later you can run into very studied/jazz/rock musicians- who will do covers - so well - you think they were in on the original recordings (cover musicians that can play/ replicate/ say Steely Dan or Boz Scaggs or say EW&F - perfectly. That's a thrill too
What I won't do anymore at 66 + is go out and play the bar band covers that "we used "to with the same guys that I "used" to . They are long time friends but musically they still like playing some of the same songs -in our 1972 set list-- at local cover gigs. Can't do it. Did it. Done with it, they have a younger drummer now and it's still new and exciting - the whole rigamaroll- set up tear down- 60 people on a good bar night- to him. I like to be selective and associate either with something fresh or proficient
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
To me it doesn't matter who wrote the song. My buddy or someone famous. I'm still going to be me when I play it. There's not much I can do about that. I lump them together, covers and originals.

As far as personal satisfaction goes, if the crowd had a good night...that's #1. I'm happy when they are happy, basically speaking.
 

1 hit wonder

Well-known Member
Do all drummers hate playing Hey Joe after the 1st 35 times?
Do guitar players like it because it's 1 of Hendrix's easiest songs to play?
 
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