Faithful or Improv?

When learning covers, who here prefers to remain totally faithful to the original drumming parts? I only ask because I sometime like to improvise by adding my own feel to a song. This might be the odd fill or groove pattern which may have been influenced by other material I listen to. Am I alone on this one?
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Trick is to keep the key elements of the song and add your own touch without overplaying.

Couldn't play the covers I have to do note for note, there would be a spinal tap drummer death.

I suppose if you're in a tribute band you have to be more faithful to the original.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
It depends. If the whole band is trying to stay true to the cover, then I'd say play it like the cover. That said, there would never be remakes or Weird Al, if everything was played like the original.
 

Alex Sanguinetti

Silver Member
I try to be "unfaithful" to the original as possible.

Of course is not a bad idea from time to time to "quote".

What´s the fun of playing always the same? Is it Classical Music what you are talking about? I know the public is.....but personally, me, as public like to hear a version that´s different (and better) than the original!
 

DrumWild

Senior Member
I've typically learned it as-is, as close as possible, and then later find my own interpretations, to make it more fun.

That makes it a double-challenge.
 
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MJD

Silver Member
This depends on the situation. For the most part when i end up playing covers it's in jam situations when i don't necessarily know the song so i improv based on the groove they ask me to play and any musical cues i can pick up by listening to the other players. If playing with a cover band and getting paid it's usually a combination of both seeing as most cover bands I've played with tend to change the arrangements a bit so as to add another guitar solo or 2. So i learn the song like the recording and then adjust to the new arrangement. it's not exactly improv but it's not playing exactly like the record either.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It depends. If the whole band is trying to stay true to the cover, then I'd say play it like the cover. That said, there would never be remakes or Weird Al, if everything was played like the original.
In the case of the Al parodies, the recordings are 99.9% - or better - faithful to the original artist's recording, both in parts, sounds, and production. Granted, in the early days we weren't quite that close, but we really started to shine by the early '90s. :)

Apart from the gig with Al, I play covers as close as humanly possible (that is, without reading the parts...) for a couple of reasons.

The original drum parts often account for the groove and feel of the song. Unless doing a radically different treatment, such as playing Day Tripper inna reggae style, why change the feel? Why change the parts that make the song worth playing?

I have no personal drumming agenda, so I don't feel an urge to put my 'stamp' on covers. Honestly, I'm not going to improve on the original drummers' parts anyway. And it's fun to 'be' a bunch if drummers! Why be me? How boring.

But I do have a few deliberate twists on a classic Beatles' song. Every time I play "I Saw Her Standing There" I change the fills coming out of the bridges. Now, they're both Ringo fills, but from other songs. And the overall groove was nabbed from a McCartney performance of the song. Still a Ringo part, just not from that song. But it would take a real fanatic to figure out that I'm not playing 100% to the original, yet it sounds correct because everything I'm doing is Ringo and from the era.

Bermuda
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
Sometimes changes to cover songs happen because of limitations in musical ability. We don't play Wooden Ships like the original. We just kind of developed our own version of the song by glazing over some more difficult areas of the song. Or, as in the case of Paint it Black, I made my own ending because I was tired of the guitarists not playing the rhythm right at the end of the song where it gets that sort of staccato rhythm thing going. Well, nobody does it right, so I decided to force the issue with my snare drum. I keep the bass drum going 4 on the floor with the hats, then I do the staccato part with my snare drum until the end. It just developed organically.

In the case of the Al parodies, the recordings are 99.9% - or better - faithful to the original artist's recording, both in parts, sounds, and production.
I was going to chime in earlier about that, knowing that you try to make it sound as much as you can like the original.
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
If you're interpreting a song into another genre, e.g. taking a pop song and playing it in a Heavy Metal style, then all bets are off, do what you want to :)
If you're playing in a tribute band then you have to get it as close to the original (or the concert original) as possible.
If you're playing it as a covers band then certain parts have simply got to be done the same as the recorded versions (think, the snare and hi hat fill in Simple Minds don't you forget about me before the outro, I could fudge the rest of that song but if I couldn't nail that bit every time I wouldn't include it in a set as it's so important to the song ) and the feel has to be the same too. After that it's open to interpretation and the drummers choice of whether to add, subtract, change or switch things about.
My choice in my Classic Rock band has been to aspire to getting it right, especially the signature parts, and then over time my own (lazy) style comes through.
All in my opinion of course.
 

mrfingers

Senior Member
"...Sometimes changes to cover songs happen because of limitations in musical ability."-Midnite Zephyr
and I agree with Midnite also: no way can I pretend to be Mitch Mitchell when my band covers Hendrix songs, but some ACDC and Aerosmith songs call out to me to get a bit more original, again, not in their entirety but occasional fills.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
I was more referring to Al changing the lyrics. There has to be a good reason to change them. Al does it for comedy, Alian Ant Farm changed Smooth Criminal into a punk song and Metallica changed Turn The Page into a more grinding tune. All have worked well. In most cases though, it sounds like a screw up to the public. We were playing Mustang Sally the other day in practice and decided to try it as a funky shuffle! Way more fun all around. Not sure we will ever play it that way live, but just might.... one thing is for certain, everyone would know we did it on purpose. May have to watch for airborne rotten tomatoes though!
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
I try to play the drum parts as close to the original as possible, considering my limitations. One reason not mentioned yet is that the rest of my band get used to playing the song by listening to the original. If I change my part it does not support their efforts. A really good example is we are just beginning to learn Boys of Summer. The beginning is not only iconic but the drum parts are used by our guitarist to cue his parts. I listened to the Atari version which is a fine version but it is not the one most of the people we play for know. So I will be shedding that beginning for a while to get it right.
 

iCe

Senior Member
Trick is to keep the key elements of the song and add your own touch without overplaying.

Couldn't play the covers I have to do note for note, there would be a spinal tap drummer death.

I suppose if you're in a tribute band you have to be more faithful to the original.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It depends greatly on the type of music and what is expected from those who hire you.

I never really try to copy. I get the vibe and play the important hits. If that's not what someone wants hopefully they will communicate that. Leader gets what he/she wants. If nothing is pointed out, you get my sttyle and my esthetic.
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
I try to keep the best characteristics of the original groove into my playing. So let's say the original drummer has a really nice bass drum pattern he plays, or a really nice sounding open/sloshy hi hat sound that fits well with a part of the song. I'll keep the best parts of the groove the same, and I'll spice up or change other parts of the groove that I think would sound better. And usually I always change the fills unless I really like what the drummer is doing.

A really cool thing I like to do is hear covers of the song played by other really good drummers. Steve Jordan played on a Marvin Gaye cover once and I really liked what he did. It gives you an example of how professionals cover drum parts and put their own style into it.
 

ConcertTom

Senior Member
Personally, I like to make it as close to the original as I can get from general memory, at least for music I already know. This means not going in and worrying about every single nuance and fill, but basically getting into the mindset of whatever song I'm playing and doing my best to channel that drummer. That may mean mixing fills around and maybe not playing the hi hat exactly, but on a Ringo tune I'm going to usually pretend that I'm Ringo, at least to the best of my ability.

Unless of course the band is making that concerted effort to do something else, then, as mentioned, all bets are off. THOUGH, it's still fun to channel other drummers, maybe doing J.R.Robinson on a Zeppelin tune, or Bonham on a Michael Jackson tune... When appropriate of course.

That said, if I'm going to just do my own thing on cover tunes, I try to not default to just "doing more", which can happen very easily. Most of the iconic beats I love are simpler than I originally imagined when first listening to them as a younger person. It's an interesting challenge to try and change something and keep it simple, like stupidly simple, at the same time.
 

ConcertTom

Senior Member
Also, I was just thinking about how, sometimes, I'll even try to imagine the physicality of the way a certain drummer plays. Like I was once doing "My Generation", and right when we started the tune I had this image of a certain way I thought I once saw Moon holding his right stick on the ride cymbal, like his hand all up high, and by doing that myself I was as to get into the physicality of how I imagined he approached that ride groove.

Maybe it was completely in my head, but it felt like it made a difference. And it was fun.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I wouldn't call it improv, more like making an arrangement from the repertoire that I have and increasing my repertoire when necessary by adding key elements from the song. I think in jazz this is referred to as "the process", and songs are routinely transposed into completely different rhythmic structures.

Though my repertoire isn't that great so as to be considered a jazz musician.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I use my playing time to play what I want to play. I make the part my own. It's my version of how I'd play it if I recorded it. Nobody is keeping score of the notes I play in my world. If the rest of the band is not playing the original part, I kind of have to fit to them. No one know it's not exact. That doesn't hamper anyone from dancing, and that's my main job. Everyone's situation is different. You do what works best.
 
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