Faithful or Improv?

brentcn

Platinum Member
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?
First, ask yourself if you can honestly play the original, as it was recorded. If you can't, there's probably something worth learning, and your playing will benefit from the "faithful" approach.

Second, before adding in any fills or patterns, ask yourself if they interfere with any other parts of the song, or if they enhance or contribute in any way.

So often, young drummers add in their own touches, which are misplaced, and the band's performance suffers.
 

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
I like to stay faithful to the original. When I see a band play a song I know I want one of two things. I want it to sound as close to the original recording as possible, OR I want it to be completely different and have the bands own sound to it as if they wrote it.

When I learn a cover song I try to be as close to note for note accurate as I can.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
It often depends on the band's approach although occasionally you can try something that works well and everyone wants to go with it.

I'd rather play originals any day, even if there's no money in it.
 

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
How close to the recording does the original drummer keep to what they play live?
I'll sometimes reference live versions to see what's going on if it's hard to tell on the record.

Lars does some different fills on "For Whom The Bell Tolls" live. They also stuck a break in the 2nd verse where typically a drum fill landed, and the song fades out on the record. I like some of his live parts to that song better than the recording, so I always played them that way.

In situations with overdubbed parts I'll reference live versions to see how they do it, or try and find a creative way to pull off the overdub.
On "White Wedding" the big tom hits are an overdub, as the 4 on the floor groove doesn't stop under them. So if you want to play those big hits, you would be forced to do them as fills. When I play it I cross under using my left hand on the floor tom hits while maintaining the 4 on the floor. You end up skipping one Hi Hat note this way as you'll need to open your hands to hit the floor tom with the snare, but other than that it's correct.

Another fun challenge was "Don't Stop Believing". I saw a video of Steve Smith playing it open handed with a 2nd Ride next to his Hi Hat. Well I'm not bringing a 2nd Ride out or reconfiguring my kit for one song.
I ended up being able to play the parts correctly by again crossing under for all the Tom hits and opening up for the accents on the bell of the Ride.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
How close to the recording does the original drummer keep to what they play live?
That's a slightly loaded question... a band playing its own song is welcome to do whatever they want with it. :)
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
For the church band, I keep it as original as possible unless the part sucks, then I make something up that fits.

For the band I play in, I make up my own parts that best fits "us" as a band.
 

calan

Silver Member
I'll sometimes reference live versions to see what's going on if it's hard to tell on the record.

Lars does some different fills on "For Whom The Bell Tolls" live. They also stuck a break in the 2nd verse where typically a drum fill landed, and the song fades out on the record. I like some of his live parts to that song better than the recording, so I always played them that way.

In situations with overdubbed parts I'll reference live versions to see how they do it, or try and find a creative way to pull off the overdub.
On "White Wedding" the big tom hits are an overdub, as the 4 on the floor groove doesn't stop under them. So if you want to play those big hits, you would be forced to do them as fills. When I play it I cross under using my left hand on the floor tom hits while maintaining the 4 on the floor. You end up skipping one Hi Hat note this way as you'll need to open your hands to hit the floor tom with the snare, but other than that it's correct.

Another fun challenge was "Don't Stop Believing". I saw a video of Steve Smith playing it open handed with a 2nd Ride next to his Hi Hat. Well I'm not bringing a 2nd Ride out or reconfiguring my kit for one song.
I ended up being able to play the parts correctly by again crossing under for all the Tom hits and opening up for the accents on the bell of the Ride.
That's what I'm getting at. The bands playing these hit songs themselves don't play them note for note to the album version. I often reference live versions when I'm playing covers, for many of the same reasons you do. Also, many times the instrumentation just isn't there to fill up all the space of a studio track, the live versions are sometimes more lean, which inspires the whole band to play it a bit differently. This leads to the next point.

That's a slightly loaded question... a band playing its own song is welcome to do whatever they want with it. :)
Loaded indeed. It's more of a philosophic question. I'd take the position that any band playing any song is welcome to do what they want with it. I don't think anything in the realm of cover band tunes is that sacred. I can see where this is a slippery slope, but my intent is that the spirit of the original is still kept, however I've still heard many wholesale reimaginings that I prefer to the original.

I'm not blind to the other side of the argument, and I don't think it's without merit.

Part of my frame of reference that I've spent a lot of time at blues jams and in blues bands, and I can't tell you how many different interpretation of many of those standards I've done.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Covers are just someone else's originals. :) Music is music as far as I'm concerned.
That is because you get off on the physical skills and the analytical aside of breaking down a drum part and how it functions with the other instruments in detail. We tend to enjoy what we are good at.

I used to like nothing better than trying to ape covers in my teens but once I played in an originals band, I was hooked. I love the freshness of making music that I haven't heard before, especially if it doesn't much sound like anyone else.

It makes no money but I'm lucky enough to be ok there anyway.
 

HockOoi

Junior Member
For me I would prefer to master the original note for note, once that is done I'll modify some parts while keeping the main clues and accents as close to the original as possible
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Unless the band is making a conscious decision to re-work a cover song, I play it as faithful to the original as possible. Me putting "my own spin" on the cover strikes me as just self-serving. Most people who go to listen to a band playing covers want to hear something that sounds like the record. So I try to give them that.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I don't stick 100% to the original part, but what I end up playing is clearly the song we're doing. It feels like it could be the original part if you didn't know any better. I can't do anything 100% like someone else. The song is completely recognizable and feels like the original. I can't not put my own thumbprint on it.

I like the way I feel music and will continue to play it how I see fit under the circumstances (No one else doing the original part 100% either)

The thing is, no one including the other musicians knows exactly how the original drum part goes, so it really doesn't matter.

I feel it's one of those unnecessary things that drummers feel they must conform to. When I play, it's all about making the people have a good time. F being strict on myself while performing, I'll let others do it that way. Not for me.

To each their own.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Unless the band is making a conscious decision to re-work a cover song, I play it as faithful to the original as possible. Me putting "my own spin" on the cover strikes me as just self-serving. Most people who go to listen to a band playing covers want to hear something that sounds like the record. So I try to give them that.
Exactly. 20202020

Exactamente.
 

DrumWild

Senior Member
I'd mentioned in another thread about an audition that I had, for a band owned by a rather successful drummer, where I had to play a cover [Mary Jane's Last Dance]. He told me the song name and gave me a few days to work it out.

The band owner got miffed at me during the audition because I was playing it like the record. He demanded that I hand over the sticks [ugh]. He rocked it out to the point that the song was unrecognizable, and then told me to NEVER play it like the record, "because that's g*y."

Boy, he sure showed me. /s

My thinking on it was that the audience will expect to hear it a certain way. Sure, put more energy into it. Stay true to the beat. Remember those expected parts. Don't get flashy. If the recording is "sterile," then add a little life to it. All that.

In all fairness to me, the band owner did not express what he wanted. And if he wanted what he showed me, then there was no need to go home and spend a few days on the song. I could have just sat down and played whatever I wanted, so long as it "rocked out," and that would have done it.

Overall, I stay true to the song, but approach it with a "live" sensibility. That's just me. I think that it can get more complicated when a band owner wants something else. And if they want something else, then I think they should be clear about it.
 
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