Playing covers vs. playing originals... or both?

bearblastbeats

Senior Member
Hello all,

My brother and I are both drummers. He's 41 and I'm 28. We both have been playing our entire lives due to our father being a drummer as well.

Our dad was big in the cover scene, played a few originals, but mainly did covers for paying gigs. Which is fine, he was great at that.

My brother likes to influence me on trying to get into a cover band. He was lucky enough to go on tour with an old Oi hardcore punk band throughout the 90s and has now been just playing covers. That's cool for him, its obnoxious when he seems to brag and sends me texts like "So, I have 2 unexpected gigs this week for $125 ea. You keep bitchin' about being broke and I'll keep playing covers. Too bad you're stubborn and don't see the value in learning covers people will pay to hear...."

What he doesn't get is that I do see the value, I have played covers, I have nothing against playing covers. I just choose to play original music for the time being because that's what I like to do.


Am I wrong because I don't care to play for money right now? Or should I consider learning and playing covers and getting paid?
 
Short answer, do what makes you happy, bro.

Long explanation: A lot of us here cut our teeth on covers and making the rounds playing covers can be a very rewarding experience, both monetarily and musically. Right now I'm in 2 bands, one a totally original band, the other a tribute band. The tribute band is fun and everything, and it pays, while the other band doesn't get the same offers as much. But for me, writing and playing originals is worlds more satisfying to me. The process of writing, arranging, and constructing your very own drum part for a tune and then displaying it on stage and on record for an audience I think you'll find is more rewarding in a musically spiritual sense. The financial gains may be few and far between, but that's when you start asking yourself if it's worth it. For me it is. Playing covers, as well as competing with all the other cookie cutter cover bands for gigs in my area, while fun and entertaining for a while, gets old and dissatisfying pretty quickly, at least for me. Just my opinion.

TL/DR: No you're not wrong. I do this for fun, not to be a rock star. IMO, nothing wrong with that.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I am with you on this. I make no money, spend a fortune on gear, play in the shittiest, seediest metal bars you can imagine in front of almost nobody most of the time. And I absolutely love every minute of it. I cant imagine playing in a cover band would be nearly as fulfilling. Everything I play I have written and I have a personal connection to. I have help write and compose every one of our songs and I am more proud of them than anything else in my life. I cant imagine playing covers could ever offer even a fraction of the satisfaction I get playing originals.

That being said, keep doing what your doing. There is more to life than money my friend.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Why are you playing?

If it's for more gigs and money - covers are your best bet.

If covers don't provide the musical satisfaction you're seeking and don't mind less gigs and perhaps little to no money - play covers.

Some bands get away with a mix of both.

I've done done both. I've done all the gigs I ever need to do in my life and have gotten that out of my system. I play for me and could give a rip about any of it.

I'd sell every piece of gear I own before I'd play in a cover band again or be subjected to play a 2/4 back beat all night. I have no interest in listening / watching or participating in any of it. Musically, it leaves me feeling like I've been eating junk food for the last 10 months.

Then again, I'm a jazz drummer who loves to play with the people I play with on my terms.. Not for the money - for the music.
 
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tcspears

Gold Member
This always an interesting debate, but I thin there's a middle ground here. I'm a jazz guy and I spend 90% of my time playing jazz with various groups. It's rare that anyone is playing an original song, but we're also not playing covers. If we play Autumn Leaves (for example) we're playing our own arrangement of it.

I've done the same for rock/pop tunes with other groups. I've been playing with a rockabilly group lately which has been doing it's own arrangement of a Rolling Stones song (I forget the name "please allow me to introduce myself"). And crowds go crazy for it, because they know the lyrics and the melody, but they can feel that it's our arrangement, and we're happy because we're not churning out something that sounds like the rolling stones.

I can't imagine anything more boring or soul-draining than sitting there playing the greatest hits of the 70s and 80s all night, exactly as they were played back then, but some of those songs are pretty good if you come up with your own arrangements.

I think the key for any band is to find a their niche, and their passion, and use that to their advantage rather than trying to play like other people. Find the style/sound that you love and then you can write originals or play arrangements of tunes that people know, but make them your own.
 

FritzDrummer

Senior Member
I can see both sides of this. I am in an original band that plays between 20-40 shows a year on average and get enjoyment out of playing songs I have helped create. It is awesome when you get people coming up to you enjoying songs you have taken time to create. Pay tends to be about $300 per gig.

At the same time, I get enjoyment out of playing cover songs. Seeing people sing along, having fun, dancing and having a great time. It is not something you get with originals too much. No one knows the words. People rarely dance. The pay can be the same or a bit better, but little to no creativity goes into it!

At the end of the day, do what makes you happy!
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I've done most of my playing in original bands. It is much more satisfying, IMO. I think the cover band songs get old really quick, and songs that used to be some of my favorite soon become my least favorites. People's songlists are so predictable too. The same old songs but with a different set of cast members. It all gets so tired and uninteresting after awhile and it seems like they and their simple minds are the only ones having fun while they try to sing Hit Me With Your Best Shot for the hundred thousandth time. The reason the songs get old so fast is that you're not just hearing that same old song, you're hearing the crappy cover band version of the song for the hundred thousandth time.

I have to say, most of the bands I see are crap, be it cover or original. That's why I just like to play for fun and love of the instrument. I like my jam band where we show up and just jam for 3 or 4 hours. No gigs set, no song list, no idea what we'll play until we start to play it. Unfortunately this band is on hiatus, so I'm forced to play more covers just to keep up my chops and have more time in the saddle so-to-speak.
 
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bearblastbeats

Senior Member
Why are you playing?

If it's for more gigs and money - covers are your best bet.

If covers don't provide the musical satisfaction you're seeking and don't mind less gigs and perhaps little to no money - play covers.

Some bands get away with a mix of both.

I've done done both. I've done all the gigs I ever need to do in my life out of my system. I play for me and could give a rip about any of it.

I'd sell every piece of gear I own before I'd play in a cover band again or be subjected to play a 2/4 back beat all night. I have no interest in listening / watching or participating in any of it. Musically, it leaves me feeling like I've been eating junk food for the last 10 months.

Then again, I'm a jazz drummer who loves to play with the people I play with on my terms.. Not for the money - for the music.

My thoughts exactly. I like what I do now. I still have that creative fire inside of me burning red hot. I have band practice tonight and I couldn't be anymore ecstatic to jam on songs I'm proud of writing.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
The conversation you had with your brother:

"its obnoxious when he seems to brag and sends me texts"
"You keep bitchin' about being broke and I'll keep playing covers."
"Too bad you're stubborn and don't see the value in learning covers people will pay to hear...."

The issues you have here have nothing to do with playing drums. They have to do with your relationship with your brother.
Work on improving your relationship with your brother and you will get more enjoyment out of playing the drums.

.



.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I was the other way round, I cut my drumming teeth playing originals. In some ways its easier cos you play what the song suggests and comes naturaly to you, on the other hand you are depending on your creativity to lend the song its feel. Also, no one can tell you you are playing it wrong. Ha.

Playing covers can be both easier, as you have a structure and drums to follow, or more difficult if the drumming is not your style or is beyond your skill level.
I tend to go for the flavour and groove of the song but make the drumming my own, unless its a signature drum song like "Levee" or even "All right now". Those, If we ever covered them, I would leave as the recording as the drumming is essential to the feel.
 

bearblastbeats

Senior Member
The conversation you had with your brother:

"its obnoxious when he seems to brag and sends me texts"
"You keep bitchin' about being broke and I'll keep playing covers."
"Too bad you're stubborn and don't see the value in learning covers people will pay to hear...."

The issues you have here have nothing to do with playing drums. They have to do with your relationship with your brother.
Work on improving your relationship with your brother and you will get more enjoyment out of playing the drums.

.



.
Yea, true. My brother has this controlling issue and thinks he's correct always. Our relationship is fine otherwise.

I do enjoy playing my drums. So much that I choose to relocate to the city we practice in, instead of driving an hour to it.

beyond the brother issue, I wanted to hear thoughts on cover bands as I would possibly consider it in my later years.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I've only ever sat in for a few songs with cover bands but it was a lot of fun and I can definitely see the appeal of playing a broad set of styles with familiar material. But if I were ever to seriously think about getting into that world, it wouldn't be for the money. I never understood that justification. I have a regular job for providing a livelihood and stressing me out. Playing in a band needs to be satisfying and fun.

To be fair, plenty of originals bands get hung up on money and oversimplifying the music to make it "accessible" to some target audience, so it's not a given that there's more creative latitude there. Also, if money were the big driver, there's far more of that, plus glory, with an original band that manages to break through.

All my favorite bands - the ones that inspire me - are original, and almost all of them would have been great even without their success. Plenty of great bands are never heard outside of their local scenes.
 

hippy chip

Silver Member
If you have a well-paying day job, and play purely for you own enjoyment then just do whatever makes you happy---If you have responsibilities like a house, and a family you suck it up and do what it takes to keep your kids fed and clothed properly---I'm 50 now, and can do what I want, but I don't regret playing Sweet Home Alabama until it made me sick so my kids had nice shoes for school!
 
Yea, true. My brother has this controlling issue and thinks he's correct always. Our relationship is fine otherwise.

I do enjoy playing my drums. So much that I choose to relocate to the city we practice in, instead of driving an hour to it.

beyond the brother issue, I wanted to hear thoughts on cover bands as I would possibly consider it in my later years.
As I stated before, playing covers is fun until it's not. If you decide to go that route, I'd suggest finding ways to keep it fresh. Make the parts your own. Stick with the intent and formula of the tune, but put your stamp on it. That way there's still a little bit of creative wiggle room, while keeping things exciting.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
A good song is a good song, doesn't matter who wrote it. All songs were original at one time. I'll never understand the delineation. They're all songs. Original songs are great, but so are the tried and true songs. The reason people play covers is because these songs have proven themselves to be well liked and if there's one thing I can say for certain...most audiences would rather hear stuff they know.

I don't get the snobbery. I get into the zone playing a good song. Whether that song was written by us or not us doesn't really even matter.

I take my hat off to anyone who can insert a popular song into the culture. It's not enough to be an original song though. Original and bad is still bad. It has to be a really great song to be of any real value.
 

bearblastbeats

Senior Member
A good song is a good song, doesn't matter who wrote it. All songs were original at one time. I'll never understand the delineation. They're all songs. Original songs are great, but so are the tried and true songs. The reason people play covers is because these songs have proven themselves to be well liked and if there's one thing I can say for certain...most audiences would rather hear stuff they know.

I don't get the snobbery. I get into the zone playing a good song. Whether that song was written by us or not us doesn't really even matter.

I take my hat off to anyone who can insert a popular song into the culture. It's not enough to be an original song though. Original and bad is still bad. It has to be a really great song to be of any real value.
Some covers are great, and every band I've done we have had at least one cover song in our set.

I wouldn't mind doing a Black Sabbath and Led Zep band called Black Zeppelin, or Stairway To The Grave..
 
A good song is a good song, doesn't matter who wrote it. All songs were original at one time. I'll never understand the delineation. They're all songs. Original songs are great, but so are the tried and true songs. The reason people play covers is because these songs have proven themselves to be well liked and if there's one thing I can say for certain...most audiences would rather hear stuff they know.

I don't get the snobbery. I get into the zone playing a good song. Whether that song was written by us or not us doesn't really even matter.

I take my hat off to anyone who can insert a popular song into the culture. It's not enough to be an original song though. Original and bad is still bad. It has to be a really great song to be of any real value.
I believe it's all relative Larry. A good song IS a good song, until I've heard it for the millionth time at my local watering hole, whether it's coming from a jukebox or a live band. Then it's just annoying. I wouldn't call that snobbery. Snobbery would be saying, "I'm too good to play in a cover band. That's beneath me." I don't think that way by any means. I'm not too good for anything, and it's quite difficult to get beneath a snake's ass, which is where I sit in the music industry food chain. I'm just saying I have to mix it up a bit to keep from getting complacent both in my playing and my appreciation for good music.
 

Acidline303

Senior Member
play in a cover band a couple times a month to help finance your originals projects.

If your brother doesn't admire that then you can at least tell him how great you feel making money and fulfilling your own musical identity.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Yea, true. My brother has this controlling issue and thinks he's correct always. Our relationship is fine otherwise.

I do enjoy playing my drums. So much that I choose to relocate to the city we practice in, instead of driving an hour to it.

beyond the brother issue, I wanted to hear thoughts on cover bands as I would possibly consider it in my later years.

Right on my drumming brother !

Good to know.

.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
I believe it's all relative Larry. A good song IS a good song, until I've heard it for the millionth time at my local watering hole, whether it's coming from a jukebox or a live band. Then it's just annoying. I wouldn't call that snobbery. Snobbery would be saying, "I'm too good to play in a cover band. That's beneath me." I don't think that way by any means. I'm not too good for anything, and it's quite difficult to get beneath a snake's ass, which is where I sit in the music industry food chain. I'm just saying I have to mix it up a bit to keep from getting complacent both in my playing and my appreciation for good music.
This... totally. Heck, when I "accidentally" turn the radio on and still hear the same stuff that was played when I turned it on 40 years ago, I shake my head. I can't believe someone still wants to hear it.

Obviously I'm in the minority.

For the record (at least in my case) there's plenty jazz standards I hope I never play or hear again as well. Why? Heard and played a million times over every which way to Sunday.
 
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