Playing exactly...

stevo

Senior Member
I am coming to terms with, when covering a song, and learning it exactly the way it was recorded, playing it that way live, may not be the best way.
An example of this is, whenever I am learning a song, I go to You Tube, and look up the live versoin of that song, and usually find out that the drummer does not play the exact studio version, but a more energetic version, or straight forward version.
So, my point is, I have spent all these years trying to play it "that" way, but, I should be happy taking a more simplistic approach at some songs.
Like Funk 49, by Joe Walsh. It works well by not necessarily playing every note exactly the way it was recorded, and I think it's funner that way.
 

razorx

Platinum Member
I agree with you. Some stuff comes off better live as opposed to the studio version. I just get annoyed when playing along to the studio version sometimes. What I play may be in time but I can still hear the original drum track and it makes me think i mess up.
 

Frost

Silver Member
I've always found the best covers come from interpretation rather then straight up mimicry. If you suck at a certain part, why not change it up, most people wont notice, others might compliment you for making it your own.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
My opinion has always been that if a cover band has to play a song 100% like the recording then I may as well put money in a juke box. I see nothing wrong with interpreting a song as the band sees fit. We all know a professional drummer on this forum that accompanies an accordion playing singer song writer that does parodies of popular songs and while this may be the extreme it is still an interpretation. I think the feelings of the band should rule in all cases.
 

braincramp

Gold Member
I try to play any real signature rolls, beats ect, however I always like to put my spin on a song.. probably the biggest exception is the 2 metallica songs we cover sad but true and for whom the bell tolls..I try to mimic Lars pretty close only becuase most of his fills on these songs are signature...same goes with war pigs and any Zep tune..its kinda hard not to try and do it pretty close (maybe its me but I feel the audience is listening for certian fills on these songs)..but for most songs once I have a song to where I like it I will even change it up some and never play it exactly the same twice.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Even if you play a cover exactly like the recording, it will still have your certain touch to it.

It's like someone reading a story aloud from a book. Even though the story doesn't change, the person reading it can't help but impart some of their personality onto it, for better of for worse. I play covers in one of my bands and during learning them, I listen to them and try to replicate the feel and intention of the original track, and of course do any signature parts to the best of my ability, but I can't help the fact that I don't touch the drums like the person I am trying to copy.

Plus after playing it out a lot, and not listening to the original on a regular basis, the song tends to drift from the original. I've learned covers, played them for months, and then listened back to the original and realized that the song drifted...Many times in a good way too, as you really get inside the song and are able to add subtle nuances where appropriate.

Sometimes drum parts on studio recordings are played "safe", or the original band wrote the song and recorded it pretty fast, where the drummer didn't have enough time with the song, before recording it, to identify areas of nuance that would benefit from proper treatment. If you play theses kinds of songs out enough, sooner or later cool ideas will occur to you, little spots where a few well placed notes really moves the song along.
 

iontheable

Senior Member
I am coming to terms with, when covering a song, and learning it exactly the way it was recorded, playing it that way live, may not be the best way.
An example of this is, whenever I am learning a song, I go to You Tube, and look up the live versoin of that song, and usually find out that the drummer does not play the exact studio version, but a more energetic version, or straight forward version.
So, my point is, I have spent all these years trying to play it "that" way, but, I should be happy taking a more simplistic approach at some songs.
Like Funk 49, by Joe Walsh. It works well by not necessarily playing every note exactly the way it was recorded, and I think it's funner that way.
I enjoy loose interpretations immensely. It really brings out this hybrid-cataclysm between the original recording and the "artist's" (YOU) interpretation.

Keeping the feel of the original track and flavoring it up however you know how, thats a cover.

IMO, if I want to hear a song played "100% exact" I'll listen to the original..even more so, the original artists don't always play a song the same..and I'm glad.

They evolve. And you should too.
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
I am coming to terms with, when covering a song, and learning it exactly the way it was recorded, playing it that way live, may not be the best way.
An example of this is, whenever I am learning a song, I go to You Tube, and look up the live versoin of that song, and usually find out that the drummer does not play the exact studio version, but a more energetic version, or straight forward version.
So, my point is, I have spent all these years trying to play it "that" way, but, I should be happy taking a more simplistic approach at some songs.
Like Funk 49, by Joe Walsh. It works well by not necessarily playing every note exactly the way it was recorded, and I think it's funner that way.
I'm going to be the lonely disenter here, but I always try to cover the song exactly as recorded for these reasons:

1.) It improves my playing and makes me think differently than I otherwise would.

2.) I cover Steely Dan's Aja just like the record - even the drum solos. Why should I disrespect a Joe Walsh song because Steve Gadd wasn't soloing on it? If the drummer on that song is worth listening to, then what makes you think that your drumming is worth listening to? An arrogant attitude indeed. and as one of my agent friends once told me, "There are two types of musicians in this world: those who are humble and those who soon will be."

3.) Zoro once told me that it was best to learn the song exactly as it is recorded; if you ever play it for the artist, it shows the artist respect. Once the enitre band knows the song like it was recorded, then the band as a whole, can get creative. Until then it's just slop and laziness. Think Zoro's had any success?

4.) Sloppy habits breed sloppy playing all around. I host some jams where guitarists (or singers) don't know the songs they want to play and it sounds like pure D.O. crap because they are screwing up the song which everyone else knows. Then everyone else starts to compensate for the lack of ability and determination of the amateur guitarist and it becomes a train wreck. It makes me want to hide because it makes everyone sound incompetent. You don't want to have the dubious honor of playng "The Spirirt of Radio" the worst you have ever heard it.


But here is the real question - if it were your favorite drummer playing on that track, would you want to learn it exactly as he played it? Learn to be a success by imitating those who are successful.

For me it is a matter of pride to cover "Don't Stop Believing" just as Steve Smith recorded it. Did it take a little work? Yes - but not much once you figure out the basics of it. It sounds better than listening to some drummer who thinks that he's somehow "above" humbling himself by actually sitting down and listening to that song and learning it when, in reality, he's not above anything - he's below it and it shows when he's playing.

Which drummer fo you want to be? Do you want to sound professional and competent or do you want to sound amatuerish and careless?

Mike

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GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Playing different doesn't mean playing sloppy. It means your interpretation of the song is different than the original which was someone elses interpretation at the time. How many live shows do you listen to where the orginal drummer plays it exactly as it was recorded. I'll tell you how many. ZERO. The same as the guitar riffs, the keyboard parts, and in a real band the brass parts. To call someones interpretation sloppy is a bit myopic.
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
I've always made it a point to learn a song's drum part exactly as it is on the original and/or best known version (whatever version we're covering), knowing that I don't always have to do it that way, if ever. I like to have a base from which to vary.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
If the drummer on that song is worth listening to, then what makes you think that your drumming is worth listening to?
My perspective exactly. When I'm playing covers - which is most of the time - people don't come to hear my interpretation of a drum part, or necessarily the band's interpretation of the song. There are certainly some exceptions, but people listening to a band aren't usually interested in hearing their take on a song... they just want to hear the song as they know it from the radio.

The idea of just having a jukebox in those situations is amusing to me. Would anyone actually turn down a gig and suggest the club owner play recordings, just because they had to play like the original record? It's silly, unprofitable for musicians, and could set a very dangerous precedent at a time when bands need all the work they can get.

Do I ever feel like I'm not expressing myself because I'm playing parts that calssic drummers have laid down? Not at all, it's a blast! I get to 'be' my drumming heroes, even if just for 3 minutes at a time. Do I honestly believe I'm going to come up with better parts than Ringo, Cahrlie, Hal, Ginger, Mitch, etc played? Of course not. I would be extremely conceited and incorrect if I thought that way.

But I'm just talking about my local gigs here. On my primary gig with Al, my career absolutely depends on copying parts (and sounds.) Imagine how miserable I'd be if I didn't happen to dig doing that! Would anybody here really turn the gig down if it were to become available or if I needed a sub?

Bermuda
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
The idea of just having a jukebox in those situations is amusing to me. Would anyone actually turn down a gig and suggest the club owner play recordings, just because they had to play like the original record? It's silly, unprofitable for musicians, and could set a very dangerous precedent at a time when bands need all the work they can get.

But isn't that exactly what a DJ does at a club? Spin records? I guess my mind is a little more open to the point that I have heard many covers of songs that I like better than the original because of a little nuance or difference in the playing. Not so silly in my mind at all. And since you are the professional here do you really believe that there is no Beatle song that you couldn't improve on the drumming? I don't believe you. Wanting to be your hero for three minutes is fine but I can't belive it is your position that none of the drumming on any of the music played by the aforementioned drummers couldn't be improved on.
 

specgrade

Senior Member
I understand the whole "make it your own" deal. I really do, but, when I hear a cover band playing I song I know and like and I don't hear a crash when I know there was one in the original, I feel let down. Same goes with any fill or maybe the ending. Just my take on it.

I love live music and I'd much rather see it than put a coin in the jukebox.
 

Muckster

Platinum Member
I'm with Skitch and Bermuda here...LEARN the song. Yes you have liberty as a drummer to stray a bit but if you're playing Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" you damn well better start the way Bonham did and end with Bonham's solo. That is what a paying crowd expects to hear.

I can't count how many band situations i have been in where the members turn to me and say "finally a drummer that can play that part." Often the groove of the song can be lost
by straying from an original part.

There's a fine line between "making it your own" and laziness!
 
I have never quite understood why some people feel that playing a cover accurately is somehow "wrong" and/or "soul crushing", it'd be like if you went to a classical piano concert where the Bach's Goldberg Variations are listed in the program and when you sit down and the pianist starts playing they'll transition in "great balls of fire" halfway through...

As the singer won't improvise random words, the guitar player won't start harmonizing in a different key, the bass player won't start playing slap bass full time, the drummer should respect the song and play it as the original drummer laid it out (at least for the track itself, if the track has a solo I'd expect some improvisation of course)

Even within the constraints of a cover being played very close to the original, there is still a lot of latitude for you to "make your own" by working the dynamics, the pocket, cymbal choices, etc. etc. yes, it can be fun messing around and playing a reggae version of Stairway to Heaven during practice, but if you're booked as a Led Zep cover band I don't think it'd be a good idea to put that in the set...

A lot of instrumentalists can't stand playing "covers" of classical works and so transition into jazz, others can't stand it and never ever want to play in a cover band, but just in an "originals" band where they can bring everything to the table and really create their own parts, but if you *are* playing in a cover band I think it'd be a good idea to focus on giving the audience what they want, which is an energetic and faithful "reproduction" of the original song.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Playing different doesn't mean playing sloppy. It means your interpretation of the song is different than the original which was someone elses interpretation at the time. How many live shows do you listen to where the orginal drummer plays it exactly as it was recorded. I'll tell you how many. ZERO. The same as the guitar riffs, the keyboard parts, and in a real band the brass parts. To call someones interpretation sloppy is a bit myopic.
Every time this topic comes up (which seems to be often) I can't help but make that point.

Listen to Journey's live albums and you'll hear Steve didn't stick to the recorded parts on every song.

Same with The Who, Led Zep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and a host of others.

A certain level of improv/jamming was built into their live acts. So I'd think to keep the spirit of those songs alive, a certain level of liberty is not only OK, but required to make it sound like the artist intended. I mean, what would be the point of playing a Grateful Dead song like the studio version, given the entire bands career was based on NOT playing like the recorded version?

Other bands, not so much.

Rush tends to pretty much stick to the record (with certain exceptions, like Close to the Heart). I'd think most 80's New Wave acts stick fairly close to the recording.

If I see a cover band (which I admit is rare), the last thing on my mind if "does it sounds like the record". I more concerned with "does it feel good", is there the proper energy and vibe for the situation.

But overall, I just don't think there is ONE right answer for every situation.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The idea of just having a jukebox in those situations is amusing to me. Would anyone actually turn down a gig and suggest the club owner play recordings, just because they had to play like the original record? It's silly, unprofitable for musicians, and could set a very dangerous precedent at a time when bands need all the work they can get.

But isn't that exactly what a DJ does at a club? Spin records?
Yep. But there's no comparison between a band and a DJ as they exist today. Even assuming that a band and DJ reproduce songs the same, there's a lot more excitement for the crowd having a band playing in person. Now if I was a club owner and could save money by hiring one person instead of four, or simply using a jukebox, I'd feel there was money to be saved and a profit to be made. Many of us have watched this happen over the last few decades, and it can be a lot of lost work to deliberately tempt it further.

I guess my mind is a little more open to the point that I have heard many covers of songs that I like better than the original because of a little nuance or difference in the playing.
I love a great cover, especially by some of my favorite bands! Lest we not forget how many covers the Beatles and Stones started out with and captured our musical hearts. But those covers are done by bands who are established and have a spin to put on a song. With few exceptions, the local band down at the bar doesn't possess the kind of following that permits them to successfully put their spin on songs. Is there a double standard? You bet. Perhaps it's not fair, but it's there.

And since you are the professional here do you really believe that there is no Beatle song that you couldn't improve on the drumming? I don't believe you. Wanting to be your hero for three minutes is fine but I can't belive it is your position that none of the drumming on any of the music played by the aforementioned drummers couldn't be improved on.
I'm not the only pro here, and there's no way I can make those songs better. None. they are perfect or 'right' just as they are, because we love them for that. We love them enough to play them, and it's the parts that make the song worth playing in the first place.

Am I a better drummer than some of those guys? Probably. But as the musicians who created and played those parts, they did the right thing. It was right then, and it's right now, if the song is worth playing at all.

I get and dig band like Dread Zeppelin, The Ventures, Erasure, Me First..., because I dig the spin they put on songs. I'm not expecting to hear versions like the originals. I also love the symphonic versions of popular band's recording. The LSO is among my favorites, tackling Tull, Genesis, the Who's Tommy, and more. In all instances, that's their thing. But it's not what I look for in the bar band down the street.

Now I also know better than to criticize a band whose instrumentation doesn't resemble that on the original record, and I don't expect them to bring in extra players or use tracks to reproduce horns, strings, extra vocals, percussion, etc... although I'm impressed when they do, and when it's done in the right balance. That is, I'm not impressed when someone simply sings to a track, no matter how perfect the music is. Perhaps in those instances, it would better to use a jukebox.

Bermuda
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I can't count how many band situations i have been in where the members turn to me and say "finally a drummer that can play that part."
When I'm playing covers, nobody has ever said "Can't you think for yourself? Make the part yours!" Never. Ever. Not in almost 40 years playing in bands. What I have heard more than a few times is what you said. I know I've told this story before, but it bears repeating.

I subbed with a cover band doing oldies. We'd never met before and I hadn't heard them play. Little did I know they were of the same mind as I, to do the songs as faithfully as instrumentally and vocally possible. Unless told differently, that's how I always apporoach a cover song.

We start the first set, sounding quite good I think, doing Stones, Beatles, Herman's Hermits, Kinks, Monkees, etc. We get to the breakdown after the chorus in We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, and I go for the part I know - riding the tom, plus snare & kick pushes. The leader turns around and gives me a funny look, kind of like "What are you doing?" I thought maybe I was too loud, maybe I rushed, I really didn't know. At the break, I asked what the look was for, and he said 'I've never heard a drummer play that part... except on the record.' I got a LOT more work with them as a result.

There's a fine line between "making it your own" and laziness!
I've said that many times. Sometimes it seems like players don't want to work very hard, and it can be hard playing someone else's parts. Instead, they rationalize the end result with "we're making it our own."

Feh. Or Meh. Take your pick.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Listen to Journey's live albums and you'll hear Steve didn't stick to the recorded parts on every song.

Same with The Who, Led Zep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and a host of others.
Those kinds of changes are completely acceptable when the band itself makes them. I don't afford the same liberties to a cover band, unless they are doing the parts from an artist's live version of a song.

Yeah, I have some rules about how I play, and those rules have contributed to my career as a drummer, with success in various playing pursuits. I don't really expect everyone to do exactly as I do. But when such topics come up, I feel it's incumbent on me to point out that certain tried-and-true things work, and will lead to more work.

Some will say I'm stuck inside the box. Well, to an extent that's true, and there's a big pile of money in there with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a mercenary, I drum primarily because I like it. But income is obviously important to career musicians. If I can do what I like and make a good living, I have to believe it's because I've done more of the right things, and less of the wrong.

Bermuda
 
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