Preparing for a covers band

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I auditioned for a covers band tonight.. got a text on the drive home to say I'm in... seems like a fairly professional outfit and the pay is alright... I'm no longer worried about saving enough $$ for my US trip, I'm pretty chuffed.

Anyway their setlist is huge and I've only got about 10 days before my first gig... they said I'd have to know the critical accents (e.g snare hits in Bruno Mars - Treasure) but mostly they weren't too strict on playing everything exactly like the recordings.

So - to the covers guys - how do you best go about learning songs quickly? I don't think I could download all the songs on the setlist even if I tried... would a spotify play list be a good bet? I haven't got an account... or maybe you know of something else?

I thing I'm going to have to learn to start charting stuff. I've never charted songs out before, is it best to do it by hand or is there a good app I could use on my android pad?

Any tips you can offer are welcome!
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Focus on all the "signature" parts, the breaks and fills in the songs that are "expected".

Think of each song as a picture, or a cartoon character. You wouldn't draw "Bugs Bunny" without ears, now would ya? :D Make sure you nail the ears.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
. You wouldn't draw "Bugs Bunny" without ears, now would ya? :D Make sure you nail the ears.
Someone really needs to collate all your quips and anecdotes and turn them into a desk calendar. It'd make a friggen' hilarious daily read.

Dre, I've always made notes reminding me of signature fills, changes to the structure, tempo or arrangement.....stops/starts/solos etc. I try to listen to the tracks as much as possible. And I try like buggery to shed anything that might be a struggle or that I really need to reinforce.
 

rmandelbaum

Platinum Member
I have been in this situation multiple times. What works for me is creating a playlist or CD and listen to the songs constantly. Drives my wife and kids nuts when i do this in the car;-)

For me it is less about how to play, the mechanics, but more just about really internalizing the songs, if I know them, I can play them.
 

evogel

Senior Member
Focus on all the "signature" parts, the breaks and fills in the songs that are "expected".

Think of each song as a picture, or a cartoon character. You wouldn't draw "Bugs Bunny" without ears, now would ya? :D Make sure you nail the ears.
This is great advice.

I don't know of an app for charting songs but that's a great idea if it's possible.

I've played in cover bands that end up making the song their own and others that tried to play the songs note for note. The latter being fewer and far between, mainly because of limited instrumentation and/or the lack of gear available to get everything that the producer created. I've also played weddings, etc. where the band was put together by an agency and I never knew what songs were going to be played at the gig. The leader would just call out the songs and either the rest of us knew them or not.

Get the original song tempos down too but be ready to alter them and know that they can and will likely be altered even more, (faster) at the gig too but ultimately, it should be your call. Keep a click with you/on your phone etc. It's helpful for the tempo disputes that will likely occur sooner or later and you'll always get the blame.

Once you get used to frequently learning the cover songs, the whole process will become quicker and easier. Listen in your car, in the shower, etc. as well as playing along with the songs as much as possible and charting the ones you need to out in your own method. Learning a charting method at this point might be tough considering that you have so many songs to learn so quickly.
 
T

The Old Hyde

Guest
Focus on all the "signature" parts, the breaks and fills in the songs that are "expected".

.
this!!! I like to play note for not when I have time( you don't) to learn a song for myself. In my cover bands, I have been just doing what Billy says here and the guys think im playing everything exact. our pace for new songs is about two to three per practice. we listen once on an ipod and play, twice on occasion but more often than not, just one take and done. The lyrics and notes are written down for the singer/bassist beforehand but a lot of the tunes he's never heard ( only 15 years old). Hit those key fills, keep a steady beat that isn't over the top for the song and your golden. Most listeners want the correct lyrics, and second the correct chord progression and tempo and third the correct guitar solo.
 

BFrench501

Senior Member
I auditioned for a covers band tonight.. got a text on the drive home to say I'm in... seems like a fairly professional outfit and the pay is alright... I'm no longer worried about saving enough $$ for my US trip, I'm pretty chuffed.

Anyway their setlist is huge and I've only got about 10 days before my first gig... they said I'd have to know the critical accents (e.g snare hits in Bruno Mars - Treasure) but mostly they weren't too strict on playing everything exactly like the recordings.

So - to the covers guys - how do you best go about learning songs quickly? I don't think I could download all the songs on the setlist even if I tried... would a spotify play list be a good bet? I haven't got an account... or maybe you know of something else?

I thing I'm going to have to learn to start charting stuff. I've never charted songs out before, is it best to do it by hand or is there a good app I could use on my android pad?

Any tips you can offer are welcome!
I havent charted before but learned 15 songs in the space of a few days. For me I just had to listen relentlessly to them, until I was able to get in the studio to play. I tried to make little references - for example "Keep on running" has the same beat pretty much as Pretty Woman. Learning to identify beats which are similar but come up in other songs will give you a good starting point. Theres one Kelly Clarkson song (Mr Know It All?) that has pretty much the same beat and accenting on hats as Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars. Thank god I havent had to learn that song as I despise Bruno Mars, but if I had to then thats the process I'd follow, while trying to learn charting at a time where my mind is free to take in more stuff.

Sorry if this comes across as drivel Im at work and havent got lots of time to reword what Im saying (communication not my strongest point).

Baz

How many songs are they expecting you to learn?
 
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drummer-russ

Gold Member
I first make sure to note who starts and on what beat. If drums don't start I note when they do start. Then I note HH versus ride and key points about the groove. Then I note big pauses or rests. Lastly I try to mentally capture the feel of the song. I make a cheat sheet with three columns.

Column one is song and band name and BPM
Two is who starts and groove notes
Three is special notes about rests or other key points

I then play to the you tube vids and try to anticipate the starts without looking at my notes to try and recall to improve memory.

I managed to prep 45 songs in three weeks for a sub gig.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I just went through this process 2 weeks ago. I auditioned and got into a soul/R&B/funk group playing bass, squeezed in two rehearsals and had our first gig last week (10 days after getting the gig). I only had to learn 35 songs (I already knew 12 of them). I listened constantly to the songs I didn't know so I would get the familiarlity of the song structures and feels, and worked on the songs I was familiar with, but had never played, first. I took any notes that would help me during the rehearsal (which was 5 days after nailing the audition). We ran through all the songs, and at the rehearsal I wrote down any extra things I needed to remember, like structure changes, special endings, extra backing vocals that I didn't get the first time around, songs in different keys, etc. I spent most of my practice time the next 3 days working out any kinks that came up during the first rehearsal and had them ironed out by the second. The gig was 2 days later, and it went off flawlessly.

As far as "charting" goes, do what's right for you, such as marking tempos, signature parts/beats/fills, any structure/arrangement complications there might be, backing vocal lines, and be SURE to bring your notes along to the rehearsals--even if you don't refer to them during the song, they'll be there for you to write notes on so you know what to practice before the next rehearsal.

Good luck! New groups are exciting, for sure! Congrats!
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
How many songs are they expecting you to learn?
They have about 450 songs apparently (!!), not sure what they're expecting though lol

I haven't got the setlist yet but to answer your question, I probably won't know lots of them because I have been anti-pop for a while. No radio and not much tv in my life. I figured I'd miss the million dollar question on a games show if I ever go on one, but never considered covers. My bad.

But a playlist can fix that.

As always, thanks everyone, will watch that vid tomorrow, Dave, thank you!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It's a given that you have to listen to the songs. If you need to invest $1.29 each on iTunes, so be it, that's the cost of doing business. If you can get the other guys in the band to send you files, well, that's called something else... but just get the songs.

10 days to learn maybe 50 songs? Piece o' cake! I had 2 days to learn 36 songs, most of which were originals and obscure covers I'd never heard. But I did it, and have maintained that gig for almost 9 years (and counting.)

Here's your best bet: make charts. It doesn't matter if you don't write notation, just write something that will help you identify arrangements, basic or specific parts, or other aspects of the song (such as watching for pushes or stops, ritard on the ending, etc.)

The very act of scrutinizing the song in order to make notes will help ingrain it into your memory in a way that repeated listening does not. I'm not saying that one listen will do the trick, or that you won't need to refer to your charts on the first few gigs, but charting will put you way ahead of the game whether you have 10 days or 10 weeks.

Obviously you'll need to listen to the songs further, concentrating on the ones that still seem tricky and weeding out the ones you know so you can focus on the others. But you should find that the arrangements and parts become anticipated to your brain rather than having to concentrate to determine what they are (which you'll have already done anyway.)

I dare say that I'd be somewhat helpless on a modern cover gig, as I don't listen to much contemporary pop or rock. But buying the tracks and making charts would get me about halfway there on the first day, and the remaining days' listening would be at my leisure, and less like working with a deadline.

Good luck!

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
They have about 450 songs apparently (!!), not sure what they're expecting though lol
That's quite a songlist! Obviously they don't expect you to be able to call up that many on your first gig. Ask them to make setlists, or at least a list of the 50-75 songs they might play on the first gig, so you can focus on those. As time goes on, you'll take on new chunks of their songlist.

Bermuda
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
They have about 450 songs apparently (!!), not sure what they're expecting though lol
Crikey

I'd find out what they expect to play at the first gig and focus on starts and stops.

If you simply play kick/snare in tempo, you will be good on 400 of the songs.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
If you simply play kick/snare in tempo, you will be good on 400 of the songs.
That's true, it will be the arrangements and key fills you'll need to focus on more than the grooves. Most songs are very straight ahead drum-wise.

Bermuda
 

TheHeelDrummer

Senior Member
Take solace in the fact you cant play 450 songs on one gig.

Get the set lists as soon as possible and go from there. Looking at probably 36-40 songs. Get them on disc and give them a listen. Mark which ones may give you difficulty and give them extra attention afterwards.

Hopefully you get a few practices in that time and you can go over most of the material you'll be playing at your first show.

Good luck!
 

rtliquid

Senior Member
You might already know this stuff, and I didn't see anyone touch on it here, but .... once you're on the gig:
- sit down with the guys before each set and go over any questionables for that set.
- find out whom you should be watching for cues.
- watch for subtle clues/cues (when the singer approaches or steps away from the mic, when the guitarist is about to stomp on a pedal) - these are indications that the song structure is about to change.
- ask the bass player (usually, or whomever is set up closest to you) to visually overaccentuate the endings
 

BFrench501

Senior Member
They have about 450 songs apparently (!!), not sure what they're expecting though lol

I haven't got the setlist yet but to answer your question, I probably won't know lots of them because I have been anti-pop for a while. No radio and not much tv in my life. I figured I'd miss the million dollar question on a games show if I ever go on one, but never considered covers. My bad.

But a playlist can fix that.

As always, thanks everyone, will watch that vid tomorrow, Dave, thank you!
450 songs...wow. I suppose thats not too far fetched though considering how many great artists there are over the past 50 years!

I was in the same boat as you as I pretty much exclusively listened to Cannibal Corpse, Rush, Radiohead, The Berzerker and Dream Theater for 2 years.

The good thing about most radio tunes as others have already said is that most of the playing is straight. I think you'll smash it out of the park and do a great job, just dont put too much pressure on yourself. They trust your ability, so trust yourself and you'll be alright on the night! :)
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
Y
- watch for subtle clues/cues (when the singer approaches or steps away from the mic, when the guitarist is about to stomp on a pedal) - these are indications that the song structure is about to change.
I play with guys that fake me out all the time.

They either step to the mike at the last second or the step up and don't sing.

The beauty of the drums is that you can quickly and easily recover and wrong notes don't necessarily sound wrong like they would on a guitar.

Just don't miss the stop at the end of a song. It's tough to play your way out of that one :)
 
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