What's the deal with lead guitarists not covering solos properly?

yammyfan

Senior Member
Anybody else experience this, much?

I've played in several cover bands in the past couple of years and with one notable exception, the lead guitarists don't play solos properly. Like, not even close.

A lot of the solos are iconic, or at least highly recognizable. An example: AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long". NOBODY gets it right. What's up with that?

Guitar solos are often chock full of cues for the drummer. It's confusing when guitarists start ad-libbing and improvising. I often have to power through the noise I'm hearing and play along to the "correct" solo I'm listening to in my head, otherwise I might get lost.

Note: tribute bands don't seem to suffer from this problem. They seem to understand the importance of faithfully reproducing all of the parts.

I'm really curious to hear what it's been like for you and how you deal with it. I frequently substitute for the regular drummer in gigging bands so I'm always "the new guy" and not feeling like I should be calling anybody out. It's just one more thing that I have to contend with, along with learning 10-20 new songs every few weeks.

Is this a thing, or am I just unlucky in that regard?
 
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MrPockets

Gold Member
By definition solos are ad lib. Maybe come to an agreement with the people you play with on which songs need to have solos played note for note?
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
By definition solos are ad lib. Maybe come to an agreement with the people you play with on which songs need to have solos played note for note?
No, a solo is not by definition ad lib. A solo by definition is where one musician is featured prominently or by themselves.

In many years of playing in wind ensembles, orchestras, and pits, I can attest that most of the solos there are written out and the soloist is expected to adhere to them. Jazz and blues tend to have more improv solos by nature, but that's part of how the music is performed and delivered. It's an expected quality of a musician in those genres.

For popular music played by a cover band, I think the musicians should make a strong attempt to cover the music as originally recorded. The audience generally knows the songs and any departure in lyrics or melody can be jarring and distracting. The exception would be if the song is being reinterpreted to an entirely new style or sound. Even then, most reinterpretations rely on the melody of the original solo, in order to have more impact.

Again, my opinion, but if a soloist improvs a solo in a cover tune with little to no acknowledgement of the original melody or arrangement, it's a mark of amateurism.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Cover band part reproduction isn't limited to guitar players, every bandmember makes a decision whether to play/sing a part faithfully, or try to make it their own (as if someone in the crowd demands a different level of artistry than the original performer delivered.) I think it's presumptuous to significantly change parts in a cover band, when people come to hear those songs the way they know them. Is a guitar player going to improve on Townshend? Page? Van Halen? Are you or I going to improve on Ringo? Watts? Bonham? Moon? REALLY??

If you're putting a spin on a song, then it's a different story - as long as you do it well (such as
). Those guys truly made that song their own, and if you didn't know the original, you would absolutely believe it was a country hit.

My approach is to play the original parts as close as possible without bringing charts or extra gear in order to achieve the parts and sounds. So I'll bring a cowbell when the set includes Honky Tonk Woman, but I won't bring 4 extra toms just because Squeeze Box is on the list. My value as a player is that I play the parts that make the song worth playing. When playing straight covers, nobody ever told me to change things up, make the song 'mine', etc. At least not so far in my 42 years of playing in cover bands.

Anyway, the guitarist in question obviously thinks they're more creative than the person who played the parts that made the song a hit in the first place. IF that's true, then they need to pursue other more personally satisfying musical outlets than a cover band.

Bermuda
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I am the same as Bermuda in that I try to copy the part as close as I can, and definitely try to elicit the same feel regardless of equipment.. I also play bass guitar in cover bands and do the same thing.
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
In many years of playing in wind ensembles, orchestras, and pits, I can attest that most of the solos there are written out and the soloist is expected to adhere to them. Jazz and blues tend to have more improv solos by nature, but that's part of how the music is performed and delivered. It's an expected quality of a musician in those genres.

For popular music played by a cover band, I think the musicians should make a strong attempt to cover the music as originally recorded. The audience generally knows the songs and any departure in lyrics or melody can be jarring and distracting. The exception would be if the song is being reinterpreted to an entirely new style or sound. Even then, most reinterpretations rely on the melody of the original solo, in order to have more impact.
We aren't covering concert band tunes. If the band is known for ad libbing solos live, do that. If it is Rush, maybe try to play note for note.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
We aren't covering concert band tunes. If the band is known for ad libbing solos live, do that. If it is Rush, maybe try to play note for note.
The reason I brought up concert bands is to refute your definition of a solo as meaning ad lib. If you're playing a Jeff Beck or SRV cover, heck yeah there's gonna be some ad libbing during solos. But most mainstream rock acts have very little ad lib room in their solos because of their iconic nature - they're no more at liberty to change up their solos than the singer is to reinvent the lyrics.
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
I swear I will have "COMMUNICATION is KEY" engraved on my headstone (or urn) lol.

Band meeting day one: "WHAT do we intend to do, and HOW do we intend on doing it?"

Everybody has to be, or should be on the same page with this kind of thing. Then there are no surprises, no let downs, no hurt feelings, or reasons to get bummed out after the fact.

If you are a sub then you are at their mercy to a degree-unless you let them know up front that you only work with bands who are at least attempting faithful covers of the tunes-including the guitar solos.

People need to be upfront with this stuff though.
 
I think it'd be a crowd-pleasing move to cover an iconic solo note-for-note, but I mean...except for a band like the aforementioned Rush, the original artists themselves rarely replicate their own solos live. Here, for example, is AC/DC themselves not playing the same solo as the original iconic one:


Sure, it's similar to the original but it's obviously not the same.

Here's Stewart Copeland talking about playing parts live v as recorded:


Paraphrasing, he's essentially saying, "Keep in mind, if we'd used a different take, it'd have been a totally different fill." With many notable exceptions, the same goes for guitar solos. They're not holy writ. Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck—these guys played a different solo to their most iconic songs every time they play them live.
 

TMe

Senior Member
Is it possible the guitarists simply aren't up to playing the original solos? Are they doing their best versions, or just being goofs (gooves?).
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
Guitarists can't learn everything. They learn songs, "good enough" or "sellable" quality. I do the same thing. My drumming is not that great. It doesn't have to be perfect, just "sellable".
 
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yammyfan

Senior Member
Again, my opinion, but if a soloist improvs a solo in a cover tune with little to no acknowledgement of the original melody or arrangement, it's a mark of amateurism.
Cover band part reproduction isn't limited to guitar players, every bandmember makes a decision whether to play/sing a part faithfully, or try to make it their own (as if someone in the crowd demands a different level of artistry than the original performer delivered.) I think it's presumptuous to significantly change parts in a cover band, when people come to hear those songs the way they know them. Is a guitar player going to improve on Townshend? Page? Van Halen? Are you or I going to improve on Ringo? Watts? Bonham? Moon? REALLY??

If you're putting a spin on a song, then it's a different story - as long as you do it well (such as
). Those guys truly made that song their own, and if you didn't know the original, you would absolutely believe it was a country hit.

My approach is to play the original parts as close as possible without bringing charts or extra gear in order to achieve the parts and sounds. So I'll bring a cowbell when the set includes Honky Tonk Woman, but I won't bring 4 extra toms just because Squeeze Box is on the list. My value as a player is that I play the parts that make the song worth playing. When playing straight covers, nobody ever told me to change things up, make the song 'mine', etc. At least not so far in my 42 years of playing in cover bands.

Anyway, the guitarist in question obviously thinks they're more creative than the person who played the parts that made the song a hit in the first place. IF that's true, then they need to pursue other more personally satisfying musical outlets than a cover band.

Bermuda
I agree with both of you, completely.

I do my level best to faithfully reproduce the song each and every time. It's not lost on me how important MY parts are and I'm sure that the people on the dance floor appreciate it.

Maybe it's partly a "guitar culture" thing? The ability to improvise is generally positive but to do it all the time, every time gets a bit irksome.

I think that these guys simply need to spend more time practicing. I spend 8-10 hours per week going over my parts, smoothing out the rough spots. I don't think that I've ever stopped trying to play stuff better, even the stuff I know I'm playing pretty much note for note. There's finesse that goes on top of that and that never really ends, for me, anyway.

Evidently this is one of the things that separates the pros from the amateurs. I think I dwell in that purgatory in between the two. I had some thoughts about that that I wanted to add to the "when did you feel you stopped faking?" thread from the past couple of days. Those thoughts might have led to this thread, now that I think about it.
 
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yammyfan

Senior Member
I think it'd be a crowd-pleasing move to cover an iconic solo note-for-note, but I mean...except for a band like the aforementioned Rush, the original artists themselves rarely replicate their own solos live. Here, for example, is AC/DC themselves not playing the same solo as the original iconic one:


Sure, it's similar to the original but it's obviously not the same.

Here's Stewart Copeland talking about playing parts live v as recorded:


Paraphrasing, he's essentially saying, "Keep in mind, if we'd used a different take, it'd have been a totally different fill." With many notable exceptions, the same goes for guitar solos. They're not holy writ. Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck—these guys played a different solo to their most iconic songs every time they play them live.
Oh, absolutely but I think if you wrote the song then you can take liberties with it. Like Bermuda, I don't extend that privilege to cover acts.

Unlike the pros who write the songs and deliver 98% of the material as recorded, most cover bands I play with hover around 80% and then fall off a cliff when it comes to the guitar solos. I just think they're leaving so much on the table that's attainable with a little more diligence and attention to detail.

Lastly, I still notice when the original artist mucks with a guitar solo in concert, but it doesn't throw me off the way it does when I'm on stage trying to nail my parts and the cues are all missing. I mean, some of the solos they play are, other than being in the same key, COMPLETELY different than the original.
 

TMe

Senior Member
Evidently this is one of the things that separates the pros from the amateurs. I think I dwell in that purgatory in between the two.
I'm not so sure. Maybe some pro's could chime in? I think of pro musicians as being more stable, responsible, reliable, etc. than amateurs but in an old discussion a bunch of pro's commented, saying that's a bit of a myth. Maybe they were being too harsh.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I wouldn't mess with "Wonderful Tonight", much, but not every solo is holy and it depends on the context.

For my own taste, if I go to a show and I might as well have put on a record, I don't know why I even bothered going. I expect something more.

I have a long story of me teaching in school where playing "Sultans of Swing" like the record was the mark of a good player. Many a student got shown many a live clip of Mark improvising new stuff all the time.

If that's what you're paid to do, ok, but this playing the same, sounding the same, looking the same, having the same gear..... No wonder music is so boring these days.

I think its hould be a choice though, not beause you can't do it. Imitation is a good teacher.
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
I wouldn't mess with "Wonderful Tonight", much, but not every solo is holy and it depends on the context.

For my own taste, if I go to a show and I might as well have put on a record, I don't know why I even bothered going. I expect something more.

I have a long story of me teaching in school where playing "Sultans of Swing" like the record was the mark of a good player. Many a student got shown many a live clip of Mark improvising new stuff all the time.

If that's what you're paid to do, ok, but this playing the same, sounding the same, looking the same, having the same gear..... No wonder music is so boring these days.

I think its hould be a choice though, not beause you can't do it. Imitation is a good teacher.
You raise some good points but I would at least expect these ad-libbed guitar solos to be in same ballpark as the originals. I'm not hearing that from these guys.

I definitely come down on the side of wanting to hear the songs as recorded, however. It seems to me that people want to hear what they know unless they're real aficionados or jazz lovers who come for the improvisation. I've been to countless concerts where people sit on their hands politely as bands flog their latest album only to be greeted by a roar when they say "We'd like to take you way back to...!!!" then launch into the material that made them popular in the first place. People want to hear what they know.

The other thing is, we're covering songs that are hits - they're iconic in their own way already. Audiences know the riffs and melodies just as well as we do and I don't think they're fooled one bit when they guitar player lays down something other than what they know and love. I believe that faithful reproduction of the original is what makes a cover band great.

I think its hould be a choice though, not beause you can't do it. Imitation is a good teacher.
Excellent point. Imitation is indeed a great teacher.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Nothing is 100% the way you want it, ever. I find it's best to make what you have to work with...work. Sometimes, my "studio arrangement" drum part isn't working with the person behind the guitar. I can't blame them, it's like asking a guy to paint a Rembrandt with no do-overs every night. Some guys just aren't up to the task, never learn it, but they can carry it nonetheless with their own style. That's live music. I think it comes down to work ethic. I just listen to what they are doing and try to help. If I can't, then staying out of the way is the best help I can be, and does not lack one bit.

I will say the thing that does irk me is if we are playing a blues song for instance, and a guy puts a rock lead in it. I get that a lot. It's important to me to remain faithful to the genre. Blues....has space. It has tension and release. It isn't trying to impress, it tries to convey and emote. Guys who fill the space with acrobatics have other agendas taking priority. That's the absolute minimum ante that needs to be there in my mind, being faithful to the genre.

I'm back with my old band and while he can really get around a guitar, he can't cop/never learned the southern rock style outside of copying the iconic parts. I have to let that go. No one else notices that stuff but me.

Having a good time with the music is by far, miles ahead of how exact/authentic a performance is.

A song in the live context is just a vehicle that helps create a favorable atmosphere for human mating to occur.

That is all lolo.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
For popular music played by a cover band, I think the musicians should make a strong attempt to cover the music as originally recorded.
Here's my opinion on that Mr Parrott. Cover bands are just that. Covering songs that people know, but the band makes them their songs and puts their own feeling, timing, solos into them.
Tribute bands on the other hand are generally attempting to imitate the original. Like Elvis impersonators, and Beatle bands.
Great example of "covering" a great song can be found on you tube. Tina Turner doing the Beatles
 
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