The “rock band plays acoustic gig” format really came to popularity when MTV introduced the “Unplugged” concert series. The series began in the ’89/’90 season with a concert by Squeeze with Elliot Easton (of The Cars) and Syd Straw. From there the series took off, soon every live musician was working up an acoustic set of their music that they could play in smaller, more intimate concert settings.
A cover song is a song that has been recorded by another artist and that your band will be playing. Some famous artists that have played cover songs are Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones. A lot of current artists will play cover songs as well and go on to have big hits playing them. The good thing about playing cover songs is that the song has already been marketed to the masses and has been proven to be a well loved hit. So your chances of having success playing the song is very high. There are a couple ways you can approach playing a cover song.
I love playing keyboard instruments. The first instrument I learned to play was the trumpet but the first instrument I learned to love was the piano. The piano offers so much in the way of musical satisfaction when compared to other instruments. On what other instrument can you so richly play all the bass, harmony, melody and rhythm? Not to mention the technical complexity you can achieve on the piano. It’s a very satisfying instrument to play. Like most piano students I learned to play it as a solo instrument.
As a musician have you ever heard the saying “Playing The Song Instead Of The Instrument”? I was having a discussion with some fellow musicians the other day and we were discussing the problem of musicians overplaying during a song. It’s something that I guarantee you’ll have to deal with at some point if you’re playing in a band.
Let’s define what overplaying is: Overplaying is when you play too much to suit the song. Let’s use the drums as an example. A blatant example of overplaying would be changing the beat deliberately to 5/4 without the rest of the band, just for a measure or two to show you can do it. Blatant overplaying would also be putting a drum break in every bit of extra space in a song. Continue reading “Playing The Song Instead Of The Instrument”
Previously I wrote about how all the instruments in a band are equally important. Especially in the fact that everyone in the band is going for something greater than the individual parts. Another obvious fact of playing is that all musicians are not equally skilled on their instruments. I do believe that no matter how skilled you are on your instrument you need to remember to keep an eye on the ultimate goal of a band which is to create great music, not to simply play a great part. That being said, it would be foolish indeed not to feature your more skilled musicians with more prominent roles in the band.
The other day I was talking to some young musicians that were just forming their first band. One of them asked me which instrument was the most important instrument in the band. This is a question I’ve heard a lot over the course of my career and I’ve had a lot of discussions with other musicians about which instrument is the most important in the band. Is it the Lead Singer? Everyone focuses on the singer when the band is playing right? How about the drums, you couldn’t have a rock party without drums. Everyone loves the lead guitar, always getting high-fives after a good solo. What about the bass, no bottom end means no rumble in the chest and it’s a lame show without some good shaking going on. Without decent keyboards the music loses it’s harmonic texture.
I always figured if I practiced long and hard enough that I would become a good enough musician that my skills would guarantee a successful show every time I played. So I practiced and I became a good musician but I found that a good show doesn’t just depend on musical skill. A good show is a collective effort between several different factors.
One thing that most musicians struggle with is playing accurately in a groove. It’s a huge necessity to be able to play things on the beat especially when you’re playing with other musicians. That rhythmic pulse is what keeps us all on the same page when we’re playing together in groups. I’ve played with bass players and guitar players that have a tough time even playing an eighth-note rhythm consistently. I myself struggle to play extremely fast guitar solos on the beat from time to time and it used to be a real struggle for me until I started practicing with a metronome. The metronome did me well but boy is it boring and irritating after a while. Continue reading “Practicing to a beat…not a metronome.”