Behold Guitar Cover – Watch Joshua Voiles, a progressive metal guitarist jam over to “Behold” by Born of Osiris.
Frequently, when crossing the brink from “beginning guitarist” to – “guitar player” – it’s natural to glance at the “creative” juices start to flow. You take a moment doodling with your guitar, and suddenly a very good chord progression glides off your fingers, a melody starts to surface, you jot down some lyrics over a tattered legal pad, and invariably, a song is born.
Maybe you’ve decided that you’re going to write your own songs, express your and yourself inner feelings, simply play original material. That’s great! It’s really a worthy goal, so write on!
With regards to self expression, guitarists (and musicians generally) often fall into one of the different categories:
Original Music “Purists”
I realize musicians that are so adamant about exclusively playing their own songs that they wouldn’t get caught dead on stage with a “cover” song inside their portfolio.
Cover Song Musicians
I’ve other friends that play in bands that play nothing but “cover” tunes. They enjoy bringing familiar songs alive for a live crowd, and a few get paid well correctly.
“A Little Bit of Both” Musicians
Now that I no longer do international calls touring, I write a great deal of original songs to pitch to publishers and artists, and also play with various local and regional bands that predominately play cover songs. Most musicians I realize fall into this “little little bit of both” category.
Although this is an admirable goal to pursue strictly original material, there are a variety of benefits to learning cover songs which should not be neglected.
If we, as humans, can be a “sum of our experiences”, then we, as musicians, really are a sum of our “musical experiences”. Exactly what we have ever played, precisely what we have ever heard, all of the little bits and pieces, and all sorts of full length scores – are common rolled up together into why is us each unique as individual musicians.
You could then conclude that, in order to become a better songwriter and broader musician, you should “learn more cover songs”.
Although that theory might be contrary to a songwriting “purist”, it isn’t surprising that even the staunchest supporter from the “original material only” path had, at the outset of their journey, listened to and emulated artists that inspired them in the past.
And probably without even realizing it, those “cover” songs have a minimum of had a subconscious impact on their own original music.
Learning cover songs is a great exercise in expanding your musical vocabulary. The things you learn from cover songs use a way of filtering through and achieving part of your own personal style.
Everything you learn from cover songs won’t help you as a songwriter, it will also have an impact on your guitar playing.
My start of learning to play lead guitar were spent hoovering on the turntable while, “stealing licks” from Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, Jimmy Page and Clapton. Those early influences still have a big impact on my type of play, even decades later.
There are several neat things that sometimes happens while learning and dissecting cover songs. The experience of finally nailing a hard lick, the satisfaction of determining an inconspicuous chord, the discovery of a new chord progression that you had not considered before – there are lots of “aha” moments when learning cover songs that could have been missed otherwise.
And those moments create a conscious, or unconscious, contribution to whom you are and what you will become musically.
Sometimes, new guitar players be put off by attempting to learn cover songs. You will find the thought that songs over a recording are somehow beyond their reach, somehow “un-learnable”.
But the truth is that, to get a guitarist that has basic principles under their belt, many of the songs in popular music that they can aspire to learn are in fact comprised of chord progressions and patterns that they can already know, or have an understanding of. Many are surprised to find out that it’s really not all that difficult to learn them.
It’s through this discovery method that a new guitar player can start to truly expand their horizons and begin to progress as musicians by beginning the process of figuring out how to play cover songs.
So in spite of which path you finally end up taking, whether it’s the pure original songwriting route, the duvet song route, or even a combination thereof – remember that spending the time and effort to learn cover songs is really a healthy habit to buy and that the effort will probably pay off in dividends for your requirements musically for as long as you play guitar.