Performing covers allows you to experiment with music that already works.
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In pre-Beatles days, most bands and singers were singing other people’s music. In those days, you were either a singer or a songwriter. The Beatles helped change all that, and through the 60s it became more normal for bands to write their own music.
If you’re a singer-songwriter, it’s quite likely that the great majority of the music you perform is your own. But you shouldn’t automatically dismiss the possibility of performing other songwriters’ tunes. There can be important benefits that come from performing covers.
Here’s a short list of the ways performing songs not written by you may help your own songwriting technique:
- You get to hear a song that you know works. With your own music, you’re working to get the lyrics, melodies and chords all communicating with each other. That’s enjoyable, of course (usually!), but an already-composed song allows you to focus on dressing up music without the responsibility of creating the structure. Assuming that it’s a song that’s been recorded before, you’ve got a song that you know works.
- You get to learn from someone else’s musical solutions. You can analyze a song and discover how the melody supports the lyric, how the chords support the melody, and how all three of those important elements communicate musical meaning. It’s a great learning experience.
- You get to create a musical setting (an arrangement) for a song that you already know works. For your own songs, once you’ve got them working, you then need to figure out what to do to make it a powerful musical experience for your audience. Every time you run into a snag, you have that annoying feeling that perhaps problems you’re encountering might actually be a problem with your songwriting structure. But with a cover tune, you know that the song works. So you’re able to create a musical setting that helps support the song without worrying about reworking the song itself.
Every songwriter should be listening to music from all different genres, and you should consider, as much as possible, performing music from other genres. Every time you create music in a new genre, you’ll get new and exciting ideas that will bolster your own songwriting efforts. It that sense, a good cover tune acts as a model for how you could be writing your music.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)