February 19, 2009

A Word on Cover Songs

I am in a band called Fortune and Spirits, you may have heard of us (ha!). As a band we play a few cover songs, but on the whole, our live show is mostly original music. Which is how I prefer it. In part because I like to have people hear the songs that I write (ego), but also because I want the music we're creating to have as much face time as possible (strategy). In the long run the band, as entertainers, will have more loyalty if our fans are fans of our music.



Covers are still important though. People naturally gravitate toward the familiar, so someone who has never heard you play before will be more likely to think they like you if they recognize the song (the cover).

Which leads to -> people who think they like you are more likely you stick around while you play.

So here it is: your second song in a live set should be a cover. Why not first? Because your first song fulfills a different need. It needs to get the attention of the audience (since they are undoubtedly now talking, drinking, or leaving during the set-up time) and simultaneously make a good, positive first impression.

After that you're on your own. I'm no expert so I could be totally wrong about anything (or everything). As we all know, I don't really know anything about anything ;), so let me know just how wrong I am in the comments *wink*.

That being said, I've another bit on covers...

A cover that you perform faithfully to the original isn't your song. You can make it your own, but it's still not really yours. It's just sort of yours by association. So treat covers like the covers they are. Learn a handful of them, which is easier than writing the same number of songs, but leaves you with a large body of material. Now rotate them.

If you treat the covers like they're your own songs, you run the risk of giving them the kind of heavy rotation you should be reserving for your own original material. Again, your original material is what will bring you a loyal fanbase. It's also much less likely to get overplayed, and if/when it does, you'll be the one who stands to benefit!



I know many artists have truly MADE a song their own; Aretha Franklin comes to mind. And let me make it clear: I am a huge fan of doing covers adapted to your own style. It's possibly my favorite part of Weeds too :). But Aretha franklin didn't write the vast majority (or any?) of her own songs, which is a very different scenario from a band whose raison d'etre is writing music.


February 12, 2009

Cubase 5

Cubase 5 looks like it's gonna be GREAT! It solves some of my biggest problems with cubase to date:

  • VST3 has support for side chaining, (ie. Key inputs) so that's a killer feature for me

  • Updated interface (finally)

  • Built-in autotune-esque functionality

  • Improved time stretch

  • More built in functions (woot!) which look surprisingly good for builtins


I also have high hopes for improved rewire latency (which, until now, has been far from real time).


Anyway, I don't have a lot of time to write about it, but check it out. I'm psyched especially since I'll be getting a student discount on the order of 50% :)

Check out Cubase 5! (I guess this makes me a fanboy... damn)


February 3, 2009

Song Writing Workshops - Design by Committee

Last night I found myself in front of a small crowd, listening to 'feedback' regarding a song I wrote with my band, Fortune and Spirits. The feedback was legitimate and honest, and I want to say up front, that I appreciate the time and effort of the individuals involved.

However...

I don't think I'll be acting on any of this feedback.

The fact of the matter is: song writing workshops are like design by committee. If I put together a song curtailed to the acceptability of all 25 of the people in the room the result is boring, lifeless, and sterile. Universally tolerable, but definately not something I'd want to listen to.

The effects of this type of song writing are hugely prolific though. It's all over top 40 radio stations, and some people even think they like it (those people don't listen to much music).

I'll quote jeff atwood, of coding horror and stack overflow fame,

well, if you're not pissing *someone* off, then you're not very
interesting. C'est la vie.
I intend to stick to my guns. I may use some of the advice they gave in future writing - the ideas themselves weren't necessarily bad - but I'll be maintaining my quirks, and you should too.

I'm not saying you shouldn't get feedback, just that you need to get it from the right people. The first people who give feedback from will have the most impact so choose them carefully. They should be...

  1. Someone who's writing you think is better than yours - If you want to get better, that is.
  2. Someone who is at least open to your style/genre - It's preferrable that they have experience writing in the genre too, but most important is that they will respect the choices you've already made and focus on helping you improve the song.
  3. Someone willing to put in a little time and effort - It takes time get get to know a song. The first impression is very important, but you want to find out how the song holds up to repeated listening as well... which means this 'someone' is going to have to listen to it quite a bit over a period of time.

Finding someone who will do number 3 is gonna take some searching, and it's definitely ok to have a small group of people who you rotate so that you don't have to ask one person to spend so much time on your music.

Get to work on those songs! Good luck!

**edit**: I found this post by derek sivers (of cdbaby) on where people go to get feedback. The comments are the part you care about ;)


© 2008 Jim Robert