Learning Cover Songs

Learning Cover Songs

So you've decided that you're going to write your own songs, express yourself and your inner feelings, and only play original material. That's great! It's a worthy goal, so write on!
front-page-icon5There are many paths a guitarist can take. Upon crossing the threshold from beginner to - "guitar player" -  it is natural to feel the "creative" juices start to flow and, invariably, songs will be born.

I know musicians that are so adamant about exclusively playing their own songs that they wouldn't get caught dead on stage with a "cover" song in their portfolio.

I have other friends that play in bands that play nothing but "cover" tunes. They enjoy bringing familiar songs to life for a live crowd and some get paid well for it.

Now that I no longer do long distance touring, I write a lot of original songs to pitch to publishers and artists, but also play with various local and regional bands that predominately play cover songs. Most musicians I know fall into this "little bit of both" category.
lesson 2Although it is an admirable goal to pursue strictly original material, there are a number of benefits to learning cover songs that should not be neglected.

If we, as humans, are a "sum of our experiences", then we, as musicians, are a sum of our "musical experiences". Everything that we have ever played, everything that we have ever heard, all the little bits and pieces, and  all the full length scores - are all rolled up together into what makes us each unique as individual musicians.

One could then conclude that, in order to become a better songwriter and broader musician, you should "learn more cover songs".

Although that may be contrary to a songwriting "purist", it stands to reason that even the staunchest supporter of the "original material only" path, had listened to, and emulated, artists that inspired them in the past.

And possibly without knowing it, those "cover" songs have at least had a subconscious affect on their own original music.

Learning cover songs is a great exercise in expanding your musical vocabulary. The things you learn from cover songs have a way of filtering through and becoming part of your style.

My early days of learning to play lead guitar were spent over a turntable "stealing licks" from Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, Jimmy Page and Clapton. Those early influences still have a big impact on my playing style, even decades later.
too old 1There are some neat things that can happen while learning and dissecting cover songs. The experience of finally nailing a difficult lick, the satisfaction of figuring out an inconspicuous chord, the discovery of a new chord progression that you had not considered before - there are many "aha" moments when learning cover songs that would have been missed otherwise.

And all those moments make a consious or unconsious contribution to who you are and who you become musically.

Often times, new guitar players shy away from attempting to learn cover songs. There is a thought that songs on a recording are somehow beyond their reach. But the truth is that, once a guitarist has the basics under their belt, they can discover that many of the songs in popular music that they aspire to learn are  actually comprised of chord progressions and patterns that they already know or are familiar with.
fretting 02It is through this discovery process that a new guitar player can begin to truly expand their horizons and begin to progress as musicians. In our Beginner Guitar Lessons course we have even dedicated a section to introducing tips and techniques that the new guitar player can take to become proficient at learning cover songs for themselves.

So regardless of which path you ultimately end up taking, whether it's the pure original songwriting route, the cover song route, or a combination thereof - keep in mind that spending the time and effort to learn cover songs is a healthy habit to get into and that the effort will pay off in dividends to you musically for as long as you play guitar.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

Keith Dean

keith01 lowKeith Dean is founder of AdultGuitarLessons.com and a 30 year veteran of stage and studio. He toured extensively as a road musician throughout the US and Europe, was a former lead guitarist for Jason Aldean, and has shared stages with Little Big Town, Wild Rose, Winger, Confederate Railroad and more. He is a published songwriter, owned and operated a successful music store, and has instructed numerous students in guitar.

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