Guitar Zen: Cover Songs Uncovered!

Guitarist and SMG staff writer Scott Von Heldt contemplates covers!

COVERING THE BASES!

It seems these days that the majority of working musicians who make a living from ‘slinging their axe‘ are doing so by performing covers. Cover songs are tunes previously written and recorded by another artist.

There’s a built in atmosphere to a room, club or arena, filled with the sound of a band rockin’ out and playing a familiar tune that resonates with a crowd and draws their attention. If you’ve ever wondered why so many bands and artists remake popular tunes, it’s because it’s a good way to establish a connection with the listener through the familiarity of melodies performed your own way.

JAM WITH GUITAR HEROES

My past experience in bands and also as a musician for hire, has given me the rare opportunity to perform some of the biggest metal songs, alongside some of the artists that penned them. Being both the singer and guitarist in Healer, with White Zombie drummer Ivan de Prume, I had the task of taking on both the guitar chugs and slides of Jay Yeunger and also the growls and yeahs of Rob Zombie for covers of both mega White Zombie hits Thunderkiss ’65 and Black Sunshine Healer: [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Black-Sunshine-Healer.mp3|titles=Black Sunshine Healer]

The trick was to make it our own, while still adhering to the spirit of the song. In doing so, we changed up each song in terms of tempo, dynamics, technique, etc.

MAKING IT YOUR OWN!

With my current band HEAD, I get the thrill of jammin’ out Blind by KoRn, with the guitarist that wrote it AND I get to step in and take over lead vocals on a spot. With this cover, it’s all about trying to recreate the same intensity and energy on stage as the original band. In a situation like this, there is more pressure to recreate the song as exact and precise as possible and that remains the focus when rehearsing the song.

Cover songs can not only be a great way to make a buck, but they can also help to expand your creativity! This happens by forcing you to assess a few things: Where is the song being performed? Who is the audience? How can I connect with the audience through a melody that they may already know?

So find a tune that you really dig, that you’d love to play for some friends or fans…. and give it your own spin. You may just come up with something that they remember more than the original!

Scott “SVH” Von Heldt is a staff writer for SMG. Scott is currently the lead guitarist for Brian “Head” Welch (ex-Korn) and has worked with members of White Zombie, Cirque Du Soliel and many others. In late 2008 he released the first book of his Mystic Art of Self-Discovery series entitled Mind Over Metal: The Musician’s Guide to Mental Mastery.

Email: SVH@sharemyguitar.com

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  • I agree that playing covers helps you win over an audience if you do the song justice. I’ve seen bands that wrecked a good cover song and it did the opposite.

  • Ed Dennison ( Wabash)

    When I played back in the 70’s we changed allot of songs. We either changed the key they were played so our vocalist could sing them or we added a few riffs or chord changes in them. The one thing I remember is never take out the riffs that people associate with a song.

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