At some point in their career, every artist has to make the decision about playing cover songs. Should you devote yourself entirely to your own artistic vision and strictly play originals? Could you slip a few cover songs in here and there? Maybe you should only play covers? Somewhere in the middle? How should you choose to perform?
There are plenty of great reasons to play covers even though some self-styled serious artists may balk at the idea. Almost every highly successful, respected band plays at least a few. Here a few whys and whens to choosing the best cover songs to play.
Why play covers?
There are a some great reasons to work a few cover songs into your set. The most obvious, of course, is they pay better. And, when you’ve just started out in the music world, it can be tough to convince venues to pay you decently to perform your unheard-of originals, to name a few. It’s tough convincing people to fork over cash to see performances of songs they don’t know. Playing covers may not make you feel like you’re expressing yourself to the fullest, but they will pay the bills. Over time, you’ll build a following of people who like the covers you play and they’ll be much more interested in hearing your original music.
Covering other musicians also helps you hone your skills, forcing you to explore new tuning styles, harmonies, and rhythms. Mimicking another performer’s style requires branching out from the way you usually sing or play your instruments. This will help you grow as a musician. Likewise, putting a unique spin on a classic song gets you thinking outside the box and tests your creativity.
Finally, playing covers is just plain fun! If you’re not a rock superstar just yet, it’s likely covering a beloved hit will be your only chance to experience a packed house all singing along. That is a rush any musician loves. It’s also a great way to pay homage to your favorite tunes.
Best cover songs to learn
Choose songs to cover that are well within your skill set if you’re relatively new to performing live. Plenty of popular songs are simple enough even a novice can pull them off well. Confidently performing a set of beloved but good basic acoustic guitar cover songs is a great way to hide the fact you’re not that experienced yet. Check out Guitar World’s list of 10 easy acoustic cover songs to get you started on the open mic circuit.
One challenge of playing strictly covers, you need to know a lot of songs — be prepared to take requests. Taking requests is a great way to endear yourself to your audience. Be sure to learn the most popular songs that could be shouted out from the crowd. Start with this list of the best rock cover songs every cover band should know. You’ll be ready to play a solid set of hits, keeping your audience cheering all night long.
Above all, choosing the best cover songs for guitar or your instrument of choice is as easy as narrowing it down to the songs you like and are able to play well. Decide on a genre, include a good mix of timeless classics and recent hits, and you’ll be sure to win over any crowd.