Cover Methodology - To duplicate or not to duplicate

Musically, I come from a vocalist background, and there’s something to be said for making the song your own as a vocalist. As a bassist, I’ve found that doesn’t really translate and people talk a lot more about “nailing the song” than I expected. I’ve also found there are a lot of variables that, as a bassist covering a recording live, make reproducing the original artist’s exact performance difficult, such as:

  • Playing it in a different key from the original which presents certain challenges like different open strings and voicing/sound differences
  • The artists for a band occasionally change between the recorded and live versions
  • The artist doesn’t play it the same way every time
  • Tempo changes sometimes make a song awkward without adding/subtracting things

Regardless, I find it odd that people are so hung up on reproducing every bit perfectly. So . . . Why is that a good idea? Where do you draw the line? Do you do that with every song or just some songs? I’d like to hear everyone’s input on whatever pops into you brain if you managed to read down this far. :rofl:



So as a total noob for me it’s a big deal to nail the song… now once I’m efficient I’d certainly put my own spin or just come up with the bass part all together, but I’ve never done that with an instrument… I figure that for quite a while I’ll be trying to play certain lines as recorded simply because they catch my attention


Thanks for chiming in @Reo. That’s helpful info. Remembering the chord progression comes easy for me and noodling around within that chord progression is pretty straigh forwad. But memorizing the way the original artist(s) did the song lick-by-lick I find a bit exhausting.

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I should mention that I don’t think I’m anywhere as close to the talent level as the original bassist of any band I play. This is not ego. I’m saying that in my experience, 99.9% of all listeners aren’t going to be able to tell the difference in what was played on the recording and what was played live even if you only play a simple “root notes” version of the song. hahahaha. So what is it that drives the expectation to play a facsimile of the original?


Same with playing a wrong note. Just keep going :slightly_smiling_face:


Agree here 100%, for me covering songs is learning, not doing.
Doing is starting to creep in for me.

Some others here like @Lanny and @PamPurrs write their own basslines that are generally close to the original but they put their spins on. I can’t say in a blind listen I would know that they changed anything (that btw is the sign that they are doing great things).

I am not quite there yet, but ultimately it is not to nail the song but to play what makes you happy. Nailing it gets me happy for now…


The covers my bandmate and I do are a bit different - we play everything, no backing track - so we generally don’t worry about this and bring our own thing to it.


For the same reason that people try to make chicken that tastes like KFC or a frappucinno that tastes like Starbucks: they like what they like. Also, they find it fun and challenging to try and get something to sound as close as possible. A lot of people spend significant amounts of time and money collecting gear and chasing a sound. Some people think that if you’re going to play an original, you should play it as close to the original song as possible, otherwise why not just write your own music? I think either play it as close to the original as possible or make it your own but don’t half ass it.

Me? I don’t care, I play whatever sounds good to me,I don’t worry about it and I don’t care what other people do or think unless they’re paying me. Do whatever you makes you happy. :slight_smile:


I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again. My methodology when doing covers is to:
(A) Make sure I’m in the right key
(B) Nail down the tempo and cadence (rhythm)
(C) Identify the chord changes

Armed with that knowledge, I can create a bassline that’s as close to the original as I need. The average listener won’t know the difference.

HOWEVER: In certain songs (such as the cover I’m working on now), the original bassline is so special that I feel compelled to duplicate it perfectly, which is why I’m taking so long on this one. @John_E knows which one it is because we have talked privately about it.



Sorry @sshoihet , but I don’t understand the meaning of that photo in regards to my comment.

Same with our jam sessions. We all have lead sheets but we do not use backing tracks.

It’s a Chinese knockoff of Starbucks… Close enough :slightly_smiling_face:


Which is funny because there’s Starbucks all over China :slight_smile:

I’ve been to several in Shanghai.


I’m sorry you disagree with me in my methodology, but to each his own I guess.

Ain’t that the truth.
If your not happy just move on and if you like the song that’s giving you trouble come back to it later.

If you are taking the B2B course @Zuul , which you should be, most here will tell you that is what they did when they came to the Billie Jean song lesson. :slightly_smiling_face:

At the two hour jam sessions I attend we usually cover about ten songs from lead sheets. The next weeks songs lead sheets are given out for practice at the end of the session.

Every now and again we cover a song that I just plain dislike so I use that as a rest period and do not bother playing at all. There are usually about 20 people so I am not missed. Of course if this is a paid session I do play.

It’s all good :+1:


@PamPurrs, I believe @sshoihet was illustrating your point (close to the original, average listener won’t know the difference) with the picture of a sign similar to starbucks that is used in China.


I think you better correct that to read @sshoihet :joy: :joy: :joy:


Thanks everyone for the feedback. I feel like your comments are helping me round out my experience a bit. I’ve always played lead sheets in the past and enjoyed the improvisation aspect. That said, I’ve found a few new tricks covering other bassists more closely, but at the expense of a bit of “fun” and also a great deal of time. And @PamPurrs, I understand what you mean by songs where the bassline is such a signature sound that it would just be weird to play it any other way.


I agree with your methodology 101%.