Learning Cover Tunes

Cover tunes are how most guitar players initially learn to play guitar. It's an art form all in its own to learn a cover song. The art part comes in arranging it for live or solo play without all of the studio magic that was on the original recording such as layered guitars, strings, keys, hundreds of takes on a part or even 10 of the lead singer doing all the different vocal tracks. Studio magic makes it all sound so full, so keeping that fullness live or solo takes some special talents.

As I'm getting ready for my latest band, the list of songs they threw at me wasn't anything like what I'm used to playing. In fact, some of the songs don't have any guitar at all. Keyboard parts on guitar can sure lead to some awkward finger positions, and I've had to learn to use my thumb for several songs. It's a rather odd feeling initially.

But, beyond strange reaches and using the thumb, I'm finding that the more I use the clean tone and a subtle tube crunch, the more precise my playing is becoming. Sure, I've always prided myself on keeping my distorted tones crisp and clean while eliminating any unwanted sounds, but playing on the clean channel requires more finesse.

What am I referring to here? Well, distortion acts as a natural compressor, so you can't express things quite the same way as you can on the clean channel. Playing lightly on many distortions doesn't change anything all that much from playing as hard and chunky as you can. However, give a slight tube gain and playing clean opens up the door for dynamics and more expressiveness as a result.

So what's all this have to do with cover tunes? Well, I feel like learning cover tunes that don't include much (if any) guitar has really improved my playing. Doing so on the clean channel, or even with my EHX C9, Key9 or Mel9 opens up a lot of creative avenues that I hadn't really explored before. Plus, I'm starting to re-think my tone layouts. I think I need a few more clean tones for this group with varying amounts of tube gain and fewer distorted channels. It's been a learning experience for sure.

Sometimes, it's nice to step outside of the "Normal" songs that you love to play and expand to something beyond the normal scope of your interests.


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