How to start a cover band? Dos and don’ts for beginners

How to start a cover band? Dos and don’ts for beginners

Playing in a cover band can seem the easiest job there is. You just learn a bunch of songs written by other musicians and then play them on stage, right?

Well, this is the general idea, at least in a lot of people’s heads. But if you’re thinking of starting a new cover band, you will surely know that none of this is even remotely true.

Will our pieces look like a poor imitation of original masterpieces? Is our setlist too boring? Has this been done before? Will our audience think we’re just a poor imitation?

These, and many other questions have probably already popped into your mind.

For this reason, we put together a couple of tips that could help your cover band stand out from all the others.

1 – Start from your setlist

Often when musicians get together to start a cover band, they begin by picking a cool name and define the general style, look and genre that they want to portray. But this is starting from the middle, and it might not work for everyone.

To increase your chances of coming across as a band with character, it’s much easier to start from the beginning!

You are musicians, after all: music is what brings you together and what drives people to come to see you perform.

So just start from there! Sit together with your fellow musicians, get a blank sheet out and start brainstorming. If you focus on the music, it will be easier to build everything else accordingly, maintaining a coherent identity.

2 – Avoid too popular and too inflated songs

When picking your core setlist, try to resist the temptation of showing off your perfect rendition of Knocking on heaven’s door. As spectacularly good as your performance could be, the risk of choosing these kinds of super popular, overplayed classics is just too high for a cover band, let alone a new one.

Unless you are specifically aiming at becoming successful as a proper tribute band, and in that case your repertoire should include every hit piece in the book, you could try to get out of your comfort zone and explore a bit of uncharted territory, maybe by picking less known songs or revisiting old classics in your own style.

Take the Postmodern Jukebox, for instance. Their repertoire is endless, but they always manage to pull any song off just by adding their very specific style to the music.

If you’re still a bit lost and looking for some inspiration, you can take a look at this playlist we made for you: Inspiring Covers

3 - Find what makes your band unique

Once you have outlined some core pieces for your setlist – at least 20 to 25 songs – you will need to focus on your band’s identity and personality.

What makes you different from other cover bands in your area? What is your strongest suit? Are you representative of a particular genre or are your talents more versatile?

If your genre is rock, for instance, it’s very easy to fall into clichés or to risk imitating the original band’s style too much. Try to focus on what makes your rendition different, be it a special guitar solo or your singer’s scratchy tone of voice, and work on that!

4 – Make the best out of rehearsals

When dealing with cover songs, a lot of musicians often take rehearsals for granted.

On the contrary, it is extremely important for a new cover band to be really focused and productive during rehearsals, especially in the beginning and even more if the musicians have never played together before.

Organise a thorough rehearsal plan, stick to it and define your goals in advance. Try to be as professional as you can, in order to avoid wasting precious time. If you’re a singer, for instance, try to show up to rehearsal knowing all your lyrics.

It is during rehearsals that eventual obstacles and difficulties will come out. Maybe you will find out that that amazing song you were all so hyped about just doesn’t work for your style. But you will never know if you don’t take rehearsals seriously.

Last pro tip: always bring a recorder with you so you can re-listen to yourself at home and decide what works and what doesn’t.

Rehearsing at home has never been easier! With Jamzone you can listen, isolate, repeat and remix any vocal and instrument tracks from your setlist to elevate your training and live sessions. Find out more about our companion app for cover bands here!

So, are you ready to start your cover band with style?