Creating a cover song
Everyone has ever heard cover versions for any songs. This is a very popular creative way for an artist to show up. The most interesting thing is that some famous compositions you might know not necessary are an original version of those songs, if you explore it can turn out to be covers for a song. Yes, it is very common that well-made covers able to gain more popularity than their original versions.
A cover is a new interpretation of an already existing song by another artist. Covers can help pop up one’s musical talent, and as well beneficial for an experienced artists career giving an extra content for audience.
Often can hear unusual interpretation of already famous songs and some of them become very popular. There are songs that have an extreme number of covers, more than other songs. Formally, almost any performance of song by any performer, except for the author himself, can roughly be summed up under the definition of a cover, but in reality, everything is not quite so. Let’s understand together what a good cover is, what elements it consists of, and share some tips of how to make it.
As a rule, the melody and lyrics of the song remain unchanged, the arrangement, instrumentation, and, consequently, the overall sound changes. Of course, the timbre of the voice and the manner of singing of the new performer makes huge changes. By the way, there are covers not only for songs, but also for instrumental works. In such cases, the melody remains unchanged, the arrangement and instrumentation change. Main principles, all the same laws by which a good cover version of a song is built work for instrumental music, however, since the voice is a very powerful means of artistic expression and emotional transmission, and is also a unique instrument in each individual case, we will talk about mostly about covers of songs containing vocals. First figure out what the most important elements a song consists of.
Put some light on songs elements. Any song consists of several essential elements. D.Gibson in his book ‘The Art of Mixing” gives a list of elements of the song and gives each a definition. We will use this exact list and review it in a context of creating a cover for a song. So according to D.Gibson’s the most important parts of the song are:
- Concept of a song
- Song structure
- Quality of recording and recording equipment
As it is important for an original song to execute all this element the best way creator is able to, this approach works and for cover version as well.
Mixing part, quality of equipment and quality aspects of a recording audio itself have a great meaning. In addition to the artistic part, they also contain a huge amount of technical work that requires attention and professional approach in the process. Often a good mix comes out after it is processed and mixed by non-author of the song and this is a popular practice among artists because it helps to keep a “fresh” listening of the composition. However, if you wish to make a final mix of your track by yourself, may delay this mission for couple days, it will allow you to listen to it by “fresh ear” and may bring some clearance for the final version.
Modern technical element of cover creation process is DAW. Choice among various Digital Audio Workstations is big. Convenience and processing power of DAW speed up the work and gives an opportunity for your creativity, as most of them has various instruments and tools. Amped studio is an online DAW that do not require any, is convenient and has a set of functions as the most stationary DAWs have: vocal recording, arrangement, multiply instruments, various effects etc. Let’s start creating you cover song right now.
Song’s structure may differ from the original version. Sometimes in cover-versions of a song we can notice an absence of some refrains, or can find additional lines or quote from another songs.
Lyrics and melody stay untouched. Melody can be transpositioned in to the key that is convenient for other person to sing according to his voice timbre and tessitura.
Rhythm of a cover-version can be different from an original version, it depends on an arrangement that very often goes through blast of changes and sounds completely new.
The style of a song can be changed. For example, create a cover-version of pop song in “Heavy Metall’ style, or turn a “Hip Hop” track into a lounge version, classic choired singing into a “dub techno”, or a “Grange” song into “Ethnic” style – there is no any limitations just a creative goal of an artist. Style of a composition in many cases determinates by the drum and bass parts, so it is essential to pay attention to this part.
All elements of arrangements, such as rhythm section, counterpoints and figurations, can be changed depending on preferences and tasks. It is allowed to add new parts that complement the melody and rhythm, as well as the transformation of melodies of sub voices and counterpoints (not the main melody) used in the original.
Tempo in cover-version can be different than tempo of an original version, and directly depends on style of a track and rhythm.
Harmony is sometimes object for disputes: keep an original harmony in covers, or change it. There are different cases when the harmony is changed or when it is completely kept as in the original composition.
If harmony is something that certainly requires adjustments in a cover, but you don’t want to subject it to global changes, we would recommend simply preserving the value of the functions. For example, the function of the tonic can be replaced by a parallel major or minor, subdominants – not only the IV step of tonality and triads and seventh chords from it, but also a triad or seventh chords built on the VI or II steps, and dominants – not only the fifth step, but triads and seventh chords that are built on the III or VII steps.
Instrumentation is the next part for creative manipulations of a cover author. Make a minimalistic track with one or two instruments from a rich arrangement, or remake a “transparent arrangement” with a minimum set of instruments into an arrangement containing a full range of instruments located in all possible frequencies of the human audible range.
In any case, instrumentation is something that depends on the arrangement, taste and preferences of the cover creator, as well as on his goals. Changing tools can greatly affect the overall concept. After all, for example, the accompaniment played on the guitar is very different in sound from the piano accompaniment.
Performance has a crucial and great importance for cover versions of songs. If we are talking about a song, then the voice becomes not only an emotional and artistic means, but also carries a semantic and conceptual transmission.
Concept of cover song perhaps, the basis on which its future fate depends. This we can compare with into foreign language translation of any literary work, for example, a poem: good translation is not just walking on surface and passing a general idea, but involves immersion to the same emotional depth that the author of the work was at the time of its creation. From this depth, the author “emerges” into his own language, and the translator into his own. A cover of the song is somewhat reminiscent of a translation. Therefore, before you start working on the cover concept, answer yourself the question: at what depth was the author of the song at the time of its creation and do you familiar with such a state? Your attention to such detail is an important step on the way towards creating and cultivating your artistic nature. Audience always listen and hear, feels and know the difference between false and real empathy of an artist to what is he singing about
Choosing a song
Of course, it is common that for cover- versions in most cases artists pick a catchy and interesting songs. So, when you decide to make a cover choose a song that excites you to the goose skin, that you feel, that resonate to you and you want to perform in your way. Give a chance to your craziest ideas and experiment.
At the end we should say that everyone is unique, beauty of any song or just instrumental track is not in the copying of a manner of singing or playing instruments like another artist, but looking for own feelings, expression, and depth. Technical aspects are often something that follows the idea.