Cover tunes are a great way to improve your chops and timing, learn how songs are put together, and can be a fun inclusion into a live set or album. During periods where I’m not writing and practicing my own stuff, I always have a song or two in mind to play along with so I can get out of my set patterns on the fretboard and maybe commit some new chord shapes or finger patterns to muscle memory. Many times those newly learned chord patterns can give you some ideas for your next batch of tunes. Other times, it can be a comical act of futility (“Siberian Khatru” from Yessongs, anyone?) where you’re just left flabbergast at the level of talent and genius in some people’s playing.
Since I started writing and performing my own stuff 20+ years ago, I’ve only done around seven or so cover tunes live or in the studio; and most of those were only done once. All but one of those (June’s “Lena Champagne”) got recorded and will be in the online sound files. The only two that got played more than once were two that I paired together into a medley to end the set with; kind of a ‘chaser’/treat for the audience, lol, after having survived an hour of fractured pop and no holds barred space rock/noise. It was fun to play, and I think we put our stamp on it as well; turning Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” from a multi-verse song in 4/4 time (a 3/3/2 feel) into a 1.5 verse abbreviation with pitch-shifted and echoed vocals done in 3/4 time which still retained a heavy psychedelic impact. Then we nestled it in between a rock-flavored impression of Miles Davis’ “All Blues”, already in a 3-based time signature (6/8), transposed to the key of A to start and end the number. Although not the best version we did (I had mis-set the vocal effects knobs in the dark and had to fix them mid-song), one night it was caught on video, seen above. Cover tunes are always a good option to keep in mind; whether for that extra song in the set, or as a learning tool to help you improve your playing and arranging skills.