I’ve been getting a lot of messages recently from people asking ‘what’s the one bit of advice you’d give to someone wanting to get into the music industry as a professional player?’ For me a big turning point was joining a covers band!
Now I have to tell you this was an option that’d I’d fought (in my head) for years… I had the delusional view that as soon as you decided to become a professional musician, that was it, you’d get onto big tour after big tour, and you’d never look back! This of course was the furthest idea from the reality of making a living from music.
In hindsight, it was the best thing I could’ve done, not just for my career, but my physical ability, my listening skills, what makes a great pop song, and my understanding of how to make a crowd react. I’ll explain a little further:
- Career – the more people you play with, the more people know about you, the more likely you’ll get called for other work
- Ability (for the old classics) – you’re essentially studying some of the greatest bands and drummers in the world, and this is great for any references for the future when for instance in a recording session, the producer says ‘I kinda want this one to sound like early Kinks stuff’.
- Ability (for the modern songs) – you’re learning what’s current now, whats a popular playing style and what really gets people going. Again great for references in other jobs, especially if you’re called to work with a new artist.
- Listening Skills – you can never learn enough about listening to the people around you, and with covers, it’s a perfect opportunity to know your parts so well, you now can spend your time listening and reacting to what everyone else is playing (within reason – if that bass player is having a solo over the whole of Sweet Child O Mine, don’t follow him! – There’s always a balance of giving respect to the song and realising that’s what the audience is there to hear. They want to recognise it).
- What makes a great pop song – You’re essentially playing songs from across the decades (sometime up to 6 or 7!) that have stood the test of time. There’s a reason those parts work, and by osmosis at the very least, that will become part of your musical DNA. There’s a great singer songwriter I know, and he has honed his writing skills in such an incredible way because he’s done thousands of covers gigs!
- How to make a crowd react – I remember the first time playing a covers gig and seeing peoples heads start nodding! I felt like I was finally at a level that was transferring my groove to make people move! (A big goal in my playing). That gradually led to people dancing, then I learnt how to build tension and excitement, and pretty much send people mental! It’s an amazing thing to witness and see how powerful music is.
- (Bonus) – I’ve met some of the most wonderful, interesting people and lifelong friends through working with covers bands!
All these things have had a massive part to play in where I am today, able to make a living drumming. It’s also worth noting that I didn’t just stay with one covers band. I’ve depped/subbed for probably around 50 covers bands over the years, and continue to do so whenever I can. You can always learn!
Are you in a covers band? What’s the most beneficial thing you’ve done for your career?