Bands and Singers: How to Make Covers Your Own
You have mastered good technique and you clearly need a challenge. Usually the next step in your singing and musical path is creating individual covers. But you’re not simply singing an artist’s song, you’re rearranging the song and vocal melody to add your own creative spin. Creating covers can test your musical ability and hone your skills. Below are some techniques to help create your very own unique take!
The first step to creating an unique cover is to put it in the best key for your voice. It’s not always necessary to change the key of a song, but you want the song to fit best into your vocal ‘tessitura’. Your tessitura is the most comfortable and beautiful part of your vocal range and the part you have the most control over. If you have to strain to sing a song, it’s probably not in the most comfortable part of your vocal range, and it just won’t have the desired sound you’re after. A key change will also allow you to do as many vocal tricks and techniques as it sits in your best range. Sometimes a key change can even reshape a song in a subtle way, giving low songs a higher feel or vise versa. You can also change to different lower keys to suit different styles of music.
Play to your strengths
Depending on your vocal skill set, your range and natural tone, you’ll want to utilise the techniques you do the best. The best covers are when artists or singers put their own twists on a song. Adding layers of harmonies, vocal riffs, belting, and/or a husky vocal tone will ensure your display your best voice techniques. Don’t be afraid to add riffs to a straight melody, (without altering the original) or even just changing octaves, this can really enhance a song. Obviously you want it to highlight the original song, not change it in a way that makes the original unrecognisable to a listener.
When singers add their own riffs and runs, or even vibrato to songs, it can quickly make for an impressive and individual take on a song. Riffs can be a little tricky, but the more you hear them and practice them, they get easier to do. The key is to practice jumping to and from notes quickly which helps to develop what we call ‘vocal flexibility’. This combined with proper breath support from the diaphragm will help you to create seamless riffs. You can talk to a vocal coach for more advice on riffs and runs. In your covers aim to add a run to the end of a phrase on a straight note, that will make things more interesting and rather impressive, whilst creating an individual approach to a song. You can also do the same with vibrato at the end of a phrase.
Music Stops/ Accents
Sometimes to make a piece of music more dramatic we can add stops to the music itself, behind the singer. This can really highlight the voice or the the next phrase to come. The other option is sometimes even just placing accents on certain lyrical phrases. For example, instead of playing the same thing in both verses, we might only choose to play the chord on an accent of on a important lyrical phrase.
Feel of a song & Instrumentation
To create the ultimate spin on a song, try changing genres through the feel and instrumentation. Turning a rock song into a jazz song, for example – playing a Nirvana riff on a cello can totally change the feel of a whole song. Or changing a straight beat to a swung beat can give a rock song a jazzy/soul vibe or vise versa. Certain instruments are usually categorised into genres, so changing the musical feel or genre, particularly one your rather comfortable and familiar with, can help to greatly individualise a cover.
Style & Tone
Certain pronunciation and tone will point towards different genres, so carefully choose what tone you will adopt for a genre. For a dark singing tone, your vowels are spun towards the back of the palate, and will sound more jazzy, sometimes classical, or sombre. A bright singing tone will sound more forward, resonant and twangy. This would suit more brighter genres or moods, for example pop, rock, or country.
A great way to mix up a song and breathe new life into it is to either speed it up or slow it down. Chords and melody are usually the bones of a song, so exploring rhythmical changes and tempo changes can really transform a song. For example Tina Turner’s version of ‘Proud Mary’ completely changed up the slow folky rock track by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Halfway through the slow soulful sounding track, it speeds up into a a fast, groovy, rock number, layered with Tina’s out of this world gospel inspired vocals and a brass section. Seeing as this is one of her most well known tracks, it just goes to show how much a tempo change can really revamp an original song into something different.
All in all, it doesn’t take a lot to change up a song. You can employ whatever techniques you wish from instrumentation, to adding riffs on a simple melody or even just speeding a track up. It doesn’t have to difficult changes just simple ones but these techniques can help to you transform a song and also guide you to becoming more than just only a singer but into a musician and artist.