Five Ways to Make a Great Cover Song

In a day where nothing is noteworthy unless it has gone “viral”, there has been a whole new meaning to the words “cover song.” Just type in your favorite artist on YouTube, and there is a good chance you will have to dig your way through dozens of acoustic guitar versions made by every kid who can sing before you can find the original version. Having said this, there are well known “Artists”, who only perform cover songs on YouTube. Even ones who have risen to fame because of their cover songs, such as KARMIN. We all have seen the positive effects that posting a good YouTube video can provide as far as exposure and press, but how do you separate yourself from the rest of the millions of versions of Taylor Swifts “22”? Well, I just so happened to have listed my top five ways to make a great cover song!

1. Don’t Choose Taylor Swifts 22!
In other words, try and make a song famous that isn’t already famous.

I know, I know, you want to steal fans because one of the biggest artists on the charts releases a hit song and you want to be the first one to cover it. However, the chances are that you won’t be the first nor will your song selection be unique. Every musician, as well as every cover band EVER has probably sung Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” on stage. What can set you apart from the rest is if you can bring to life to a song that isn’t the Artists’ top hit song.

Here is an incredible example of a song who was originally sang by Aretha Franklin but has now been popularized by jazz vocalist Kristina Train:

If you want to compare, here is the original version. It is good, but honestly, Kristina brought this song to life and I prefer her version much more. The original version didn’t get a tv commercial, but the cover did!


2. Don’t imitate the artist, BE THE ARTIST!
If people want to hear Elvis perform “Jail House Rock” they will listen to him, they want to hear how YOU will sing Elvis!

You want to shine through. If you don’t have a rough scratchy rock voice, then don’t try and sing it that way. Just because you are singing Ozzie, doesn’t mean you can’t sound like you.

Here is John Mayer, sounding like himself, while still being true to the song, and making a great cover of “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty


3. Pre-record the song in a studio
Who said it has to be live? There are no real rules. Believe it or not, many of those great songs you hear on YouTube were already recorded and the video is shot later. Pre-recording a song doesn’t mean that it is any less of a good cover.

I’ll share with you a great example of a pre-recorded song. Here is Ben Rector’s version of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by – Whitney Houston

Ben Rector // I Wanna Dance With Somebody from Minneapolis Wedding Videos on Vimeo.


4. It’s all about how you arrange it.
Be Creative! Think outside the box! Use ten hands, one guitar!Instead of me telling you how to arrange a great song, why don’t we just see an example of one of the best cover songs of the past two years?

Noah performing “Sexy and I know it “by LMFAO (17 million hits later, I think his arrangement wins)


5. Be super talented, plain and simple.
If you can have half as much talent as these Swedish guys, you will be just fine. Your true musical talent will shine through in the end, especially if you are as crazy good as these cats. There is no better way to end it then with one of the most talented musicians just tearing it up musically. Learn your scales boys and girls and get ready for some “Dirty Loops”

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