How to make songs your own?

@sequences @themadman_tobyjenner @CT

Thank you so much as well - what a treasure chest this thread turns out to be :blush:

Just to mention a few aspects coming to my mind right now…:

There is no way I can even try to summarize the good advice I have received from @Lisa_S alone. The “willpower”- go for it from @brianlarsen @roger_holland pointing out the value of purpose and context of it all… etc. etc.

Of course it’s just me, a guitar and a small amp. I would love to play together with other people, but I doubt that this will ever happen… Similarly, it will take years until I will have any technical setup that I could use proficiently.

@sequences Michael, how great that you point out the value of ears, listening and trying to understand the original.

@CT Playing around with chord progressions (well the open chords I can play so far) was one of the major factors that got me back to guitar after my break last year. Now it begins all making sense, why I like it so much

@TheMadman_tobyjenner No plasticky stuff for me and from me ever. I have a vision e.g. of taking “Leaving on a jet plane” dark, sad and electric away from that jingly-jangly original … to match those lyrics which are in my mind so sad. Let’s see if I will ever get “my version” to what I hear in my mind… If turns out to be a cloud of smelly gas, then it will :sunglasses:


Yer well…if that’s the top of the ladder electrifying Greensleeves :astonished: I need a leg up to get on the first rung! :joy:

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AND if what you are altering is pleasing to listen to!

give it a grunge vibe or maybe thrash metal with Cookie Monster vocals? I might listen to that version. :upside_down_face:

What’s wrong with that number??? I think it sounds good…

Leaving on a jet plane


did I say punk? NO!

(ok I was :rofl: on that. nice find!)

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:rofl: :nerd_face: :laughing: No no no, Rogier, that’s even more cheerful than the original :grin:

Listen to the lyrics… It’s so sad.

@sequences Don’t know how good I am at channeling my inner cookie monster… :cookie:

I was serious though… I “feel” that the song is sad… and I thought it could be an interesting challenge trying to express this sadness. How that could be done, I don’t know yet … Power chords, once I finally will have learned them? Some weird high gain setting? Different tuning? No idea yet… But it will be another interesting side project, hopefully, in addition to starting the regular Grade 2 stuff soon…


Live your best life. :slight_smile:

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I would say people “make songs their own” from the moment they pick up a guitar. If you’re doing one strum per bar to a popular song, it’s playing it differently.

And a single guitar version of a multi track record is always going to be different.

Learning something the way it is supposed to be played is a great way to get better at guitar. So I reckon, make sure you do that.

But when you’re covering a song, do it how you want to. There are no rules. If it sounds good, it is good. Opposite also true, so use your ears.


I got that far and my mind was full of Dark Denver lyric rewrites, for which I blame Denis Leary and Granola ! :rofl:

My 2 cents….

One of the very first songs I ever learned years ago was Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, but my playing ability wasn’t up to being able to play it at speed. Also, I couldn’t sing along with the original. I was into fingerstyle too.
So, I played a very slow fingerstyle version with the capo at the 2nd fret so I could sing it.
Now, I have the ability to strum it at the speed of the original but find that I’m more into embellishments & a Travis picking version. I still love Van’s version but it’s not “mine”.
Occasionally, you’ll hear a re-release of a song by the Original Artist but with a different arrangement from the popular version that is cooler than the song was when it was a chart-topper! I love that - my wife & I saw Don Henley in concert several years ago & he did a version of Hotel California that had 2 trombones & a saxophone playing the guitar solo instead of a guitar… it really ROCKED!!!
Point is, go for YOUR VIBE… tempo, instrumental, re-write lyrics… whatever you like! It’s your hard work that counts so make the return YOURS too!
Ok, rant over……… :crazy_face:



Both. :slight_smile:

With some songs, more like pub songs and such, I do them as close to the original as I can so the pub patrons singing along can know what to expect.

With a lot of songs, I just don’t worry about how close I am to the original. I’ve heard many arguments (tiring) about whether a particular cover was like the original or not. Who cares. There’s a separate thread on covers re-imagined.

More important is you play the songs the way you want them played, don’t worry about the Justin approach or not, it’s all just suggestions and as Justin often says, there are no rules.


I you weren’t able to attend my Live Clubs earlier, check out the resource material I made. It will be, at least, an interesting read for you.

Building repertoire

Making songs your own


Sometimes I like the 'modified" version even better as is the case with Man of Constant Sorrow.
The Foggy Bottom Boy’s version:
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow (With Band) (
and the Dwight Yoakum version:
Man of Constant Sorrow (

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Which of these do you consider the “original” version? Man of Constant Sorrow is a traditional American folk song published in 1915 or something like that.

I’m kinda partial to this version:

Interesting viewpoint over here Nicole.
Learning from mistakes (of others - based on seeing a live covers performer)

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Well, I’ve got NO images in my head on how to change any song, so you’re WAY ahead of me! :rofl:

I heard the Foggy Bottom Boys version first in the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou so that’s what I was thinking. I didn’t realize it was actually much older


Thanks, Gordon, I will check, sounds super interesting :slightly_smiling_face:

And… Of course @LievenDV thanks for linking the resources.Yes, I had misssed these two clubs. I will have a good look :slightly_smiling_face: .

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I consider to re-do that session some time as “making songs my own” is what brings me a lot of joy and enables me to express myself. I think the ideas are valuable enought to reschedule it some time.

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I would be delighted :slightly_smiling_face:

Shines threw very easily that it brings you joy. I remember one of the Open Mics, where I was in the audience, I think it was the first one even, and you played “English man in New York”. What a joy for me it was listening to you ( … If you are going to say “no, that wasn’t me”… I’ll search a snow pile where I could go to hibernate for some time. I have been working way too much recently, might be that I remember incorrectly).

Looking forward to take a look at the materials in my lunch break today :slightly_smiling_face: