Learning from mistakes (of others - based on seeing a live covers performer)

In this case, trying to learn from other people’s mistakes!

We were in a pub at the weekend and there was a guitarist/singer on the mike. Naturally I took an interest in what he was doing. He seemed a pretty competent guitarist - plenty of nice fills and embellishments - but his repertoire was almost identical to mine, i.e. grade 1 & 2 level songs.

He was LOUD. I like loud music so I have to ask myself why I didn’t like this, and I think it’s because loud music is appropriate if you want people to dance, or you want them to sing along. Neither of those was happening because:

  • all the songs were played at the exact same tempo. It took a while to notice, but once you noticed it it was painfully obvious.
  • he was singing all the right words, but mostly to a different melody than the original.
    I get that singing a “cover version” gives you some leeway with the melody, and when you’re playing a cover song in amongst a set of your own originals, it blends better when you do that. In a set of nothing-but-covers, the occasional diversion from the melody can be fun, but this guy did it in every song. Nobody could sing along to any of these well-known songs (and I wanted to because I know how to play most of them!) because they didn’t recognise the melody he’d sing - in a few cases we only knew which song it was meant to be because we recognised the words!

I may never perform in front of anyone else, but it was definitely giving me food for thought in how to devise a set list when I do. Anyone else had experiences like this?


Hello Ross,

It seems to me you have witness 2 topics in a summary (sort of) :grin: , I will even look for them for you :sunglasses:

Have fun reading



Thanks. Delete thread button doesn’t work for me, maybe some friendly admin will come and put me out of my misery.

No No at all,I enjoyed your contribution… It’s amazing how you just experienced those two things together in a live bar:sunglasses: ( oke maybe you would have preferred a good performance… :grin:)

I wonder if he was just there as some background for the people in the pub?

If that is the case, then maybe the pub owners find it okay for him to play like that but if he is there to entertain, then I’d have been very disappointed if I was unable to have a good sing along.

For me, I want people to recognise what I’m singing and to be able to join in as well.

He is going to stick in your mind for all the wrong reasons.

I’m thinking, you should should have said, excuse me and taken over. :smiley:

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No need to delete at all. Rogier is simply noticing overlapping themes.


This is the risk you run when making a song your own. People don’t want to hear your version unless it is better than the original and the original was popular for a reason.
There is a fine line between making a song your own and butchering a classic.


If he’s singing a ‘different melody’ to the same chord progression, it’s very likely that he’s singing harmonies. You could probably belt out the lyrics to the original tune and it’d sound great with it :wink: :laughing:

need to book this guy instead:


There’s something to be said for knowing your audience. You’ve got to be really good (or deluded) to take songs that people know and potentially love and play them differently - especially if it’s all of them! If it’s your audience and they’ve specifically come to see you then maybe that’s fine, but if you’re dropping into somewhere then it doesn’t seem such a good idea.


That’s a definite challenge and one I have to continually work on. I notice that I often play everything at what I call “Tony Tempo”. It’s very easy to fit into a trap of doing what’s easy.

I’ve long used a variety of strum and fingerstyle patterns so there’s a lot of variety in what I play. I have a friend who is a delight to watch because he’s enthusiastic and it really bubbles through in his live persona. Problem is every song has the exact same strum pattern and sound.

Which means when he plays and sings Leaving on a Jet Plane or Sweet Caroline, they are sort of like the same sounding songs only the words are different. I’m sure the melody is also different but because he has no variety it’s hard to tell.

Justin has several lessons where he talks about the dynamics. So I now have a number of songs where I change the way I play being different in the chorus to the verse. And several where I change the tempo having one verse that’s a lot slower, that sort of thing.

Another area to mix it up when doing a live set is don’t do too many songs in a row in the same key.

He was really good but what was more impressive was the guy dancing with his pint in hand and not looking like he spilt a drop.

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Ouch! :confounded::rofl:

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Great stuff. Although he added his own spin to the song and upped the tempo a bit, he stuck to the melody of the original which is vital when performing a well known song. Gerry is a terrific singer so that makes a huge difference too.
The pint balancing dancer was certainly impressive and Gerry knew his audience and played to them which is the other important factor.

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Maybe the guy just wasn’t a great singer? Struggled with vocal melody.

From the description it doesn’t sound like it would have been intentional.