5 Ways To Make a Cover Song Sound Like You Wrote It

Have you ever heard a cover of a song that had such a fresh take of a song, it almost sounded like that person wrote it? One of my favorite aspects of music as a whole is how you can take a song and really make it to be whatever you want it to be. I am guilty of doing this all the time with my own interpretations. Here are some things that can help give your cover song a fresh make-over.

Change the Tempo

Try slowing down the song or speeding it up. Simple enough, and sometimes all the difference it needs.

Change the Genre

If it’s a Bob Marley song, maybe try to think “What would it sound like if The Ramones wrote the song”. Or maybe the opposite, try playing a Ramones song as if Bob Marley wrote it.

Use Different Versions of the Chords Used

Let’s say the chords in the song is C – G – Am – F, try using some of the chords in different positions. In my “Capo Thinkage” video, I talk about using our capo to play different chord “shapes”.

We could capo on the 5th fret and play my example of “C – G – Am – F” as a G shape (for the C chord), D shape (for the G chord), Em shape (for the Am Chord) and C shape (for the F chord).

You could also capo it on the 10th fret (Whoa! That’s getting pretty high up there!) and use a D shape (for the C chord), A shape (for the G chord), Bm shape (for the Am chord) and G shape (for the F chord) and it’ll probably sound a bit different than what you’re used to.

Try Substituting Chords for Some Extended Chords and/or Add9

Here’s a video lesson I have on “How To Use Extended Chords”. The basic principle is: if there’s a Major chord – use a major 7, major 9, or major 6/9 – if there’s a Minor chord – use a minor 7, minor 9 or minor 11 – if there’s dominant 7 – use a 9, 13 or one of the crazy altered chords (7#5b9). Use your ears to hear if it’s too jazzy, but usually one or two can really make all the difference and really open up the song you’re working on. (Here’s a video of playing Extended Chords)

Add9 chords (video of Add9 Chords) can be another example of chords to substitute. You don’t have to overdue it and substitute every chord with an add9 chord (although, that can be cool on occasion), sometimes all it needs is just one of those chords to stick out. Here are some examples of my chord progression above (C – G – Am – F) with some of these ideas.

C6/9 – G – Am7 – F
C – Gadd9 – Am11 – F
C – G7 – A – Fmaj7
Cadd9 – G – Amadd9 – F

Again, these are just examples. Use your ears to try all sorts of combinations. Even different “versions” of the same chords can make all the difference. (Note on my add9 PDF there are two “versions” of Cadd9 for example)

Create Your Own Musical Theme As an Intro/Outro

Some of the best songs have a musical theme (an example is “Brown Eyed Girl” little intro ditty) and some of the best songs don’t. Regardless of if the song you’re covering has a musical theme, you can alter/change/create an alternate musical theme that’s indicative of your cover. It can be simple, the best musical “themes” can be hummed, so try to use that as a guideline to help create your musical theme.

All in all, one of my favorite aspects of learning songs and performing covers is that the crowd is typically already familiar with the song. Feel free to have a few covers in your arsenal that you took your time and nurtured as if they were your own.