You can skip instrumentals. You should try to shuffle play a list of songs you actually like. Failing that, you can skip songs you don't like (covering songs you hate is stupid). However, you should otherwise not skip anything. Definitely don't skip a song just because it's hard! The point is to make you stretch a bit, and try new things that you wouldn't otherwise.
How you choose to cover is up to you. Keep the chords and throw out the arrangement? Fine. Change the melody? Sure. Just play an acoustic guitar and sing? Go for it.
So I did this at the end of last week. I only got 8 songs recorded, songs by: Sting, Cop Shoot Cop, Tribe, Hole, Talking Heads, Liz Phair, King Crimson, and Marillion.
We All Pod for iPod
(I think the value of this is in the experience, not the results. That is, I don't actually think they're worth downloading, but for the sake of completeness I've posted mp3s. 128Kbps, 3 to 5 MB.)
- 1. Sting We Work the Black Seam (Dream of the Blue Turtles)
- Not a pleasant starting place: the vocal melody line goes all over the place zanily, and I had to spend a lot of time figuring this out and doing it approximately. (It's in the original key, but I sing it an octave lower.) As a result the vocals wander out of tune a lot. (I also forgot to apply the lesson I learned a while back, that my pitch seems better if I don't wear headphones. I didn't remember this until I finished the whole "album", and was singing along again and hitting the notes much better.)
The original is so familiar to me, I couldn't find anyway to get something new in my head. So, for example, the drums are pretty much in the same style as the original. Otherwise, I had intended to come back later and fill out the arrangement, but I never did, so it's pretty bland. And it's very long (5:30--the original is 5:40), and has no bridge, plus the pitch errors, so it's pretty damn tedious.
- 2. Cop Shoot Cop Cause and Effect (Ask Questions Later)
- The original is a very aggressive noisy industrial track, which seemed pointless to try to recreate. So I took it in a very different direction, although I tried to remain true to the melody of the original instrumental sections. Also, I wrote an entirely new vocal melody since the original didn't offer much to work with. I tried to make it as rhythmically odd as the original, though. Still some voice pitch errors.
- 3. Tribe Joyride (Abort)
- This cover is significantly faster and all guitar instead of synth, leaving out the guitar solo section. I transposed it down three half steps, but the highest notes are still a reach for me. Plus occasional vocal pitch errors (some caused by the transposition confusing me, since the original pitches would come to mind).
- 4. Hole Doll Parts (Live Through This)
- A bit faster, and a totally different arrangement: mostly just a single very busy guitar. (It's a sort of cliche thing you can do with a delay, but despite being a cliche, something I don't think I've ever done on any of my own songs.) In the original key.
- 5. Talking Heads Crosseyed and Painless (Remain in Light)
- The original of this is basically a five-minute vamp on a single chord. I wasn't going to write all new music for it, but what option did that leave me? Doing my own unique five-minute vamp on a single chord? So instead I decided to make a note-for-note cover of it, and I'm pretty happy with it, especially given the time constraints, although in the end it's a freaking note-for-note cover, and what good is that? (The guitar "solo" is not at all note for note, though. Pretty crappy, in fact. Also, I did actually leave out three parts [that I know of]: there's a guitar doubling the bass, a second synth part comes in at the same time as the clav part, and the quiet hard-to-make-out guitar bit towards the beginning later becomes a distorted [I think] even-harder-to-decipher part, that I skipped deciphering. But there's a total of 15 tracks in use, even without these three parts, and including doubling up the clav part and the synth at the beginning on the same track.) Left in the original key, which means the harmonies on "I'm still waiting" had to be done falsetto, but since there are other parts that are suppose to be falsetto, that seemed ok.
- 6. Liz Phair Support System (Whip Smart)
- I was like, hey, cool, a Liz Phair song. Then I started trying to figure out the chords for it, and was like, what the hell? I worked out about the first third of it, and then decided to just bail on the whole song. Then I felt bad about bailing given the rules, and came back to it. It took me quite a while to decode the rest of it, and I just ended up recording a pretty straight cover of it because that had taken so long (plus the time trying to get the vocal melody right, which was tricky in a few places). In the same key as the original. (And unlike the Sting song, I sing it in the same octave.)
- 7. King Crimson 21st Century Schizoid Man (In the Court of the Crimson King)
- This was something of a gimmee. I actually tried to totally change it and do it as an 80's synth-pop song, but I had technical problems getting a drum-machine sounding rhythm out of my keyboard to synchronize, and bailed after about half an hour and just recorded a straight cover. I already knew all the guitar parts, so it was pretty easy. (Well, not really, the fast parts are still just too freaking fast. In fact, I skipped an entire section, the really fast unison staccato runs bit, which I don't know.) In the original key, which meant some of the vocals were out of my range, but whatever, given the distortion. (Yes, the 1969 original had distorted vocals. Screw you, industrial metal bands.)
- 8. Marillion Lavender (Misplaced Childhood)
- I had to transpose this down four half steps to get it singable, and a result of that and the lateness of the hour, I got lazy and just did a straight cover. (By straight cover, I mean I just basically recorded with the same music and arrangement as the original, but not with the attention to detail implied by note-for-note; I left out several parts.) I added a thirty second piano intro which is, uh, well, I can't play piano, really, so if you think about it in that light it's pretty lame; but if you don't think about it that way it's entertaining. This track is overall pretty listenable until the vocal pitch goes wrong on the word "lavender" (which is kind of a sub-optimal word, given that it's the title).
I also cheated a little bit.
I used a playlist on my ipod that is limited only to albums that I actually vaguely like. But there are still songs on it I don't like much, or haven't heard enough to be familiar with, and I skipped those too.
- Sting - We Work the Black Seam
- John Zorn - Snagglepuss (instrumental)
- Cop Shoot Cop - Cause and Effect
- Tribe - Joyride
- King Crimson - The Mincer (instrumental)
- The Residents - Happy Home (yikes, The Residents)
- Sting - Fortress Around Your Heart (sheesh, another Sting song from the same album, even?!?)
- Sarah McLachlan - Last Dance (not familiar with it)
- Tribe - Abort (sheesh, another Tribe song from the same album even!)
- Soul Coughing - Paint (too weirdly stylized)
- Roxy Music - Bitters End (too weirdly stylized)
- Hole - Doll Parts
- Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods - We're Always Talking (not a favorite)
- Talking Heads - Crosseyed and Painless
- Liz Phair - Support System
- Marillion - Assassing (a seven-minute song, and a little too goofy)
- King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man
- Brian Eno - Sombre Reptiles (instrumental)
- The Beatles - Flying (instrumental)
- Cocteau Twins - How to Bring a Blush to the Snow (not familiar)
- Talking Heads - Girlfriend is Better (already did a TH song)
- Peter Gabriel - With This Love (Passion Soundtrack) (instrumental)
- P J Harvey - Kamikaze (not familiar)
- Sleater-Kinney - #1 Must Have (not familiar)
- The Residents - Floyd (instrumental)
- Fripp & Eno - Wind on Water (instrumental)
- Lisa Germano - Offering (not familar)
- Morphine - Have a Lucky Day (uh, I think I accidentally skipped this)
- Marillion - Lavender
Ok, so really what this is is another 24-hour album, not an actual meme. However, the point of the real 24 hour albums is to create something new. In the first year of my creating them, though, I did eight albums, so I decided the first one of the new year would be a cover album, just to do something different.
It's really just an exercise for my own fun than intended as interesting to other people; I'm not a good singer, so the end results are arguably less listenable than when I write my own material. Which is why I've done such a detailed write-up; at least you can get something out of it other than the music itself.