ready to go past playing prescribed parts?

To Cover or Not to Cover: A Youtube Musician’s DIlemma

Go ahead, laugh it up. I made a POP cover video.

It’s an electric violin cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”, done with a loop pedal.

A musical Popsicle, if you will.

“Popster McPopples”.

Watch it embedded below or on Youtube here:


Some people may say things like “Yes, finally!!!” and others will be like, “How Could You?

My mom will probably be really into it. At least she’ll leave a positive comment.

Otherwise, It could be polarized…

So lets talk about it…

“To Cover or Not to Cover?”

The Artistic Side: “A real artist would never cover a pop song”

-First of all, I like Pop music.

-Pop music is HARD to cover. Go ahead and try it.

-Coming up with interesting/organic​ ways to cover a song in one take with a loop pedal is a particularly difficult challenge.

Here are related things to bear in mind if you are a string player, or any musician, trying to cover songs with a loop pedal:

How to make it interesting for the listener:

-Shorten or avoid long set ups wherever possible. (In this version it required Three times on the original progression. Four is a more logical number, but I opted for shorter rather than logical..:))   For the bridge of the song, I played the melody the first time to avoid interrupting the flow. Later on, I added the bass line to the melody, and on the repeat, added an additional countermelody. For my free course including how to easily harmonize, click the optin form on the right sidebar. I also took out a verse and opted for a solo instead. My solo was short, and I mixed up the sounds and techniques to try and make it more episodic.

-Practice keeping time. Classical musicians aren;t accustomed to this, and the best way I know to practice keeping time is by working on bass lines and accompaniment parts (whether guitar, keyboard, or any rhythmic parts) against a metronome at first, and then without the metronome. The looper gives you the ability to then practice something like an 8-bar simple bass line, listen back, and check your tempo.


The Business Side: “That’s selling out”

What exactly is selling out?

If it means creating opportunities to do more of your music by giving people something they want, then count me guilty as charged.

I addressed this in a post on how and why artists can use video to support their career.

Here are a few points relevant to this post:

-Demonstrate the skills you want people to hire you for.  Be Specific.

If you want people to hire you to play, show them exactly what context(s) you can play in.  Show them reading, ear, improvisation, fast, slow, ensemble, solo, etc… Just because someone knows you can play one way doesn’t mean they know you can play another.

It’s not about how many views you get. It’s about being able to demonstrate to the Right people what you can do. They need to trust for themselves that you can do a specific thing.  And a video is a great way to show it.

Even after making 250 videos on my channel, I am still finding new things to demonstrate.

For example, since I’m also a teacher, I want to show what I can teach through videos. This video may inspire someone to take a lesson, come to a workshop, or bring me to their school.

Also, related to the business side: Whats wrong with making music for regular people? After all, music snobs aren’t necessarily going to hire me to play their wedding, but your cousin who is a firefighter might.

Not that firefighters can’t enjoy abstract modern art. I heard about a truck driver who fell in love with classical music.

The “back story”:  My celebrity brother Lewis asked me to cover this song because there’s a chance he could share it with someone,  who could share it with someone else, who could share it with Ed Sheeran:)

It’s just a chance, but you know, my brother also kept challenging me to “play more covers”, and I frankly just wanted to get him off my back, lol….

Plus, when Lewis booked me to follow Lindsey Stirling onstage in a live performance, I prepared this piece for that live performance. I figured I might as well make a video after putting all that work into the concert.

Doing business and making art ultimately need to support each other.

I used to worry about what people think.

And to be honest, I still do sometimes.

But, what’s the point? No matter what you do, some people will like it, some won’t.

Ultimately that’s one of the biggest things I hope you’ll take from this whole exercise, i.e. if you’re going to be in the creative lane,

you might as well Do what you want to do.

Check out these related articles:

Is Classical Music too White?

What does Musical Creativity have to do with Personal Development?

Finding the Courage to Create

Christian Howes VIolinist

Photo Credit: Nick Onken

For more Pop Covers, check out my version of Yesterday.

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