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Create Memorable Covers – Top Tips

You can capture interest by adding a twist to your songs –says Juliet Russell

A unique version of someone else’s song can grab attention, increase your profile and develop your fanbase.

Personally my favourite cover versions are those that have a twist; that make you listen to the song in a new way or even feel like a new song altogether.

If you are thinking about singing a cover, think outside of the box. Create a new and original version or your own unique take.

Change The Genre
Sometimes a melody can work in lots of different musical contexts. For instance, you may be able to change your song from rock to R ‘n’ B, or from dance floor to ballad. It can be fun to play around with this and experimenting can create some interesting interpretative possibilities.

Here’s one of my favourites: Heartbeats by The Knives, covered by Jose Gonzalez.



Change The Tempo
I’ve heard lovely acoustic versions of songs such as Rihanna’s We Found Love and Hey Ya by Outkast. Sometimes slowing a song down can give it more space to breathe and you more room to experiment with phrasing and delivery. Conversely increasing the tempo can infuse your song with new energy and dynamics. This won’t work with everything, but when it does the results can be really interesting.

Add a New Performance Twist
Sometimes it’s not just what you do, but the way you do it. A unique way of delivering the song can help you stand out from the crowd. Walk Off the Earth’s version of Gotye’s Somebody that I Used to Know is a great example of this. They create an intelligent musical and visual way of presenting the song so that even though musically it’s not hugely different, it’s original and memorable.

Gotye – Somebody that I used to know and Walk Off the Earth’s version




Change the Gender
Some songs translate easily to be sung by either male or female vocalists. E.g. I’ve heard male vocalists sing Jessie J’s Mama Knows Best brilliantly. However, sometimes a song does feel more female than male or vice versa and a twist on this can add a new dimension. Dionne Warwick’s version of Walk On By is probably the definitive version, but Isaac Hayes’ version has its own poignancy.



Mash Up
By combining two songs you can create a something new. This usually works best when there’s a lyrical, thematic or musical link between the two.

Some Things To Avoid

Technically Challenging Songs You’re Not Ready For
Work on songs that challenge you by all means, but perform them publicly only once you are ready. Inexperienced singers sometimes choose songs that they love, but are too technically challenging.

An Impersonation of the Original Artist
OK, you can do this if you’re an artist impersonator or in a sound-a-like session, but some vocalists’ versions are so definitive e,g, Amy Wimehouse, Frank Sinatra that it it will be hard to sing it anything but their way.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
Some songs are very hard to improve upon so unless your new version adds something new or a different perspective don’t wreck something beautiful!

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Videos

Kat Vidanes – Hero (cover)

I like that you introduce the song confidently and connect with the viewer / listener straight away. You have a bright, effortless tone and I like what you do in the chorus on “inside”. It’s a very nice vocal movement. I’d like more individual touches like this. You increase the tempo from the intro into the verse so practice to a metronome so you can keep the tempo really consistent. The rallentando (slowing down) at the end is fine. In verses the higher notes are sometimes a little flat, just work on really nailing the notes. I don’t think it’s a vocal technical issue, just be confident that you can hit them without needing to squeeze or push. You hit higher notes in the chorus! Over all you sing this very nicely. Well done.

Jake Hamilton – Where Are You Going (Cover)

Your voice sounds very mature for 16 and I like that you tell the narrative in a laid back, almost conversational style particularly in the verses. I can hear all of the lyrics, which is great. It’s a shame that the mic. distorts on the louder notes and this is something to be aware of when recording and singing live. You could use better breath support on the louder parts so that the sound doesn’t suddenly burst through and the ends of the lines will also gain from this rather than losing strength. You are sometimes a bit flat on the start of the chorus lines. You don’t need to tense or to push to reach the note. Practice nailing the note without sliding into pitch or tensing, in a lower key initially gradually going up in semi-tones until you are comfortably back in the original key. You connect well with the emotion of the song and this is a real strength.

-Juliet Russell

See VoiceCouncil’s Feature Interview with Juliet Russell

Juliet Russell has coached Grammy award winners and X-Factor finalists and is a vocal coach on BBC1’s The Voice. Passionate about developing aspiring artists, she co-founded Sense of Sound She has collaborated with artists and companies including Damon Albarn, Imogen Heap, Paloma Faith, Ringo Starr, BBC, Channel 4, Universal Royal Opera House, Greenpeace and Glastonbury, and has written music for film, television and radio. Juliet holds a Masters degree in Music and is in huge demand as coach, vocal arranger and musical director. Juliet is passionate about developing aspiring artists and supporting individuals and communities to explore their voices and creativity.
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  • Guest Danny

    Hi guys, can you tell me why your typefaces are not theree? I have to back slash them to read them. Great product tho. Kind regards Danny

  • Great piece Juliet!! Really useful tips.:-)