For this article five practical tips to help you along to get better with playing coversongs. These ideas will work both for the solo singer/songwriter or the singer/guitarplayer who plays in a band set up.
The first thing to think about is the key of the song: Once you have the taps, chords and lyrics for the song you may still find the song hard to sing and/or play. Transpose the song to a different key, go down-or up half a step and see how the song now plays and sings? Does the song have any parts you cannot sing comfortably? Work on it and find out if it is the key of the song or maybe it is you who is doing something wrong?
Changing the key of the song is not a crime! Sometime musicians feel they need to stick to the original key to stay true to the song. This is all fine as long as you can sing and play in the same key, if not, change key and see how things go. The key of the song will not drastically alter the character of the song. Better to sing and play in a key which is right for you instead of battling on with the song in a wrong key.
Once key is right check out the recorded version of the song against your version: Do you have all the riffs, chords and little arrangement ideas? Sometimes a song only needs the words, melodies and chords to carry, sometimes you may need to put in a few extras to make the song work.
If you are playing on your own you may have to make your own arrangement to give the song a better feel, again this is not a crime since it will only make the song sound better!
The next thing to think about is tempo: You may actually want to speed-or slow the song down to get a better feel. Experiment with how the song plays and feels like, see what you like best. Relatively inexperienced players may want to stick as much as they can to the original tempo of the song, but sometimes this tempo may be wrong for you. You only find out when you play the song and try various tempos. You can record yourself and listen to how your version sounds like.
The next idea is related to what I mentioned before about arrangement and little ideas. Try to play the song as much as you can with your style of playing, this will make the song sound natural to you and your audience. Experiment with feel, tempo, stops and arrangement. It takes time to find out how you may want to play the song. Even if you decide to stick to the original, your version will still sound different because of difference in voice and difference in equipment being used during recording of original song.
The last idea may sound obvious to most of you but you will be surprised how many people actually keep reading chord charts and lyrics when it comes to playing songs. Learn the song as much as you can, it may take time, but playing from the heart gives a much better feel than playing and reading from a sheet of paper. Once you know a song you will feel how the song plays and you will become one with the song.
Good luck and hope to catch you soon again,