Saturday, March 6, 2010

The 40 songs every cover band and sub player should know

Every cover band is a little bit different. While almost every band plays the same core songs, each one adds in their tunes that no one else, or at the very least not EVERYONE else, is doing. That’s what makes a modern rock band different from classic rock, while they will both likely play Sweet Home Alabama, Brickhouse, Plat That Funky Music, Brown Eyed Girl, etc. However, there’s a lot of times when these bands need fill-in, or sub, players. Now whether you are in a band that needs, or may need, a sub player, or you are a musician aspiring to be a sub player in the cover music scene, I think it’s important that you know the following 40 songs. Some songs on this list appear there because of their sheer popularity, while others appear because of their simplicity. If you know these 40 songs you can’t really go wrong whether you need a sub, or you are trying to throw together a band for a last minute engagement. I encourage you to learn all the songs on this list, and start circulating this list around the music community. While some of you may read this list and think that I am merely just stating the glaringly obvious, others may see one or two songs that they never thought of playing, while others still may be brand new to the scene and looking for a great place to start. Playing ALL the songs on this list won’t make you the hippest, coolest, most unique band on the block, but they can get you through a tough gig, and knowing these songs REALLY well will please an audience and make you sound like a great (if not entirely original) band. Enjoy!

Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love

Van Halen

All Right Now


American Girl

Tom Petty

Ball and Chain

Social Distortion

Born on the Bayou



The Commodores

Brown Eyed Girl

Van Morrison



Dancing With Myself

Billy Idol

Evil Ways


Feel Like Making Love

Bad Company

Folsom Prison Blues

Johnny Cash


Tom Petty

Hard to Handle

The Black Crows

Honkey Tonk Woman

The Rolling Stones

Jenny (867-5309)

Tommy Tutone

Johnny B Goode

Chuck Berry

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Georgia Satelites


3 Doors Down

La Grange

ZZ Top

Last Dance With Mary Jane

Tom Petty


Jimmy Buffet

Mustang Sally

Wilson Picket

Play That Funky Music

Wild Cherry

Pride and Joy

Stevie Ray Vaughn

Proud Mary


Roadhouse Blues

The Doors




The Ramones

Simple Man

Lynyrd Skynyrd



Sweet Home Alabama

Lynyrd Skynyrd

The Joker

Steve Miller Band

The Middle

Jimmy Eat World

The One I Love



ZZ Top

What I Got


What I Like About You

The Romantics

You Really Got Me

Van Halen

You Shook Me All Night Long


E-mail me with any questions or comments, and remember to visit my website at!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

News 02/02/10

Well, as remedial as it currently is, I have officially launched my site, This is meant to be an inclusive site for people to get information about all of the different things I do in the music business. Once I finish the two records I am working on, they will be up for FREE download on the website, and I will soon thereafter have merchandise for sale as well.

I am really excited because I just came up with an idea that, while I am sure I didn't invent, I hadn't heard of people doing before. It has to do with playing backing music on the records of solo artists. You can read all about it here: Help me spread the word about it by letting your musician friends, especially solo artists, know.

I am trying to get the hang of Twitter, and learning how to use Facebook to promote my career, but I am still a little unclear on both. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears!

I just ordered the Digi003 Rack + interface for the studio with Pro Tools 8, and a brand new Mac. It is our first system upgrade in 8 years! This should help me DRAMATICALLY cut down on my turn times for recording projects. I can't wait!

Until next time, keep checking out my sites and calendar! I hope to see you all at a gig very soon!


Big Time Tips: Attitude is EVERYTHING, Part 1

The key to success in ANY professional endeavor is your attitude. Music is no different. When I say attitude, I mean your work ethic, the way you treat other people, your business sense, your commitment level, and overall outlook on your career. No matter how good you are at your instrument or craft, there is always someone better. With that being said however, the best player doesn’t always get the gig. What causes this phenomenon? It boils down to other qualities besides just talent because, honestly, you only need to be SO good to do most of the stuff that players at this career level need to play. I have gotten more gigs because I treat people respectfully, I am genuinely nice, I answer my phone/return phone calls, show up on time, show up dressed appropriately, and always try to play my best, than I EVER could have gotten because I can shred a harmonic minor scale.

The first key is to realize that you are no better than anybody else as a person, but also, that you are no worse. This ties in with the age old Ego/Confidence dilemma. People don’t like egomaniacs AT ALL, but they also don’t like the mousy shy musician scared to play his instrument, or even carry on a conversation. Avoid making any comments or actions that would make you come off as being either one. This can mean sitting back and letting the other guitar player solo all night even though in your mind you think you can outplay him (and maybe you can!). It can mean turning your amp down when the venue or the other band members tell you to. If you are a drummer, it may mean playing in the pocket all night even when you want to show off all your Neil Pert rolls (that’s for you Steve!).

Even if you are the star of the show, you are not bigger than the gig. Let me repeat that: YOU ARE NOT BIGGER THAN WHATEVER GIG YOU ARE PLAYING. If you act like any gig that you are playing is beneath you, then congratulations! You will never have to play that gig, nor any gig for whoever hired you to play that night, again. If you think a gig is beneath you, you are probably wrong, but either way, don’t take it to begin with.

If you agree to play a gig, whether you are hired a sub, or it is your band that is playing and the venue has hired you, you have an obligation to give 100% at all times. That means whether there are 2 people, 200, or 2000. Yes, sometimes it is hard to get that charge when you have a small crowd, but you have to reach down inside and find whatever it is you need to motivate you to play your best. Yes, we all “phone it in” sometimes, but that needs to be the exception, and not the rule. This is your craft, and you have a job to do. You can’t afford to slack off at any time. It’s like I have had to tell a band member in the past when he’s complained that no one was there: The people who hire us and/or can have influence on whether or not we come back (the bar staff, etc.) are there, and often sober, and that’s why we can never afford to slack off.

It is important that you are on time, and prepared, for any gig you take. My friend Sean Daniel has a saying that I will attempt to paraphrase because it’s so true: If you’re “on time”, you’re ten minutes late. I will even further expand upon this idea with a more confusing, but true, saying: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired.” If you are a sub or hired player for a gig, you want to be the first one there. If its your band, you want to be there BEFORE the venue expects you, but, of course, within reason. Don’t show up 2 hours early looking to set up. 10-15 minutes is a good rule of thumb.

I guess what it all boils down is that you have to remember at all times that if you are a professional, or aspiring professional, this is a business. You wouldn’t show up to your office/job site late, drunk, wearing the wrong clothes, and acting obnoxious, or you would be fired. The same goes for the music business. Yes, it’s a VERY different type of job, and it certainly doesn’t feel like work if you love it, but never lose sight of the fact that it IS a job. The best organized, most motivated, people rise to the top the fastest.

In Part 2, we will discuss the ever important concept of Audience interaction, as well as dealing with bookers/staff members that may be less than friendly or professional. Until then, e-mail me if you have any questions or comments (, and don’t forget to tune!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Big Time Tips Vol 1 - The Nashville Number system

If you are going to be a professional player on just about any level, it is absolutely imperative that you have at least a basic understanding of the Nashville Number System. This is a system of writing chord charts and changes created by the studio musicians of Nashville in the 1950's (though some Jazz players would argue that they were using this system prior to that date). In this system each chord is given a number (expressed by a Roman numeral) that corresponds to its scale position. For example, in the key of C major, the first chord is C, and is represented as I. Each of the chords follow in sequence; i.e. D is II, E is III, and so forth. The idea was to make it easier to transpose songs into different keys on the fly, but another interesting by product is that once you get used to hearing how the different chords relate to one another mathematically, it makes figuring out chord changes, and even anticipating changes on songs you are playing for the first time, a breeze.

The best example is a standard blues progression, often referred to as a I-IV-V. For example, if you were playing a blues in C, your I is a C, your IV is a F, and your V is a G. When you listen to enough blues music, you can almost anticipate where the IV will be, or the V, etc. even if you have never heard the song before because you are used to hearing that combination of chords in sequence in the genre. Well, it works the same in any genre once you recognize what that relationship sounds like. In fact, the I-IV-V is the most common progression known to man. Steve Miller's THE JOKER, The Ramone's SEDATED, Johnny Cash's FOLSOM PRISON BLUES, Billy Idol's DANCING WITH MYSELF, and Lynyrd Skynyrd/JJ Cale's CALL ME THE BREEZE are ALL examples of the I-IV-V relationship in action.

To further realize the true potential of this system, and to make sure that you apply it properly, it is important to memorize, and understand, the following chart which will show you which chords are major, and which are minor:



While many songwriters take the liberty of putting major chords where minors should be, etc. the hard and fast rules of the chart above will always keep you in key, which is very beneficial to beginning songwriters, as well as accompaniests. Start with the I, and go anywhere you want within the chart from there, and you will always be in key!! Here are a few examples of what the proper chords would be for a few different keys:

Key of C major

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

Key of G major

G Am Bm C D Em F#dim

Key of B major

B C#m D#m E F# G#m A#dim

Obviously you will have to already have what notes are in what key memorized in order to apply this chart properly....or do you? If you know the first position of the major scale (doe ray me...), then you can use that as your guide; just plug in the chords with the corresponding root notes. You don't necessarily have to think to yourself "In the key of A, the IIIm is the C#", you can just move up to the third note of the scale, and play that note's minor chord. Okay, admittedly, I may breezing through this particular idea too quickly, but if you have any specific questions, please e-mail me.

There is a little bit of contention amongst some players as to how to treat minor keys. Some people just say to go off of the Chords from the major keys (see the above chart), while others give it its own chart which rearranges the numbers, and thus the major/minor placement. I have seen it done both ways, and have done it both ways. For the sake of argument, here is the chart if you give the minor key it's own chart.

Minor Key

I hope this introduction has given you a basic understanding of this vital, yet sometimes confusing, topic. I guarantee you that this is a skill that you WILL use in almost every professional situation you play in. As always, e-mail me if you have any questions.

Introduction Blog

I am not a very experienced blogger, but I thought I would start this blog as a way to keep people posted on my career as it develops, major life events, cool stuff in general, and some tips for aspiring professional musicians. If you are new to the world of BRETT COHEN, I am what you would call a "Small Time" professional musician; that is I make my living (the bulk of it anyway) in the music industry, but on a very small scale. I spend my weekends playing "cover" gigs in bars, clubs, restaurants, casinos, etc., I play at a Church on Sundays, I teach guitar and bass, I produce albums and demos for local bands, I mentor bands in the ways of songwriting and arrangement, I work as a studio/session guitarist and bassist, and I am trying to break into the world of Film/TV/Multimedia composing. I would like to step up to the "Big Time" one day (which is ironically my nickname amongst my friends) but for now I just try to take it one step at a time...well, no, I don't try to; I try to grow by leaps and bounds, but am reminded constantly that it can only be achieved through small, deliberate, steps; the steps I hope to write about here. I hope you enjoy the journey, and if you are an aspiring pro player, I hope you get something of the tips I will be providing. Enjoy!