How to Record a Song Cover
Learning the Song Parts
The better you know the song – the easier it’ll be during recording.
Use the YouTube Looper tools and do the following:
- Break the song into simple sections.
Save each section loop in the YouTube Looper for efficiency.
- Slow down the first section and learn it.
- Start your next practice with learning next section.
- After learning the next section – practice the video from start.
- After few sections you will notice the song structure and similarities between sections – this is the way to memorize the song.
- After learning the last section, set the song playback rate to 50% or 75% speed, refine your technique (with the Metronome tool if needed) and bring the song up to speed.
The most convenient way to record is by using a “Scratch Track”.
In most cases, this track is a basic drum beat with chords and/or vocals, for the players to follow the song during studio recording.
For basic song covers though, the song itself can be the scratch track, as long as you focus on the metronome (the “click“) during the performance.
This can be achieved by lowering the song volume and notching the frequencies that may confuse you. For example, adding a high-pass filter to lower the bass and kick drum frequencies, since these are the instruments that usually draw your focus when it comes to keeping a tight BPM tempo.
So the basic process is:
- Find the song tempo (Google “<song name> bpm” or use a Tap Tempo to approximate it) and set it in your DAW (recording software), like Reaper.
- Import the song file into the recording software, turn on the metronome (a.k.a. the “click“), play the song and make sure it fits the BPM you set.
- Bring Down the song volume and bring UP the click (built-in metronome) – this is your scratch track.
- Maybe add an EQ high-pass filter to remove the confusing bass and kick frequencies.
- Choose a day to record and film your practice, to make sure you’re following the click and not confused by the scratch track. Tight playing is the key for a professional sounding record.
- From that day, allow yourself to record every day until you get that “this is it” take.
- Most music videos and YouTube song covers are just MUSIC VIDEOS, meaning the audio/video were recorded separately and edited together in post.
It is very common to record sections and multiple takes (10 or more), especially in professional productions.
- Finishing a project is always better than “It’s not perfect yet“.
Perfectionism is about continuously improving a running product or improving your next ones, rather than not getting things done at all. Evaluate and manage your time/energy every time you get discouraged to finish something.