UNDER THE COVERS: YouTube-style

I’ve already mentioned my love of covers, and DIY YouTube videos are no exception. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of them are bloody awful, but for every ten or so Aus Idol wannabes murdering Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, there’s a really talented person singing a lo-fi cover of an obscure Rilo Kiley track.

About 98% of YouTube is complete crap, so going in blind to try and find a good cover can seem quite daunting, but if you look hard enough, you never know what you might find.

Here is Megan Washington singing Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”:

Apparently the lead singer of Harvey Danger saw the cover online, and sent Washington an email saying that he liked it. This isn’t a common occurrence, and probably happened because she’s a fully-established musician, and also because Harvey Danger were a one hit wonder from the nineties, and I doubt the lead singer has much better to do with his time, [so if you’re posting covers on YouTube, hoping that John Mayer will see your version of “Clarity” and then fall in love with you, then you really shouldn’t get your hopes up].

The best YouTube covers are the simple ones, as seen above. All they had were vocals and piano, and while the audio wasn’t the best quality [the built in microphone on a MacBook isn’t made for home recordings], it still captured Washington’s gorgeous vocals.

Some advice for people recording their own YouTube covers:

  • Keep it simple – don’t use too many instruments, and avoid too much percussion.  The best YouTube covers are basic, and focus more on vocal [or instrumental] interpretation.  Acoustic instruments are best, because they’re picked up better by your computer’s microphone.
  • Stick to your strengths: if your lungs are your best feature, keep the accompaniment simple – a quiet acoustic guitar, or piano.  If you want to show off your guitar skills, don’t drown it out with loud/off key singing.
  • Don’t perform for the camera.  Play like you normally would – it’s your musical talent that you’re trying to showcase here, not how pretty you look.

And now, to finish, here’s a cover that is the perfect example of the above points. I don’t know the original song, but Flavia and Tim‘s version of Slow Club’s “It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful” doesn’t quite live up to its name, because it is, indeed, beautiful:

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