Cover Song Challenge

A healthy competition that encourages collaboration, talent, and self-esteem

It’s impossible to please all of your participants with song choice, especially when they’re at different skill levels and have different musical tastes. So, how do you keep everyone engaged? A Cover Song Challenge is a great way to increase participants’ motivation, provide them a sense of independence, and recognize their efforts. Active participants, beginners, and members who wouldn’t usually get involved all have the opportunity to try new things, collaborate, and showcase their skills.  

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How to… 

  • Plan a Master Schedule for the semester for the Cover Song Challenge 
    • Plan an entire semester’s worth of weekly “Cover Song Challenge” themes. Try to create categories that can be achievable at any skill level.
  • Create a “Cover Song Challenge” approved Song List 
    • Choose a diverse set of popular songs with participants’ musical tastes in mind.  Be mindful of the level of difficulty.  Have song materials ready and adapted for various skill levels. 
    • By limiting song options to a common playlist, you give participants a sense of “guided choice.” They are in control of what song they choose from the list.  
    • A set song list also makes it easier for the staff to prepare appropriate learning materials such as tablature, sheet music, song form, lyric sheets, and Workshop resources.  
  • Each week, post new cover song challenge flyers in prominent locations 
  • Participants work with staff and their peers to prepare their cover song, including: 
    • Selecting a song from the approved Song List 
    • Learning, practicing, and rehearsing individually or with a group 
    • Soliciting feedback from vocal instructors
    • Setting up a recording session or a video performance that will be used as their submission for the challenge
  • Participants submit their cover song using some or all of the following methods:
    • Cell phone audio or video
    • iPad audio or video
    • A multi-tracked session in the studio 
  • Everyone listens to each cover song and chooses a winner for the week 
  • Selecting a winner. There are multiple ways you can select your winner each week, the goal is to be consistent. 
    • Staff members choose their favorite cover song each week 
    • Youth participants vote each week 
    • Parents vote
  • Present the winner with an award
    • One idea is to create and frame “Cover Song Challenge” Golden Record awards to present to the winner each week. (e.g. Paint old vinyl records or CDs with gold spray paint; print a certificate; etc.)
    • Consider displaying the Golden Record Awards in a prominent location within your program space (e.g. in the hallway, studio wall, trophy case, etc.) 
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Music Production for Large Groups

Got a big group for your studio – why not have them all contribute on a track?!

Sometimes you end up with 15 beginner participants in your studio and they all want to make a beat right now! Music Production for Large Groups gives you some tips on how to create a “patchwork quilt” music production project. This allows many different participants with different tastes, preferences, ideas and skills all to contribute to one big tapestry… your final track!  

In addition participants:

  • Learn basic music production and songwriting techniques
  • Learn collaboration while working towards an end goal
  • Are inspired to work on solo music production projects
  • Produce enough tracks to release an album

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How to…

  • Establish:
    • End goal/s (i.e. “Album Release” party and/or performance at end of the semester)
    • Session days and times. Meet with the group on a regular basis.
    • Participants who are interested in contributing (include as many as possible)
    • Themes or topics, decided upon as a group and influenced by the music mentors/staff
  • Participants collaboratively produce style/genre, samples, sounds, and beats
  • Break down the beat into smaller sections or individual elements for participants to perform/record
    • For example, to produce the drum track:
      • Participant “A” performs bass drum pattern on trigger pad
      • Participant “B” performs snare drum pattern
      • Participant “C” performs hi-hat pattern
      • Participant “D, E and F” record claps on 2 & 4
      • Etc…
    • Repeat this process for bass and chords
      • Participants layer single notes on guitar, bass, and/or piano
    • Involve different participants for each Verse, Chorus, and Bridge. Mentors continually keep the momentum going.
  • Add lyrics once beat is finalized
    • Download a rhyming dictionary App on iPads
    • Each participant writes lyrics to contribute to the project (i.e. 1 or 2 bars worth of lyrics)
    • Each participant performs their lyrics in the isolation booth right away. This gets them hooked, motivated, and involved.
  • Mix and finalize the track
    • Participants who don’t want to sing/perform can help with the final mix by editing and adding effects.
    • Participants can also get involved in creating album art, photo/video, etc., to help support the album’s creation.
  • Repeat this process until participants have produced several tracks
  • Rehearse and prepare for an album release party, and have all participants perform their original songs
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