The making of my tribute to Chester Bennington
Or ideas on how to make a cover song your own.
There are many types of covers. Some sound just like the originals, some sound nothing like it. I absolutely love cover songs that are somewhere in between. It takes intentionality to create a cover that feels authentic to you as an artist while also honoring the song. I love comparing originals and covers and see what artistic choices were made. If you’re wondering about that process and how to do that, or are just curious, I’ll describe my process for creating this cover. below
Picking the song
I was first introduced to LP by a friend when I was 15 and I was hooked immediately. Chester had such a versatile voice, sometimes powerful, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes both at the same time. The band’s sound was very unique, and the songwriting was very appealing to me. I know the lyrics to most of the songs on Meteora and Hybrid Theory but the LP songs I listened to the most are probably “Breaking The Habit”, “Points of Authority”, “P5hing Me A*wy”, and “My December”. So when I heard the news, I thought I might cover one of those. But that’s not how inspiration struck.
I have to admit I hadn’t kept up with all the latest LP releases but I knew the singles. I did finally get to see them live with my brother in Toronto a few years ago, soon after I moved to California. For a night, we relived our favorite songs from our teenage years and we sang along to all the songs we didn’t even know we knew the lyrics to. At one point, I took out my phone and caught a little snippet of us singing along with the crowd to “Castle of Glass”. After watching the video again, I decided this would be the song to do.
The Linkin Park Version
First, here’s the original: Linkin Park’s “Castle of Glass”.
- Would you recognize the song if you knew the original? Yes.
- Would you have guessed it was a Linkin Park song if you didn’t know it? Probably not.
- Does it feel consistent with my original material and my sound? Yes. I can get behind this version.
- Does it fit my personality? Yes.
- Do you like it? Maybe yes, maybe no and that’s okay.
- Did I make it my own? I would say so.
So what did I change?
For all you musicians who would like the juicy details, or all you music lovers who wonder how these sonic experiences come to life, read on :)
While LP’s version has very prominent beats, padding, harmonies, etc, mine would be stripped down to an acoustic version. Just guitar and one vocal.
Key & Vocal Approach
It will often help to change the key, especially if you’re covering a voice with similar range. In this case, I didn’t have to. While this song had Chester singing in his lower range in a very soothing tone, the same key was perfect for me to hit that mid-high range where I could do some of the more vulnerable variations I was going for. Note that I chose a more low-key approach as opposed to an Evanescence-style powerhouse belt.
You’ll notice that my version is slower that the original with a bit of swing to it. When I slowed it down, there was all that space to play with. So instead of singing it like I would a faster version, I emphasize the words/phrasings differently. Compare the first line: “Take me down to the river bend”. I add a little pause after “down” to align the vocals with the guitar’s rhythmic pockets and it gives the song a different feel.
The original has a very interesting beat that creates tension with Chester’s evenly smooth vocals. Since I changed the vocal rhythm a bit, that tension wasn’t replicated in my version. Instead, I created tension in the vocal delivery.
I like to only do a few melodic variations when doing cover songs because I think part of the reward for the listener is to recognize the melody. The variations provide a nice element of surprise, but not so much that it detracts from the essence of the song completely. Listen to the last chorus around the 1:35 mark for the “in this castle of glass” line.
What did you think? Did you like the cover? What would you have done differently? Comment with a link of a cover of which you’re proud of, or a cover which really resonates with you. I love to hear interesting covers :)
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