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We Need a Clearer Definition for "Piano Cover"

The term "piano cover" may have once been wholly synonymous with "dust sheet", but in recent years it has also come to denote an instrumental version of an existing song, played on the piano.

What makes a good cover?

A piano cover should have these four elements:

  • Melody - the notes sung by the singer
  • Harmonies
  • Beat - the rhythm accompaniment usually played on drums
  • Countermelodies - supporting tunes in harmony with the singer, or used as melodic fills (fragments at the end of phrases when the singer has momentarily stopped singing)
  • A Juggling Act

    Having to include and manage all the above parts may at times require ingenuity, for the following reasons:

    a) The melody is often played in the right hand, while the chords are often in the left. Supporting harmonies and the melody may at times have to be shared among the two hands while the other elements are going on.


    b) Supporting harmonies and melodies may clash with the main melody and may have to be slightly amended to still retain the same effect as in the original song.


    Towards a clearer definition

    Should a piano cover be as close to the original as possible?

    A piano piece that only contains the same notes as the piano part in the original song should be listed as the "piano accompaniment". The notes played by the pianist in Adele's Someone Like You are the piano accompaniment, not a "cover" of the song.

    A piano piece that involves the melody of the song to an accompaniment of a significantly different feel is perhaps better termed "piano arrangement".

    The term piano cover is perhaps best used to denote an attempt at re-creating as many elements of the song as possible, minus the words.

    One might argue that the term "cover" in the music industry is loosely-used. When a singer is reported to have done a cover of a previous song, there is little expectation for the nuances of the older version to be carbon-copied. Any similarities, in fact is frowned upon as a lack of originality. However, singers only recreate the melody line and hence there is little motivation to produce a like-for-like copy. For pianists, however, the skill in reducing all the elements of the original song to a piece that is playable should be seen as an art form in itself.


    For more information about piano lessons in Muswell Hill, Crouch End and surrounding areas, please visit the pianoworks.co.uk site by clicking here.