This is an excerpt from Holiday Music: A Guide to Copyrights, Mechanical Licenses, and Christmas Songs. To download the whole PDF for free, click HERE.
How to make a classic holiday tune your own.
One challenge with putting out a holiday single is how to inject your personality and musical style into a Yuletide favorite without mangling it beyond recognition or sounding like the other hundred versions of the same song. Here’s some advice from other musicians:
“A unique musical arrangement can be your greatest asset. Don’t be afraid to compose away from the traditional melody for a moment within the song. Something as simple as a few extra chords or a key change can add spice to the eggnog. You can always return to the traditional melody after a few measures.” – Daniel G. Benes
“Find the essential melodies that define a song, and keep them intact. Then break the song down to its basics and – using them as building blocks – re-create the song as you would any of your own. Organically, the song will take on a feel that’s comfortable for you, reflects your style and musical personality, and ends up being different without your consciously trying to deviate from the original.” – Andre Calilhanna, Hijack
“One effective method of ‘owning’ a cover song is to move outside your genre element when selecting the original. Are you in a metal band? Cover a pop song. Play in a bluegrass ensemble? Cover a hip hop tune. The juxtaposition of your musical style against the song’s original inherent genre can result in a truly unique performance.” – Mike Gavigan, Escape Route
So, what do you think makes an awesome Christmas cover song? Feel free to comment in the section below.