Recording Japanese covers as a learning approach

I became obsessed with the music of カネコアヤノduring the 2020 lockdown. I listened to some songs
so much that I felt like I could try singing a few in Japanese.

I posted a few covers on YouTube, with descriptions in Japanese, and it has resulted in some really nice interactions with people in the comments. I’ve even met some friends and collaborators.

If you sing or play at all, it might be something to try. The process of learning to sing lyrics really makes you focus on pronunciation, with the added benefit that pitch accent is not as much of a factor when singing (at least I don’t think it is - correct me if someone knows better). There are not a lot of non-Japanese people making cover videos of Japanese songs - there should be more, in my opinion!

Lyrics are available on Japanese lyric sites. I usually also look for English translations in the YouTube comments, and paste lyrics into Google Translate for a general overview, then translate each line as I am learning how to sing it.


Thanks for sharing your channel, I really enjoyed your covers!

I had been thinking about starting a similar channel some time ago but didn’t go through with it - partly because I had been warned about potential copyright issues by a friend, but also because of various other excuses (lack of recording equipment, insecurities about my voice, etc). But hearing that it’s going well for you encouraged me to think about it again :smiley:


Seems like a good approach, I like it! It was cool to see the positive JP comments, keep it up


Thanks for checking out the videos! Glad you enjoyed the covers.

You are right to be concerned about copyright. I did some investigating when I started posting videos, and here’s my understanding of the situation.

JASRAQ is a performing rights society in Japan, the equivalent of ASCAP and BMI in the US.
JASRAQ has a deal with YouTube, where the artists in the JASRAQ database get compensated
for any covers posted on YouTube.

What this means is that you don’t have to get a license from the Japanese artists in the JASRAQ
database, if you are posting a cover performance. However, if you try to monetize your cover videos
with ads, the money from those ads will go to the Japanese artist. Also, if you don’t choose to put
ads on your videos, the Japanese artist can choose to anyhow, and collect whatever profits there are.

Here’s a link to the database. I have only performed covers that I found in the database.


Very cool and you do a great job!
I may try some singing (on my own) too to see what the experience brings.
Have you been seeing any of the lyrical phrases pop up in your Japanese reading / studying since you’ve started?


Very nice. I have always intended to do this, but I never got any further than さくら and a few other folk tunes.

You have a new subscriber! (I am difonzo banjo) :slight_smile:


Thanks! I would say go for it if you want to do some singing - I think it’s a great way to meet people in Japan who share similar tastes.

In answer to your question, yes, I definitely run into vocabulary and phrases that I first ran into learning a song. Grammar, too - song lyrics tend to use a lot of grammar that isn’t always in textbooks.

All in all, I’d say song lyrics are a great window into learning more about how the language is actually used.

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Thanks! Hope you post some things - let me know if you do.

To be honest, I am starting to make folk songs more of a focus. Some of the songs I’ve made cover videos of are way, way above my actual speaking level. I sometimes find myself relying too much on things like romaji and phonetic pronunciations, just to be able to sing a song. At that point, it seems like it would be better to sing something closer to my actual speaking level, which would be folk songs and other material with simpler, more straightforward language.


I got really excited about songs when I first started learning Japanese. Then I backed off a bit. So much of what makes a song is poetic and a stretch of “proper” language. Now I am more excited by what I can understand in songs.

I just got my fretless banjo back after it was lost in a friend’s closet for 15 years. I really like certain shamisen music, especially Okinawa style, but it really demands a fretless instrument.
I have been playing the heck out of it. You can hear some of it if you care to on my channel, but nothing in Japanese yet.

Really nice work with yours though. Don’t you just love getting comments in Japanese?


Listening to your fretless banjo videos right now - sounds great! I play in a duo with a fiddler,
and old-time music like this is near and dear to me.

My favorite Okinawan musician is 中川樹海 - she’s a sanshin player - another instrument that is similar to the banjo!

She plays a lot with 知久寿焼, from the band たま. This has to be one of my favorite videos on the Internet:


this is actually what I met by shamisen, but most people don’t know what it is :slight_smile:

i will listen to the Okinawa stuff. So much to listen to now.
We can talk more later.
So nice to meet you.
Happy music. :slight_smile:


Nice to meet you, too!

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Let us count on doing an easy collaboration some day, if you would like. One of us can lay down the first track, then the other record another on top of it.
It might be a while until we can get around to it, but it can be fun to co-create from around the world.

中川樹海 is what I love about Okinawa folk music. It is deeply similar to American mountain music in some very subtle ways. I just adore this music.


I don’t think you should worry about speaking level versus lyrics that you learned. It’s how kids naturally learn, and you’re learning, too, by doing it!!

Also… You can post audio on Hello Talk to get Japanese followers…


Sounds good!

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Good point! Thanks for the Hello Talk suggestion - I didn’t know you could post audio there. I will look into it.

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Oh, also, I see that you do some downpicking on the banjo. You may have noticed that downpicking is mostly what I do, but I have several different kinds of right hand “attacks” within that. The banjo, and frailing, is the thing for me. Whenever I pick up another instrument, I realize that there are still sounds I would like to coax out of the banjo, and I return to that.
For me, the banjo is the very first thing in life that I ever remember being extraordinarily interested in. This may sound funny, but the fact that I was able to experience the banjo so deeply in this life makes up for every other bad thing in life, and has made this life worth living.


Clawhammer/frailing is the main style I play, too. I used some fingerpicking in the videos because it fit the song, but in my duo I play clawhammer behind a fiddler.

Banjo has such a wide range of right hand approaches - you use some great ones in your videos!

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Your hand looked pretty steady so I am not surprised.
I think in many years around here, you are not only he first banjo played I have met, but also the first frailer.
Which double means we will have to work something up to record from a distance some day. :slight_smile: Something that includes Japanese, even if it is a traditional American tune. Like translate “Cripple Creek” into Japanese.
We can plan it for a year or so from now. :slight_smile:
The lyrics are already whizzing together in my head.

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Sounds like a plan! You’re right - it’s more common to run into bluegrass pickers than old-time
clawhammer players.

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