At the most recent jam session I attend, we worked on an old Delmore Brothers number, "Blues Stay Away From Me." From the late forties, it's not a hard song to play, but we haven't ever gotten it "right."
One of the women put it up for consideration. I'd never heard it, so I went to YouTube and listened to it, got the chords and words, and we gave it a try.
I played it too fast, and every time we came to it, that was the complaint, so I said, "Okay, pick a tempo and I'll follow along."
Better, but still not what the woman who offered it wanted. "It needs to be softened," she said.
"Softened? It's too loud?"
"No, it's not volume, but it needs to be ... softened." Accompanied by a vague wave.
"I don't understand. That's like saying you want it to be more orange. What does 'softened' mean in this context?"
She waved her hand again. Couldn't articulate it.
One of other players offered that he thought he understood what she meant, but he tried to say so, and that just muddied the waters more.
I said so. Wasn't trying to be nyah-nyah, just didn't get it.
The woman said, a bit testy, "Well, that's just my opinion."
I'm not arguing with your opinion. I just don't understand it ...
What I suspect is that she wants the song to sound just like the Delmore Brothers' version. Which, because we aren't them, ain't gonna happen.
We do a couple song like that. They fall short of somebody's expectation of what they should sound like.
I think this is a common desire among musicians, especially those with less experience. You hear a long you like, you want to learn it. You strive to make it sound exactly like the version you like, same words, same chords, same key, and you measure your success against the original. (In fact, if you go to a live concert and hear the song done by the original artists and they vary it from the recorded version, that seems wrong, somehow.)
Because I have spent most of my guitar playing and singing alone, I realized a long time ago that if I was going to achieve any kind of comfort, I'd have to alter some stuff, vocally or musically, or I wouldn't be able to do songs I loved.
Sometimes there's a double-back-flip-E23rd-diminished/augmented-hidden-in-the-weeds jazz chord that I can't play. So it gets turned into one I can.
I love the Beatles, but they sometimes sang in the chipmunk-range, and I can't go there vocally. When Art Garfunkel hits the high notes in "Bridge Over Troubled Water," that's like a fantasy in my case. (And actually, Artie can't hit them anymore, either, and he's Art Fucking Garfunkel.)
So I have rearranged much of what I play, most often dropping the key lower so I can hit the high notes without going into my head voice. Can't always do it, but since it's just me, that's not a problem. Sometimes, I drop the guitar tuning and do it that way. And sometimes, I go into head voice, just to see if I can. ("Head voice," is a term some of you might better know as "falsetto," and it's not entirely accurate as I use it here, but it gets the point across. I'm a natural baritone, can hit a couple bass notes and some tenor, but soprano? Nope.)
And even so, I have personalized stuff. My version of "Blackbird," which is a stretch in G, has different phrasing than Sir Paul's, and the picking pattern is not quite the same. It's recognizable as "Blackbird," but different. (I'd drop it to F, but the fingering goes up and down the neck and it would require a lot of effort to relearn those tenths elsewhere. So when I get to " ... niiight ..." I'm either going into falsetto or dropping an octave.)
Think of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends." Then Joe Cocker's version. Both work for me, but they aren't the same.
And taste? That's another fun one when you are jamming. Somebody brought in John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery," which happens to be one of my favorites, the Bonnie Raitt version is a break-your-heart-killer.
Two of the women in the group didn't like it. One of them said "It doesn't go anywhere." The other said, "It's too slow and draggy."
I sputtered. "All songs don't have to be happy. Sometimes you do a lament, which is what this is. It's a great song."
They still didn't like it.
I expect my days with this group are going to be numbered ...