Making f@%in$6g set lists…

 
       
 
Jan 03, 2018, 03:32 PM

....this is 100% pure ##### fest time.

We’re about ready to start playing out and we have 70 songs and we love each and every one of them. A really good variety of tempo, key and feel from poppy quick hitters to toe tapping rockers to story tellers to ballad-y, some covers, etc, etc.

The goal is to make 3-15 song sets and THAT becomes how we rehearse. We’re not polished nearly enough to just wing it. There are 15-20 we can do in our sleep (or first thing in the morning, as the case may be) but the rest, we need the confidence of routine to play them well. 

It is just a total pain in the ### to pick sets. I intend to go through them all and make notes, key, theme, tempo, and then sort them up, categories and I presume it will be a lot easier once I’ve done that. I just can’t think on the fly what is what and write a list. I gotta look at them and think, play them, fiddle with it.

I know the basic suggestions and rules of thumb; No more than 2 back to back in the same key or tempo or theme/feel. It’s just the mechanical sitting still long enough to plot them out that is blowing my mind. I’m excited as hell and constantly pleased at what we’ve written in the last year or so and I know this will all tend to work itself out once we get some sense of order to it, this one there instead of that one, etc, but, damn, I just wanna ##### and I figured this is the place to do it!!!

Any suggestions or tips are very welcome! We’re going to be trying to earn bistro/wine bar business. Mostly as duet, some backing drum machine, some backing tracks, bass, second guitar. So, we want a sorta mellow, easy listening feel with a little pop here and there so that the tables and chairs are pleasantly entertained (that ones for you, MAB!)

And here is our latest, thanks for reading, thanks for listening!  Distant Land https://soundcloud.com/user-145911756


#####/off   LOL

 
     
Larry Gude Joined May 23, 2017
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Jan 08, 2018, 10:23 AM

Pretty good Larry. And it is a good subject. What to play, what to play, what to play?

I CATEGORIZE songs. I have certain songs that are meant to be openers and closers. I have some that are in certain keys, that are meant to feature a certain type of my songwriting. Say the key of “Drop D”, that will be more Southern Rock or blues. I have “humor” songs, that are fully or have a lighter tone, and of course the dreaded “B” word, “BALLADS.
Then there are the “Covers” which I categorize much the same way. There are the “mainstream country” “classic Rock” etc.

I always will fill out my set list as I am there but have some SUGGESTED sets. and always at the bottom of my set list will have OPTIONS on songs that I could insert. Flexibility is key, and you can really play some games with yourself reading the crowd and inserting things you didn’t think of.
I always have had a good time with requests. If people request something, I do my best to do it, even if I don’t know the songs. If I have ever heard a song once, I can almost fake my way through it. Stand up comedy and theater training, helps you think on your feet and be able to challenge yourself. I’ve had some really fun times when I get several bar napkins for different songs. (usually accompanied with tip money.) If there are two or three of them, while I am doing one, I am thinking about the ways to seque into the next one.

And seque’s are a lot of fun. Finding a way to get from one song to another without stopping the song is pretty good. This is the reason for the success of “DISCO” worked like it did. All those songs were programmed with the same drum beat so one would go straight into the next. Keeping people on a dance floor is essential in many clubs, because the more people dance, the more they sweat, the more they sweat, the thirstier they get, the thirstier they get, the more they drink, the more they drink, the more money the club makes. Bottom line.

If you are doing the Bistro/wine bar thing, it is more background music. You are expected NOT TO INTRUDE on CONVERSATIONS. So finding the softer approach is interesting. I have a little tip on that too.
Often before I play, I’ll walk around the room, shaking hands, meeting people, asking if I can play anything. I’ll also often ask what year they graduated high school. I try to gauge the ages.
THEN, I’ll go to my little “mental catalog. I have a four year span in which to come up with a song from that era. Since I’ve been playing since the 70’s, I have a pretty substantial arsenal in that way. I hit that target about 95% of the time.

PARTICULARLY SING ALONG SONGS. if you can have a half dozen really singalongs, that can always save you when things are going south.
AMERICAN PIE, DRIFT AWAY, LEAN ON ME, BLACK WATER, and others are always good for this. If you can have your own “particular stamp” on it, it is a good one. The BEATLES song “YESTERDAY” is the most recorded song in history. That can be done in a variety of ways. And if you have a duo, finding duo parts on solo songs are always cool.

Then I go to my “own version” of the equation.
If they like “ELVIS” songs, I have three songs written in the style of Elvis. I can pull out one of those.
If they are into the BLUES” I have four or five very “RAY CHARLES” style songs I’ve written over the years.

One of the things I do in my teaching lessons is ask the participant, “If you could write a song for anyone living or dead, who would it be?”
That gives me a variety of styles. I’ve written songs in the style of the TEMPTATIONS, THE BEATLES, GEORGE JONES, and a lot of artists.
And if you keep up with modern music, particularly country, you will see patterns of older music that re-cycle. A lot of today’s country is Southern rock,  and blues of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. So I can take my grooves and attitudes that I grew up with and update the language for today’s market.

I also have a lot of “special occasion” songs I’ve written. These are anniversery songs (“SHE STILL DOES IT FOR ME” in the style of the TEMPTATIONS) which is works every time for anniverserys. (That’s been a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR TIP song for me). There are birthday songs, you’re pregnant songs, Mother’s and Father’s day songs. Having those up your sleeve is always handy.

The idea is to be flexible and READ YOUR CROWD. Venues, clubs, pubs, etc, only are interested in one thing. A HEALTHY BOTTOM LINE. So the more you can engage your audience or the more they respond to you, the better. So having certain TYPES of songs at certain parts of a set can turn it more into a SHOW than just a SET.

And ALWAYS LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE.
Make sure you have CLOSING SONGS. Remember this is the LAST song they might hear from you so make it a good one.
Make them want to go LOOK UP YOUR WEB SITE the next day. And if they contact you, make sure you CONTACT THEM BACK.
Let them know you appreciate them going through the effort.

Everything CAN’T BE A CONCERT. Most of them are not. We’re all just part of a person’s evening. But having some really interesting choices, well placed, can turn you from being “background music” to a “FEATURE” quicker than you realize.

Good luck,
MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jan 08, 2018, 10:25 AM

Oh yeah. Most important rule?

NO DEAD AIR. That is DEATH in anything. So make sure you have things you can insert you can say, and place them strategically in your set.
NEVER LET THEM START TALKING OVER YOU.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jan 08, 2018, 10:59 AM

Outstanding, boss! Thank you so much! I feel like I asked a grade school, beginner question and the professor just took the podium! THANKS!!!

 
     
Larry Gude Joined May 23, 2017
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Jan 08, 2018, 12:36 PM

Larry, glad to have a question I can answer. On a lot of this stuff that everyone seems to be interested in, Spotify Lawsuits, impending legislation in Congress, streaming questions, etc. I can’t answer because for the most part, those things are NEVER GOING TO AFFECT THE VAST VAST VAST MAJORITY OF SONGWRITERS. Unless you do all the other things, learn your craft, performing, recording, networking, the BUSINESS is never going to affect you at all.

I can speak on set lists as I have been a professional performer for nearly 40 years, in pretty much every imaginable configuration. If you REALLY want a challenge, try to play the BLUEBIRD, doing original songs to an audience, half of which don’t speak English. In another situation I was playing a show where one huge table of people seemed to be talking the ENTIRE TIME I was on. And this was a writer show. I actually got a little frustrated because I am pretty difficult to talk over. But they seemed to be VERY APPRECIATIVE AFTER EACH SONG.

After my set, one of them called me over, and I realized what was happening. Half of the table were Hispanic, and the people who spoke English were TRANSLATING what I Was saying. A similar thing happened once with an entire table of women were texting at the same time. I HATE this and call those types of songs “GLOW SONGS”, because of the “glow” in people’s faces from their cell phones. I made a joke about it while onstage and of course, I even have a song called “ONE MOVE” which specifically calls out TEXTERS.
After it was over, they pulled me over and all bought CD’s. And they showed me what they were texting. They were talking about ME! LOL!
They showed me the text’s and they were saying things like “He is SO GOOD!!!” I LOVE THAT SONG!!!!, “WE’VE GOT TO GET HIS CDS!”

It was pretty funny and had I not made a big joke out of it, I could have lost a few potential fans.

So most of this is learning about what your audience likes. And that, luckily has been what my career has been based on.

I appreciate your letting me chime in on this subject because I am currently doing a series of videos for Facebook that demonstrate some of my writing and performing techniques. I have people contact me all the time wanting me to demonstrate what it is I do. Why, I have NO IDEA but they do. So I try to respond to subjects they ask about. I’m going to do one on this subject, and I hope you’ll tune in.

Good luck and let me know if there is anything I can help you with.
MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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