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How does your band choose repertoire?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Indexed, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. Indexed


    Aug 24, 2016
    Houston, TX
    How does your band select which new songs you're going to prepare for gigs? I'm looking for ideas and what works best for others.

    Our band members each bring forward five candidate songs then secret ballots are cast and the top five make the cut. The voting process is online and managed by our lead guitarist. I'm looking for selection methods that 1) work well for others, and 2) hopefully provide better transparency.

    And yeah, a little part of me wants to know who picked "Wagon Wheel" over "Jim Dandy" or "Hey Bartender".
    Guiseppe likes this.
  2. We've been together long enough now that we have a pretty good idea of what works for us a a group and what works for the audiences we play to (cover band). We'll suggest song ideas to each other at practice, discuss it a bit, then vote. If we're all in agreement it goes onto a "futures" list that we then choose from as we're ready to add new songs. If someone doesn't particularly care for a suggested song the next question is "can you live with it if it works for the rest of us and the audience?". If someone is completely opposed to a song even if the rest want to do it it doesn't get added.

    We do several songs I wasn't crazy about initially that ended up being good additions (but "I could live with it") so I try to keep an open mind. Occasionally we'll add a song, discover it really isn't working, it gets dropped by mutual agreement. We currently have a 50-some song active play list and the futures list has around 30 more on it so we've got plenty to work with.
  3. Korladis

    Korladis Inactive

    ...a discussion when we book a show about which of our songs we're going to use. Lately most gigs have been two songs, our newest (which is 18 minutes) and one of three others (9-10 minutes).
  4. In my main group, we play 50% originals and 50% covers for a 1.5-3 hr set depending on the gig. Very loud, high-energy college rock. lots of hormones, alcohol/substances (shhh!), and moving bodies in the crowd.

    Our criteria works like this, in order of importance:

    1) will people know the song?
    2) will people be able to dance to the song?
    3) will we be able to put a twist on the original in some way / make it our own?
    4) do other local bands cover this song?

    If there's a problem with any of these criteria, the song hits the chopping block.

    Beyond that, it's just a matter of "wanna play (insert song) tonight?"

    I recognize that it's not the most organized way to conduct business, but it's effective!
  5. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    the first time i was in a band that played covers, i remember it going like this:

    me: i want to do toucha toucha toucha touch me from the rocky horror picture show.
    rob: okay. sounds like fun. let's do a song from hair.
    me: how about air?
    rob: how does that song go?
    me: sings a little of it.
    rob: perfect!
    michael: i think we should do i wanna be your dog from iggy pop.
    us: okay, let's go for it!

    and so on. to be fair, that was years ago, but our audiences seemed to have a blast, and we tried to keep the songs danceable.
    Miker27607, hrodbert696 and BurnOut like this.
  6. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    We individually listed 40 songs that, left to own devices and in a perfect world we would love to play, then picked those that appeared in all lists. If that was not enough, then we picked those that appeared on more than one list. Then added one each from our own list just to get a sense of belonging!
  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Pick and learn lots of tunes. Whatever your crowd dances to, keep. Rinse and repeat.drool

    Check out other local bands and see what works for them. Possibly include the same tune or a different tune from the same group.

    Google the top 100 songs for each year your group covers. Try a few of those.
  8. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    In my jazz groups, I give the musicians criteria the song has to meet. Must have a chart, must have simple song structure, must have a good melody. I give them the indices of all the real books and ask them to make recommendations,. From their list of recommendations, I pick the songs I think we should do. What's cool is that often they expose me to cool songs I never knew about. At the same time, we have a growing book of songs that are easy to play, meaning I can plug players into the band when subs are needed with no problem whatsoever.

    In my first band, which is still running, it's on a peer based model, kind of. Our sax player acts as gatekeeper for the repertoire, charts songs heard on smooth jazz radio, and tends to shoot down everyone's suggestions unless he personally likes the song. I put up with that, only because its the remnants of the highly frustrating and sometimes inefficient totally democratic band model. Which often degenerates into the people with the strongest personalities dominating the decision-making -- sometimes at the expense of others.
  9. Indexed


    Aug 24, 2016
    Houston, TX
    Thanks, all. Two themes I'm getting are "is it danceable?" and open communication.
    cchorney, hrodbert696 and EdO. like this.
  10. If it's a cover band, "is it danceable?" is definitely the first criteria.
  11. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    Exactly what EdO. said in post #2.
    EdO. likes this.
  12. bearhart74

    bearhart74 Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2009
    If it has vocals then the only question is can/does the singer sing it well?
    It if does not have vocals does it make anyone in the band want to vomit?
    Last question is always does it sound good? If not sound good how much effort will it take to get it to sound good?
    9mmMike likes this.
  13. Bodeanly


    Mar 20, 2015
    BL: learn these
    Me: *learns these*
  14. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Secret ballots???

    In my band, everybody brings in a handful of songs and we vote. if anyone doesn't want to do a song, we don't do it; no reason needed. As our drummer points out, there are thousands of great songs out there, we only need about 50 so there is no reason to play a song you don't like. We usually work through about 5 songs at a time. We put older songs 'on the shelf.'
    Guiseppe and EdO. like this.
  15. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Any songs you don't like you can put on 'ignore!'
    Bodeanly likes this.
  16. Bodeanly


    Mar 20, 2015
    "I couldn't find a decent recording of it, man."

    "I could only find the live version."

    "I must have spelled it wrong."

    "I thought you were joking."

    "Is there even a bassline in that song?"
    Rich Fiscus, hrodbert696 and lfmn16 like this.
  17. The Singer/Guitarist runs the band and chooses excellent songs. I love working with pros.
    cchorney and 9mmMike like this.
  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    On line balloting seems a bit extreme, but yeah, just discuss.

    In addition, does it work for the band. Lots of people pick stuff they can't play well, especially vocally. You can deal with a missing guitar line, but vocals is what people recognize (Including if there are backing vocals) Don't pick Journey or Boston if your guy can't hit the notes, as an example.
    smogg and EdO. like this.
  19. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    In my current endeavor I'm in a trio. The drummer just wants to play and doesn't care what it is he's playing. And he's solid with everything. The guitarist/singer is like me and into just about every genre of music. So right now, it's just if we all feel good about a cover song, we add it. If someone doesn't like it for whatever reason, the song gets kicked. We all brought originals we wrote in past lives with us and are sorting out what we like and what we don't. I don't think we've kicked an original yet, but I'm sure at some point something will come up that gets kicked. I don't think anyone's feelings will be hurt, we're all pretty mature and down to earth dudes.
  20. Our only criteria is that the song has make people dance. We've learned lots of songs that even though we play it well it never seems to go over with the crowd so it gets dropped. I usually give a new song 2 - 3 tries live before deciding to chop it.
    drummer5359 and EdO. like this.
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