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Set Arrangement

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by thewanderer24, Feb 27, 2003.

  1. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    I am curious to know your philosophies about how to arrange song styles in a set.

    When arranging sets, do you typically put a bunch of rocking danceable tunes together and then keep the more mellow ballad types together? Do you mix it up to keep a balance and keep the styles from getting "old" during the set? or does mixing it up too much just cause the set to have less flow or identity?

    How would different venues effect your approach to this??

    Obviously, a lot of this is gonna depend on how the songs fit together and what the audience and venue is like, but I am just curious to hear your ideas in general.

    My band is currently playing mostly covers, with a few originals, and the style ranges from blues to funky soul to classic rock to mellow pop.
  2. Good rule of thumb - "Start strong, end strong."
    KenHR likes this.
  3. to run on the start strong thing, i recomend starting with a cover. IMO, people won't really listen to you(unless they've heard you before and like your music, or whatever) unless you catch there attention. play a cover everyone will know and love, depending on what type of show it is.
  4. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    As rabid_granny says, a strong start and end are vital. The start is what's going to make people either want to listen or switch off and leave; the end is what they remember you by.

    Between that, you've got more choice. How about writing each song down on a bit of paper and shuffling until you find a combination that works (or, if you want to go digital, load your recordings into something like Winamp and shuffle the playlist until you're happy).

    Generally, I'd avoid too much contrast - eg. fast / slow / fast / slow, happy / angry / happy / angry, etc. In most circumstances, that will probably sound jarring to the audience.

    On the other hand, I'd also avoid being too samey - for example, contrast a song with a long, solo filled outro, with a snappy verse - chorus - verse - chorus - end number. Each song should be different enough that the audience can easily distinguish it from the previous one... and so you show a wide variety of 'tricks' throughout the set, rather than always ending with a guitar solo / modulating up a key / having an acapella chorus / whatever.

    Variety and balance - the rest depends on the kind of music you're making.

  5. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Never put two ballads together (unless your whole set is ballads :eek: )... Same goes for songs you jam on and stretch out.

    Agree with Wulf - you don't want songs to contrast too sharply. If you have one that is quite different from others, try to segue into it.

    Also, don't play the same set every gig. At the very least, shake up the order of the songs.
    KenHR likes this.
  6. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    Thanks guys, for some good comments, so far. I already have done some rethinking of some set arrangements.

    We have some really good, tight, openers and some rocking closers that people really seem to get into for all of our sets. That part is not an issue.

    i think this started as me wondering about following up a super intense, but pretty tight, song like Super Bad with a mellow Blues Jam type thing, if for no other reason then to give everyone a rest. The other extreme equally applies. If we are gonna do a somewhat long song with kind of a jammy feel, it makes sense to follow it up with something more tight and structured.

    Just making sure I am not totally crazy in my attitudes on these things. I am fairly new to this game, so occasionally I need a little sanity check.
  7. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I like to start with an instrumental then a song that has two verses and a long solo section. This gets me eased into singing because I very nervous doing it.

    We normally do a cover third and someone else does that. After another instrumental I'm no longer like a deer in headlights and we go through the set building up until we end on an aggressive song.
  8. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Weve got a few tunes that use alternate tunings that we group together, and other than that, if we have a song that ends with A, and a song that starts with A, we'll put them together so we can have a nice even flow from one song to the next.
  9. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Since my band only does a couple of ballads we don't worry about that. Usually just let the singers pick out the set list to suit them. Not one person singing too many songs in a row etc....
  10. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    I agree with FeTiS, start with a cover, to get everyones attention, then play a bouncy sound or addictive song after than. then mabye go into the mellow stuff half way, then build it up for a massive exit. :D
  11. Same here, though we try and get faster & louder as the set goes on.

    I'm not sure why we do that, but that's the way it always ends up.
  12. I like a smooth flow--bookend the set with something uptempo and danceable, gradually slow things down after the first number (with ups and downs, of course, but in a general downward trend), then pick things up about 2/3 the way through.
  13. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    It just occurred to me that for many bands (the ones I've played with, anyway) the order of the set is one of the least thought out parts of performance and is quite often just thrown together almost at random.

    Yet, it is something that can have a subtle but powerful effect on the audience.

    When you go out to see a band play next time, try analyzing their set order and what works and doesn't work about it. As always, it's about learning from other people's mistakes.
  14. Set list? What set list? We don't need no stink'in set list!
    We couldn't get our singer to stick to a set list if we duct taped it to his forehead. Consequently, we have to stay sharp on every song on our master list and be ready for whatever the singer calls out.
    If he wasn't so damn good we would've canned him long ago.:bassist:
  15. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    The guy I gig with the most hasn't used a setlist in a while. Most of the time he just starts playing the songs and the rest of us join in. I wish he would use a setlist but he apparently doesn't have the time to make one, and since he is the bandleader I just go with the flow.
  16. Shuller


    Feb 2, 2003
    moscow, russia
    Well as my band usually plays 8/9 songs per night we arrange them like this:
    1st song: a song which has long(ish) intro just so I won't start to sing until at least some people are listening.
    2nd: we go for something that doesn't sound too much like the previous one
    3rd: A hard-hitter, this one has got to be a good one. I figure this is the point in the concert where people decide whether they're enjoying you or not.
    4th, 5th and 6th: : anything, as long as it's a switch from major to minor and vice-versa.
    7th and 8th: two songs without a break in between
    and 9th and final: another good hard-hitter like rabid-granny said: start good-end good.

  17. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    I like the start strong end strong thing myself. I like to start with three of the strongest, and space out the weakest as best I can. I would not start with a cover unless I were a cover band, don't want to give a false impression.
    KenHR likes this.
  18. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I think starting with an instrumental is a cool idea to do once in a while. This highlights all of the instrumentalist and I think is a good introduction for the band. This also gives the front person a good chance to MC.

    Greet the audience: "Thanks for coming out to [name of venue]"

    Introduce the band members: "To my left, from [home town name], on lead guitar, [member name], to my right, playing bass [member name] ect.

    And finally telling people your band name: "Together, we are [band name]"

    But that's just one way to go about things. I also think it's a good idea to reintroduce yourself at the end of the night if it was a good gig. If you already have any more bookings at the same club, advertise those at the end of the night if it was a good gig. ("We'll be back here on August 22nd so stop back in and party" Of course, not put so corny, but I'm not a front man ;) ) Never advertise a gig at another venue though.

    Since every gig is different, I think feeling out your audience is important. As your repetiore grows, you have more liberty with the set list. Of course, if you are an all orginal band that does 10 songs a night, this really wouldn't work, but as a cover band you can play songs to fit the night. If the audience is more of a dance orient crowd, stick with songs that are good dance numbers. If it's more of a listening crowd, feel free to do less dance oriented material. I also find it's a good idea for cover bands to know a tune or two of a certain dance style that isn't very popular, but to still have ready in case someone request it. (Polka, Jitterbug, Cha-Cha ect.)

    Of course, these are just some of my ideas/expierences.
  19. Lose the set list and read the crowd. Play what makes em' dance and you will be booked every weekend somewhere. Also tell your guitar player to leave all his effects pedals at home and just play the freakin songs. Way too much time is wasted between songs waiting on guitar players to step on pedals and twist knobs trying to get that perfect sound.
  20. Start strong - End strong is good advice.
    Also be flexible enough to slip in a crowd pleaser if the audience starts looking like Zombies!