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Set List Tempo

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BluezBassist, Oct 11, 2004.

  1. BluezBassist


    Aug 5, 2004
    I play in a classic rock/blues band and we're all covers...so far. We play either 2 one hour sets a night, or if we're opening for someone else, just one set, about 75 mins. long.

    What I'd like to know is when you're arranging a set list, how much tempo do you go for? Do you start off with something fast and try to maintain it (if so, for how long) and then slow it down for one or two songs a set? Second question, do you end the night fast or slow? :confused:

    We try to vary it depending on the gig, but I was curious what everyone else does, or if there is a rule of thumb to follow....

    Thanks all...
  2. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Read the room. Sometimes something slower works to start. I'm of two minds when it comes to setlists. I prefer to go without them and have the singer call the tune. Once you have people dancing, you want to work the music for them. Sometimes a setlist won't do that and loose your audience.

    Often, we'll start off with the old Bill Withers tune, "Ain't no Sunshine". Nice easy tune. Allows you to get comfortable with the room accoustics, your tone, volume and breaking in the fingers. Then we take it from there. If we're in a club and it's the first set, we'll challenge ourselves by doing reggae versions of just about anything. Or do a fast jazz version of Route 66 for the fun of it. It all depends on your audience, how energetic they are, etc.
  3. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    There are too many variables to give hard and fast rules. Some general concepts I normally keep in mind are:

    - Start with something strong (first impressions count)
    - End with two or three really strong tunes (the kind of thing that will leave a good memory to prompt someone to see you again)
    - Make sure the songs are clearly differentiated (if you do two or three, each of which starts in a semi acoustic fashion and ends with an epic guitar solo, people will start to think that everything you do sounds the same)
    - Preparation is good but it's live music so stay on your feet and be ready to adapt.

  4. kansas666


    Sep 20, 2004
    I have 2 schools of thought on this.

    1. Start the night with something easy to give your fingers a chance to warm up.

    2. Start the night with one of your best songs. A lot of times people are there and want to know what the band is like before they decide to stay or leave.

    We always end big. Read the crowd and throw in the slow songs when and if appropriate. We always use a setlist in order to keep the music flowing. But we do deviate from it quite a bit.

    2 or 3 fast songs in a row without a break keeps people on the dance floor. But don't over do it. People need to refresh their drink and use the facilities.
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Start the set with a bang, end it with a bang is my rule #1.
  6. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    I'm with Brian.

    We didn't always do it that way in the past, we used to ramp up gradually; but after a few 'start out with a bang' shows, we saw the light. Definitely helps the gig get off to a good start.

    We have some pretty wide tempo swings during a show, so we try to break it up a bit.
  7. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Take into mind the venue itself.

    If it's one of those places where most people don't show up until 11PM, and you start at 9, you're better off saving some of your stronger songs for later in the show and start out with some warmup songs.

    If it's a concert that has most of the crowd there prior to downbeat, then by all means start out with a bang.

    One piece of advice: If you're in a Blues band do not do more than one slow Blues per set. It's fun for the guitarist and other soloists to wank on, but it can bore the audience if you do it too much. If a slow Blues is a way to showcase the ability of the players, don't water it down or take away from it's impact by playing another slow one in the same set. It also makes the band sound redundant.
  8. BluezBassist


    Aug 5, 2004
    Thanks a ton guys...I'm still pretty new to this, but I'm pretty much on the same wavelength as you all, so that's good to know! The plan is to open with Tush and close with Roadhouse Bluez...
  9. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Lots of good thoughts here. I especially agree with what wulf had to say. I'm gonna think out loud now... things I've learned and try to keep in mind when doing cover gigs...

    If you're doing 3 sets, by the end of the 3rd - everyone is trashed. Save your shakiest songs for then. Classic rock always seems to go over best in the 3rd set also.

    1st set is most important as that's when everyone is usually stone cold sober and has you under a magnifying glass. Try to keep your tightest songs here - ans as said already, vary the set a LOT so you'll keep everyone happy, guessing, and hopeful that you'll play their favorite obscure glen campbell song.

    Second set we try to put in as many of the boppy, dancy tunes we've got. This is when people start geting a little loose. People STILL REQUEST and GO CRAZY for Blister in the Sun. Many moons ago I liked that song. It's now become my Freebird. Peopl seem to react the same to LAID also.

    Finally, and to answer your question, we almost always start off quietly. We do our own jamming version of Knockin on Heavens Door that usually adjusts people hearig to what we're doing by the time we kick it in. We've got some other really quiet ones too. We don't like to assault people with our volume all at once - unless it's an original gig - but they've usually been assaulted by a couple of bands before us.

    Finally, finally - I like to follow our loudest song in the first set with a quiet one, cuz this is generally when the club owner is going to tell us we have to bring down. Rather than mess with the volumes some more mellow music usually keeps them happy.

    Perhaps I should delete the finallys :) . I think it's generally better to hit the stage with a set a list than feel the crowd as you go. Spaces in the set make peole edgy or something and it always seems better to plow through a set then discuss things onstage. We feel the crowd out about 20 minutes before each set and write our setlists then.

    Finally done.
  10. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    That sounds like a good balance between preparation and spontanaeity, although I guess a lot depends on the strengths of the people involved.

    I prefer to have the setlists roughed out much further in advance, not least so I know what to focus on in the "getting ready for gigs" component of my practise time. Some songs I can pull off at short notice without a hitch but my performance is normally better if I've had some opportunity to bring them nearer the front of my mind in the time leading up to the gig.

    That said, how often you practise and gig makes a difference. For example, over the past year, the 'jones have probably gigged about once a month and rehearsed about twice a month (on average). That means more preparation is in order than a band who's out playing every Friday and Saturday night or more; the more often you play and the smaller your repetoire, the easier it is to be spontaneous.

  11. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    I cannot think of one reason why you would not want to end (as well as begin) the night on a happy, upbeat, rockin' "toe-tapper."

    But thats just me.