Creating Your Set List

Create Your Set List

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

For a second, picture yourself as a chef. You wouldn’t stick a filet mignon on a paper plate and expect your critics to give rave reviews. Nor would you pull out the platinum-plated china for a sloppy joe. The better the product, the more time you would spend on presentation, on showcasing what you have to offer in its best possible light.

Where are we going with this? Designing a good set list is key to presenting your band’s talents in a way that is attractive, inviting, palatable, and easily digested. When done right, it results in better reviews and more business. Here are a few tips on designing a good set list:

The first song is all about first impressions

Think of this like a first date or a first interview. The audience is getting to know you, looking at how you present yourself, how you interact with each other and them, what your sound is like. Choose a strong, energetic first impression. You want to catch their interest so that, as your set plays on, you can showcase the full range of your talent to an engaged audience.

Alternate covers with originals.

No matter how good the original songs might be, bombarding a new audience with stuff they’ve never heard can cause them to tune out. Keep things fresh by bringing the audience back to their safe zones with a few cover songs.

Change up keys, tempos, and moods.

Your average concert-goer couldn’t identify a key to save their life. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t feel the effect of a bunch of songs in D Minor, the saddest of all keys. Varying the key, tempo, and mood can achieve a powerful effect on an unsuspecting audience. Which brings us to…

Play it out like a drama.

Think of the best concept albums out there—Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt. Pepper, etc. Think of how they start, how they progress, just where they climax, and how they end. Like an album or movie, a good set list should have a rise and a fall, with your biggest, all-out extravaganza happening toward the end.

Leave ’em wanting more.

It’s the rare band that can get away with the thirty-minute jams and have the audience clamoring for thirty minutes more. Punch them up, get them revved, and give them a proper ending that leaves them satisfied but still a little bit hungry. Sorry, we just can’t stay away from the food metaphors.

Anyway, bon appetit!

How did you determine your set list? Does it change for every gig, or is it pretty set in stone?

See also: Know Your Niche To Get The Right Gigs, Don’t Fake It To Succeed as a Musician, 5 Important Tips to Help You Get Gigs


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