Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, Busking, MUSIC, Performance Tips

Diversity in Your Set List = a Good Gig

Have you ever been to see someone play music and it seemed like they’ve played what sounded like almost the  same song all night?  Sound familiar?

So how to get around this? If you are new to performing you may not even realize that you are doing something a bit like that.  As many players want to get out of the practice room and into the public arena, it’s worthwhile thinking about the songs that you play, not just whether you like them but whether there;’s a good balance in what you do. 

Now ladies and gentleman, here’s blues ballad number  Seventy Three for the evening. 

No matter how good you are, or think you are, boring is boring.  So here’s a few ideas to get you thinking clearly.

  • Look at what Keys your songs are. Are most of them in the same key?
  • Do you play too many ballads?  I love ballads but too many kills the energy of what you are doing, they need to be played at the right time, they have more impact if you place them correctly in the set list
  • Are all your songs 4/4 time?  Break them up with a few 3/4 ‘s and 6/8’s
  • Do all your songs have the same type of chords, mainly majors, or mainly 7th’s if you are doing blues?
  • Have you fashioned yourself on another band or player and do too much of their material?
  • Do you only do originals?  I love original music but if you add the odd familiar song it can add a little familiarity for new listeners to you gig.
  • Do you do straight covers?  I think it’s good to turn a tune inside out and make it your own
  • Is your song list predictable?  Why not throw an odd song in here and there?
  • Are all your songs the same mood?  People like top go through different emotions.  Make the audience laugh and cry?
  • Do you communicate with the audience? You could always play the whole gig with them shut.
  • Do you try and show off in every song just how brilliant you are? Don’t play everything you know in one song. Space it out a bit and add the element of surprise.
  • Do you play with the same instrument all night? Swap instruments, maybe some nylon string, 12 string etc, Even mandolin is nice.  I play a Balalaika ever now and then, people call it falafel music and the girls start bellydancing… this IS cool
  • Do you only play fingerstyle picking?  Play some rhythmic stuff and some plectrum guitar if possible.

If you have given it your best shot, tried your best and followed the above, if people aren’t happy at the end of this…they may never be happy and this is not your problem.

OK, when I sat down at my computer I had planned to post about something else but we ended up with this and it’s vvery useful…you don’t necessarily have to follow the above but at least it will get you thinking.

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10 thoughts on “Diversity in Your Set List = a Good Gig

  1. Hello.
    I want to learn to play guitar because I like many songs. I have many problem about guitar training. And I hope, one day I will play the song what I like.

    I want to ark you many thing but my English is very poor.But I will learn about your comments
    to improve myself.


  2. Very informative, I’m extremely consious about my set lists. I searching for newer updated tunes. Thanks for sharing your view..

  3. Great advice – been stuck in a rut and will analyze my set list and key signatures. Thanks

  4. Hi, as a singer/songwriter I would like to say that your advice on performing is great, and I use it every night that I perform. However, I find that I’m having trouble organizing my set list (For example: Loud song, Loud song, quiet song, loud song, quiet song, quiet song, loud song) and I was wondering if you could give me any advice on how to organize a set list that will keep the audiences attention for the whole show. Thanks,

    Matt. R

  5. That was very informative thankyou, my main problem however is simply trying to think of songs to learn. I want to start doing some gigs pretty soon and I have a fair amount of covers under my belt but i really need a tried and tested list if you get my picture the songs that people remember and sing along to. Whenever i try to think my head goes blank

  6. Hey Tony,
    You are so right! I played a banjitar at a cherry festival (I was busking) and had a 22 song setlist. One of the event organizers mentioned to me at day’s end that it must seem boring playing the same song over and over again! After reading your entry I can appreciate where my criticaster was coming from — most of my original songs tend to be in the same chords: C Am F G
    (Great tip!)

  7. This was very informative. I am aware that I need a list, but for some reason I’ve always been stubborn when it comes to cover songs.

    By the way, any tips for a flamenco guitar player (pointing the fact I don’t necessarily connect my guitar with a line) regarding feedback and good quality playing live?

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