A well-thought-out set list can be vital to the success of your gig. You wouldn''t put together a CD without thinking long and hard about the selection and order of the songs; nor should you construct a set list without just as much careful consideration. But what really makes up a good set list? It obviously depends quite a bit on the style of music that your band plays, but here are some general guidelines to maximize the impact of your song sequence. (Note that these steps are designed for a group or solo act playing a one-set gig, but the principles can obviously be applied to multiple-set engagements, as well.)
START WITH A BANG
If you''re trying to grab the audience''s attention (and of course, you are), you want to make sure you start the show out with one of your really strong songs. First impressions are very important, so your first number should be one that stylistically represents what your music is all about. In most cases, your opening tune should be up-tempo, but be careful to choose something that you are confident that you can play before you''re really warmed up.
ENG WITH A SPLASH
Your ending number should be the pinnacle of your set, a song that you hope will leave the audience shouting for more. This is where you should pull out all the stops. It''s also important to keep a good song in reserve so that you don''t have to repeat something if you are called back for an encore.
MIX IT UP
A good way to approach putting together your set list is to first decide on the opening and ending songs, then fill in the rest of the set. As you''re picking out these in-between songs, remember to not put too many similar songs back to back. Watch especially for songs that have the same kind of feel (for example, you don''t want to do two ballads in a row). If you also vary the song tempos and the keys, your set will be more interesting and will hold the crowd''s attention better. When your set list is done, be sure to make copies for each bandmember, written or printed in large, easy-to-read letters (crucial for those dark stages) with the keys noted for each song.