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skulpter Offline
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Joined: 25 Jan 2004
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Location: Asheville, NC
Age: 49


PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:28 pm    Post subject: Ongoing Setlist Debate Reply with quote

For better or for worse, I'm the guy in our band that the others look to for direction. The band leader I suppose. My wife and I have written most our original material, we practice and record at our house on my gear, and I'm usually the one that tracks down gigs.

I've been the defacto setlist composer for our band pretty much as long as we've been gigging, and there's a fairly specific methodology I use to come up with out setlists. I've grumbled about having to do it a time or two, but ultimately I'm a little too much of a control freak to place the responsibility in someone else's hands. Well, a few days before our last gig, out of nowhere, our drummer surprises us with his own attempt at arranging the list, and I though it sucked. And I told him. He seemed to be taking my approach to it, and doing the opposite, for the sake of being different.

My approach is based on a bunch of factors such as how long we're playing (number and length of sets), type of venue (bar vs. benefit gig), and set dynamics. I like to start with something in-your-face, ride that wave for a few tunes, then by degrees, move into some midtempo songs, then a few slow numbers, then wake people up with some faster, grooving tunes, and end the set with another bang, something preferably on the epic side of things. Essentially, I like to maintain a fluid progression through the set regarding tempo.

If we're playing three to four hours, we wind up doing about 2/3 originals and 1/3 covers. If we're sharing the bill, we'll do mostly originals with a few covers peppered throughout. My wife is our lead singer, has by far the best voice, and is by far the best looking banana in the bunch. I always start each set with her singing the first couple of tunes, and I like them to be originals. I do like opening the second set with a cover, Patty Griffin's I'm Getting Ready, cause it rocks, and lyrically it makes sense.

If I bring an acoustic, I'll try to keep those songs together, or at most in two groups, to minimize time wasted changing instruments. By the same token, we play three dropped D songs which are all very different but luckily work well together. So I try to keep those together.

John's idea was to mix things up as much as possible, starting with a midtempo song the keyboard player sings, then proceeding to move from slow to fast to midtempo to slow to fast, ad infinitum throughout the set. It wrecked Elise's voice, and felt very disjointed and spastic to me. None of the drop D's were together, and he had one set ending with three cover tunes.

I insisted on a couple of changes, but still thought it didn't go over well. There just wasn't any continuity to it. The funny thing is our keyboard player (who's days are numbered in this band), said he thought it was great and agreed with John's notion of tossing fluid progression out the window.

So how do you approach your setlist arrangement -- dynamically fluid, willy-nilly, astrological alignment, or some other strategy I haven't thought of yet? There is a certain discipline to it, but I guess there's also slight possibility that John's right and I'm way off track here. Let me hear your thoughts on this.

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Lt. Bob Offline
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Joined: 03 Nov 2003
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Location: America's Wang
Age: 65


PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't do setlists so I won't be much help.

But if I WERE gonna do a setlist I'd probably approach it like you do.
For sure drop tuning songs need to be grouped and changes of gits should be grouped too.

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skulpter Offline
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lt -- what sort of trends do you see in your sets?
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Lt. Bob Offline
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

well, my gigs vary a lot so there's not much in the way of trends.

First off ...... I do a fair amount of 'hired gun' work where a band will hire me to replace someone who can't make a gig on sax/git or bass. On those gigs I pay no attention to how they call songs. It's not my business ....... I'm just there to make them shine ..... that's my role .... to make them better. I may think some of their choices are stupid but I don't think much about it ....... I'm hired to do 2 things ..... one is to play solos on everything ..... and the other is to fit in taking someone's place where the band doesn't even notice they're gone.
I'm also sometimes there as an additional player just to bring their band up a step or two on some gig where they really want to impress.
I don't care what song I'm doing a solo over ..... if it's something odd that's even better 'cause it's interesting ........ doing a ride over something that normally wouldn't have a solo is fun. I love it when some band does Perfect Circle or Hole and I get to play over that ....... much fun.
And then I'm also having to play the parts without having ever played with or sometimes even met the band.

That's my favorite ...... I absolutely love playing with bands when I've never even met a single player in the band; and then if they do all songs I've never even heard, maybe their own originals ....... that's heaven to me ...... a challenge ........ more fun than any other type of gig.
I've always said my favorite gig is playing with people I've never met doing songs I've never heard. It just doesn't get any better than that for me.

On my own gigs I basically call tunes as I go along based on what I see going on in the audience.
My songlist that I sing is around 450 songs so I can cover a lot of styles.
SO on last nights gig, for instance, it was a bikeweek event so I mostly played biker music.
Next Friday I'll be playing at a jazz sorta club so I'll tend towards jazzy type stuff ...... some sax stuff and then for vocal songs some Boz Scaggs ...... Marvin Gay, that kinda thing. ...... other gigs they'll want something more rocking. Thursday I'm playing on the beach so I'll need beach music ..... Buffet .... reggae that sort of stuff.
I just call whatever feels right ........ requests often lead me in the direction I'll go. Also I'm watching for what gets them dancing.

To me calling songs as you go works a lot better because you adapt to the situation and don't just push on with the set list regardless of if it's working well.
BUT, you have to be decisive and you can't end up with dead air because you haven't chosen a song or someone doesn't want to do the one you called.
You HAVE to pick the next song while you're playing the last. On my gigs I decide ....... period. I don't mind if someone suggests something but ultimately it's up to me.

A lot of my gigs are solo gigs anyway but when I do band things I call the shots completely and totally and don't mind telling someone that, "No .... we're doing this song"
It's not stressful or anything ..... I hire the guys and they do what I want them to do ......... that's why I hired them.

But it's a different thing than what you do ......... I'm all about making money so I do whatever the preferred music is at any given venue.
When I play college bars I'll do some Jack Johnson and Maroon 5 and at biker bars I'm Skynarding it up.
A country bar? I'll twang away.

For me the most important thing I'm after is to get rehired by the place to keep my schedule full. I need to do, at the very least, 4 gigs a week and I'm really looking for 5-7.
So there's no artistic integrity involved. The extent of my artistry is to be among the very best at my axes and singing and that's not just because it's important to me to get as close to my potential as I can before I die but also because being good gets me rehired.
I'm suspecting that income from playing is additional money for you. For me it's my sole income and I have a $2000 a month mortgage!

So it's kinda different for me. I imagine that you tend to book gigs in places that are appropriate for your band. I book anywhere and make my music appropriate for THAT place. Getting the money prevails over all other considerations.
I'm lucky that I still love playing and still care how well I play. Most other guys in my situation get to where they just go thru the motions and don't care anymore.
For whatever reasons I haven't gotten bored with it and still work hard at what I do. But it's not for everyone.

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