Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The importance of a big set list

We recently had someone comment on how large our catalog is - how many songs we know. We've got about 120 songs in our catalog (and still growing), which is less than some bands but more than many. Having that many songs in our repertoire has been a real advantage in getting shows since we can fill so much time without repeating songs.

Some bands that know more songs than we do don't actually know the songs, meaning they have them memorized. They use iPads or song binders to tip them off about chords and lyrics. That can be a good way to help you build enough material to fill time especially when you're starting out, but if you do that, make sure you get a stand of some kind to hold your binder/tablet.

But we don't use reminder devices, other than each other, which sometimes leads to awkward moments of brain freeze or one of us stumbling through a song that we've played a million times because all of a sudden your mind and fingers just aren't cooperating. But we figure that's part of the fun. We're flying through the air without a net, y'all!

It's taken a long time to build our catalog, and some songs haven't stayed in the rotation. Sleeper ballads, in particular, tend to get culled out of our set after a few shows. Most of the places we play are looking for a certain amount of energy. But a lot of songs have been in our show since the start.

If you're playing a lot, it can get a little boring to keep playing the same songs. But it's also how we stay tight. When you know a song well enough to be bored with it, that means you've gotten good at it.

"I can play these songs in my sleep. For real. Don't wake me up."
It's also worth remembering that you're not playing for the same audience every time. Even if you have residencies, you're not the only band that plays there, so the venue doesn't have a chance to get as sick of you as you might be of yourself!

If you want to play longer gigs but don't have enough material, the best approach is to just wait on booking the longer gigs until you can properly fill the time. But if you find yourself booked somewhere without enough material, there are a couple of things you can do.

1. You can do the iPad/binder thing to cheat a little until you've got more songs solidly in your wheelhouse. But if you do this, make sure the songs you're going to play are organized and cued up so you're not wasting a lot of time in between songs searching for the next song. Aside from creating a lot of dead air, digging around in a binder or swiping around for a long time on a tablet will make you look less professional.

2. Or you can partner with some other bands/musicians to help fill time. If you've got a three-hour slot and only one hour of music, consider inviting some other musicians to sit in or switch off. The venue isn't going to pay more, so you'll have to split the take, but if you each bring fans, you could end up with more folks in the audience, which could translate into more money to split. Also, and very importantly, make sure the venue knows you'll be doing this. If they've just hired you and then see a bunch of people on stage that they haven't signed off on, they may not be pleased.

"Can someone bring us some more mics?"
So, whether you've got a bunch of songs under your belt or are still building up your set lists, keep learning new music - write new songs or learn new covers. It keeps things fresh for the audience and is more fun for you!

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