5 Tips: Create the Perfect Setlist

You found your dream musicians, you came up with a name for your band, and you booked the gig. What next? You need to create the perfect setlist for your first show! A well crafted setlist can be the difference between a mediocre, good or great concert. Follow these tips below to help you on this journey!

1) Start With A Bang / End With a Bang
Creating a setlist is a lot like sequencing an album; you want to put your best song or two first, throw in your lesser songs in the middle and then save a few good ones to end with. You can’t go wrong with opening with your best song. First impressions matter! If the first song isn’t great you might have already lost your audience. We will give you warning that with a less than stellar soundman or sound system your first song can sometimes sound like your worst no matter how good it is because this is when the soundman tinkers with the levels. Your last song should put a “period” or even better “exclamation mark” at the end of your performance and leave the audience wanting more.

2) Does it flow?
Flow is so important in a setlist. Some bands like to organize by louder and softer songs, play a few loud ones, play a few soft ones, loud ones again etc. Other bands might have an acoustic section in the middle where they “bring it down”. Whatever you decide to do–flow is important. Often times what you feel works in your head or even in the practice room just plays completely differently with an audience of strangers.

3) Consider the Audience
Maybe it might not be the best idea to play your 9 hour rock opera with German lyrics you composed. Art is fantastic, but sometimes artistic desire and notions get in the way of putting on a great show. If you have a 7 minute track, consider knocking it down to 3 minutes so the audience doesn’t get bored. If you are given a 40 minute set, don’t play an hour! Stage banter is a key way to keep the set moving, often breaks will come up during the set, the drummer might need to adjust his kit, or the guitar player tunes up – make sure you have a designated “talker” to speak with the audience and maybe tell a story during these pauses.

4) Copy Your Musical Heroes
What if we gave you a treasure trove of secrets about how the great musicians of the world crafted setlists? Well it’s not that hard! Just visit http://www.setlist.fm/ you can browse thousands of setlists from famous bands over the years. For instance it says that on Iron Maiden’s european tour of this year they opened with “Doctor, Doctor” each night. Even better, go catch a band live and notice what they did wrong AND right. Concert DVDs are also a great way to go right to the source and see how a show flows (warning – concert DVDs can often be edited from different performances to make it flow even better than it was live).

5) Practice it!
Nothing can ruin a great setlist if you play it sloppily or don’t know the order well enough to know exactly how it flows. Make sure EVERY member of your band has a copy of the setlist during practice (and before the show!). Often times at practice, bands have a habit of stopping and talking about the song they just played. Once it gets closer to gig time don’t do this. Play it straight through without any stops! If you feel comfortable bring in a friend to check you out in the rehearsal room and see if they have any thoughts about the setlist. You’ll be surprised about how clearly someone not in the band can get to the root of your musical problems.

BONUS TIP: Use social media to ask your fans for help creating the setlist for your next show or tour. Or create a contest around a special song in your set. Fans will appreciate the chance to help out and love requesting songs for the next live show.

There you have it musicians – 5 tips to creating that perfect setlist. We have to say we could keep going with more tips. At times the setlist is almost harder than performing the music. Even if you think you know it make sure to bring a copy of it on the day of the gig and place it in a well-lit area. After the gig talk about what worked and didn’t work with your band mates as well as any audience members. Don’t lose sight of the fact that even though it may seem like performing is about the audience it is really about you the performer so don’t lose sight of that. If you are feeling adventurous take a picture of your setlist and tag it on our Facebook page.

-LAMA Staff

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  1. Live (IV): los putos setlists -2 | ROCKNROLLMOTHERFUCKERS!!! - May 28, 2013

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