How to Make a Captivating Set List
I recently listened to an inspiring video on YouTube, Violinist David Garrett’s live concert in Hannover. He is AMAZING! No, the photo above is not the concert hall in Hannover. The best I can do is post a nostalgic photo of where I played several years ago at the Montalvo Arts Center.
Shortly after watching and listening to David's awesome video, I realized that he had selected a brilliant set list! So, what is it that makes such a perfect set list and entertains the audience so well? Of course being a handsome and talented violinist helps, but there really is an art to making a captivating set list. Here’s the set list that David used at his live concert in Hannover:
Welcome to the Jungle - Guns N’ Roses
Sabre Dance - Khachaturian
James Bond Theme - Monty Norman
Scherzo - Symphony No. 9 - Ludwig van Beethoven
Live and let die - Paul McCartney
Tico Tico - Zequinha de Abreu
Yesterday - The Beatles
Funiculi, Funiclua - Luigi Denza
He's a pirate - Klaus Badelt / Hans Zimmer
Palladio - Karl Jenkins
Sandstorm - Darude
Viva La Vida - Coldplay
Cry me a river - Justin Timberlake
Miserlou (Pulp Fiction) - Dick Dale
Leningrad - Billy Joel
Corelli – Variations on a Theme - Fritz Kreisler
Stop crying your heart out - Oasis
Smells like teen spirit - Nirvana
Music - John Miles
We will rock you - Queen
Encore: Let it be - The Beatles
Most musicians already know they need to start out with an attention grabber and end with a bang. The challenging part is choosing everything in-between that can make or break for a successful show. The perfect recipe for a great set list really boils down to 3 key factors:
Know the audience type: It is the musician’s responsibility to know who they are performing for and to know what kind of music they will enjoy. Different types of audiences prefer different genres, such as vintage jazz, swing, classical, Celtic, rock, show tunes, and so on. Once you know who the audience is, think about how you want them to feel or what kind of mood you want to create.
When speaking to the audience it can be rather awkward or downright fun. Either way, it's always good to engage with the audience, but keep it to a minimum. The audience appreciates a connection, but too much talking may be boring! When you are speaking, is should be just as special as the music is.
Order blending and transitions: Choosing the right songs in the right order is the most important task when creating a captivating set list. It’s best to start with a fast energetic song followed by another upbeat tune. To gain confidence, always start and end with your best songs. Your worst nightmare is to bore your audience. Try not to have similar songs, tempos, or keys one after the other. The transition from one song to the next should be gradual in volume and mood. Here's a few tips to keep in mind:
Be connected: Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so it’s important to be prepared! Be careful not to get so involved in your music that you forget to connect with your audience. Be aware if they're getting fidgety or seem non-interested. If the mood changes from ho-hum to happy every time you play something upbeat, take note! It’s good to have extra music ready and on hand to cater to the crowd.
A couple more tips:
If you have a short set like 30 minutes or so, start out strong, then bring it down a notch at the 20 minute mark, and end strong. For a longer set, such as an 1-hour gig, this formula works well: Start out upbeat, then gradually add more mellow tunes, slowly go back to upbeat, repeat, and end strong.
That’s it! Good luck, and have fun!
“How to Make a Captivating Set List” author: Suzy, violinist and founder of Vogue Violin www.vogueviolin.com
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Suzy, founder of Vogue Violin and accomplished violinist.