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Advice on set list

GUEST,Johnmc 11 Mar 08 - 07:30 AM
Jack Campin 11 Mar 08 - 07:45 AM
Waddon Pete 11 Mar 08 - 08:04 AM
GUEST,leeneia 11 Mar 08 - 10:20 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 11 Mar 08 - 10:31 AM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 11 Mar 08 - 10:47 AM
Mark Ross 11 Mar 08 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 11 Mar 08 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,woodsie 11 Mar 08 - 12:20 PM
Grab 11 Mar 08 - 12:35 PM
M.Ted 11 Mar 08 - 12:47 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 11 Mar 08 - 01:26 PM
Big Mick 11 Mar 08 - 02:31 PM
M.Ted 11 Mar 08 - 03:02 PM
BB 11 Mar 08 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,Tom B 11 Mar 08 - 04:36 PM
Maryrrf 11 Mar 08 - 04:37 PM
PoppaGator 11 Mar 08 - 04:49 PM
GUEST,Johnmc 11 Mar 08 - 06:47 PM
M.Ted 11 Mar 08 - 06:57 PM
SouthernCelt 11 Mar 08 - 07:36 PM
Jack Campin 11 Mar 08 - 07:38 PM
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Subject: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:30 AM

I heard on the radio that Bob Wills always changed key and tempo between
each song. I have often wondered if this consideration should outweigh all others in creating a set list. Anyone got thoughts on this?


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:45 AM

It's a common practice in Middle Eastern music to keep songs together as sets ("wasla", "fasil") in the same key (rhythm and tempo would vary). In North Africa this can mean up to several hours.

Cape Breton fiddling often strings together tunes on the same tonal centre. Scottish fiddling used to group tunes by common key signature instead. Both work.

Too many changes sound fidgety. A planned sequence of changes can be very effective.


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 08:04 AM

Good advice from Jack....

If you are singing songs, it is a good idea to use material with a wide range of subject matter, rather than stringing together songs with a similar payload! It is also a good idea to punctuate them with unaccompanied songs or tunes so that your listeners get a full picture of your repertoire!

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:20 AM

Partly it depends on what the songs are.

If he was doing ballads, then changing every time was good idea.

However, bands which are doing jigs or reels usually string some together, say 3 jigs in a number.

I think people get tired of too much uniformity before they get tired of too much variety. One night I attended a concert where every number was in 4/4 time. I wanted to call out 'For heaven's sake, play something in 3!' but I didn't.

When I play with friends, we try to vary

timing - 6/8, 3/4, 4/4
major vs minor
speed
vocal versus instrumental.

Just don't get too wild about it. Don't follow 'Kilkelly Ireland' with 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.'


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:31 AM

Err I suspect we may have two different definitions of the word 'set' between Johnmc and Jack...

For a gig set yes, definitely. Always change tempo, sig AND key if you can - and yes, shift moods carefully throughout the gig. Only put two similar songs together if you have a staggeringly good reason - and I can't think of one! If all your stuff sounds similar, learn some new songs that are very different, ideally before you play out again.

For tune sets, different 'rules' apply.

In a session it's polite to group similar tunes together as it makes the set easier for other musicians to follow - likewise for dancing, obviously. But in a set designed for performance, then jumping keys and even crashing reels into jigs etc. is good.

Tune sets don't need to differ as much as song sets, for some reason - perhaps because we hear them with a different part of the brain.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:47 AM

Good advice above & not much left to say.

But I'm a Mudcatter so I can't hold myself back.

I agree with leeneia on ideas for changing, and agree that those sorts of changes should be frequent.

Then along comes Tom and brings up tune sets. I've deliberately followed "Waitin' for a Train" with "The Dying Hobo," BECAUSE OF the similar situation, but I do it because hopefully you can wring all kinds of pathos out of the first one and then break it up with the comic relief of the other one--if anybody's wondering what's hilarious about a dying hobo, this is the one that ends,

His voice grew weak, his head fell back, he'd sung his last refrain;
And his partner stole his coat and shoes and jumped a westbound train.

I've also followed "Wabash Cannonball" with "City of New Orleans" for the opposite contrast--railroads up; railroads down. I need a key change in there, but that's a simple G to C (in my case) resolution.

I think what I'm saying is that you can add "theme" to leeneia's list of categories (time, M/m, speed, vocal) and get another dimension to play with to produce "variety."

Good thread. :)

CC


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Mark Ross
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:06 PM

Pat Sky taught me the rules 40 years ago.

Never put two songs in the same key or the same tempo in a row.

Always change the subject(unless you have a damn good reason).

Now that you know the rules, you can break them if you want to.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:12 PM

Are you playing with a banjo? If so, then consider doing three or four songs in the same key before changing-- it will take a long time to change keys since the capo needs to be moved, the 5th string retuned, and the other strings re-tuned because on a banjo you change one string, you gotta change them ALL. And this is distracting when performing.
If you are singing w guitar, then feel free to move capo around and change keys on every song!


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,woodsie
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:20 PM

Save your best song/tune 'til last - this is what they'll remember you by!


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Grab
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:35 PM

Key, yes. Multiple songs in the same key gets boring, unless you're deliberately playing a medley.

Tempo, not necessarily. A standard set for me will have at least two attention-grabbing ones to start with, any slow ones in the middle, and then finish with some more attention-grabbing ones. Fading the tempo down to slow works nicely; conversely a quick change back up gives the audience a kick in the pants to grab any attention that drifted during the slow ones.

I say "attention-grabbing" because that doesn't necessarily just mean "fast" or "loud". Changing to an unaccompanied song is equally good at holding attention, so long as it's a fairly lively song that's guaranteed to appeal. Switching from a ballad to "The teddy bear's rave-up" or "The sick-note" is a favourite trick for me.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:47 PM

No, it shouldn't outweigh all other considerations. If you know Bob Wills music, you know why he made a point of changing keys--most everything had the same swing beat and tempo, because it was for dancing, and the chord changes were simple, so he used the key changes to keep interest. (and if you don't know it, you should leave, and don't come back until you do)-

Making a key change within a tune is a very good way of creating interest, but changing keys from one song to another won't do much for you, particularly if your voice is better in one key than the other--so it's more an advisory thing, to avoid monotony.

The most important consideration is to keep it interesting and fun for your audience.


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 01:26 PM

"Save your best song/tune 'til last - this is what they'll remember you by"

Actually, showbiz advice is to save your second best till last.

Always start with your best piece; one you're 100% confident with (they need to see you're in control and happy), one that'll surprise and delight (and claim the stage for your set).

You've GOT to hook 'em from the first - or

they may not stay around to hear the last


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Big Mick
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:31 PM

First, read Pete Peterson's (Hi Pete, long time no see!!!) post about three times for comprehension. Unless your banjo player has a couple on stage in different keys, this is a pain when trying to keep a stage show moving along.

Second, I will relate one from just this past weekend. This has to do with tempo and key. We were doing a request for "Orange and the Green", and then moved onto "Fenian Record Player" (yep, it's that time of year again). I have sung these songs ad nauseum, but when I went to do the Fenian Record Player, no matter what I did, I couldn't get the tune of Orange and the Green out of my head. I turned it into a humorous bit, but it was very disconcerting. I must be getting old......***chuckle***. It is important not to have songs/tunes that are very similar right next to each other. In all these years, that is the first time it happened but I have heard many stories from others like this.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 03:02 PM

I've had a similar problem--playing consecutive melodies that have similar chords progressions, and I sing the new melody over the old chord progression, and it works for a few measures, and then...


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: BB
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 03:55 PM

My feeling is that changing tempo is more important than changing key, particularly if you take a good minute to introduce the next song. Changing key as well becomes much more important on a recording where there are no spoken introductions. Changing from accompanied to unaccompanied, serious to humorous, changes of voice, instrument, etc. if the capacity to do so is there - all help to keep the audience's interest. Variety in whatever form you can.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Tom B
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:36 PM

"a good minute to introduce the next song" - or five in my case, eh Barbara! Good point :-)


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Maryrrf
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:37 PM

Having seen BB and her parner in concert - I can attest to the fact that what she does works! Don't underestimate the value of a good introduction in making a set come together smoothly. It isn't so much a matter of slavishly changing the key/tempo with each song, as of presenting a varied and 'balanced' set.


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: PoppaGator
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:49 PM

A disproportionally large segment of my working repertoire consists of Mississippi John Hurt songs in the key of C. Some of them are extremely similar to each other, using not only the same chord progressions but also many very similar little riffs and fingerpicking runs. I love playing them, have been playing them for years, and in the privacy of my own home I'll stay in that one key and one groove for long periods of time, randomly switching back and forth between songs.

In performance, I generally try to spread these songs apart, interspersing songs in other keys when I plan a set list in advance. My hope is that audiences won't so easily notice how very similar these songs are to each other if they don't hear them in succession, and will feel satisfied that they've heard a variety of different numbers.

However, when it "feels right" ~ when I'm playing one of these selections and sense that everyone is happy enough to stay the current course ~ I'll string a couple of them together as a medley, just to stretch things out and create a longer number. For example, there's the "Ain't Medley": "Ain't No Tellin'" and "Ain't Nobody's Business."

I'll do this only when I sense a certain level of comfort in the audience, and so when I do it, I too feel comfortable and confident, play in much the same manner as when entertaining no one but myself at home, and this good feeling generally gets across to the audience.


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:47 PM

Lots to chew over here. I take the point about Wills being forced into this, and also recognise that instrumentals require different treatment. Keep it varied in as many ways as possible seems to be the thing.
   I have learned, too, how easy it is to confuse songs that are too similar if following one from another. A phenomenon I have noticed is that if you are at a session and an unaccompanied singer follows a singer with backing, they very often start up in the key of the previous song.


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:57 PM

The real consideration is, what are your strengths? Some of these ideas are very useful for planning your set, but the key is really that you should always showcase what you do best, even if it locks you into a fairly narrow range-


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:36 PM

Mark said: "Pat Sky taught me the rules 40 years ago...
Now that you know the rules, you can break them if you want to."

Based on my knowledge of Pat and his approach to things, I'd say he probably exercised his right to break the rules as often as he obeyed them. On "Harvest of Gentle Clang" he broke his album song sequence up with several "asides" that weren't songs at all. With Pat that worked fine although I don't know if singers known for their serious side could get away with that much foolishness. I do love that album though...

SC


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Subject: RE: Advice on set list
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:38 PM

I should have mentioned WHY that Middle Eastern practice makes sense. They're singing songs in scales which differ from each other in subtle microtonal ways - it's easy enough to perceive the basic identity of the scale, but tradition says that the third of one might be a Pythagorean comma different from that in another. So it makes sense for a singer to stay on the same scale for an extended period, so they can get the tuning right. Usually these sequences begin with an instrumental prelude that gets the scale even more firmly locked into the singer's head.

I would bet that the same happens to some extent in Western tradition too. It certainly did for liturgical chant; the whole idea of "mode" was probably elaborated to stop church choirs coming unstuck while doing awkward changes. In the Syrian church, each week in the calendar has its own mode.


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