A successful set list

OK, you're a band, you have a great range of songs that individually work, but how do you put them into a 15-song or so bracket that always works?
Ever wonder why you sometimes play 2 or 3 great songs in a row, and the next one has all those dancers leaving the floor? 

The easy answer is tempo- use a metronome in practice to accurately gauge the tempo for the version of each song you play, and always move forward, like a DJ. 
Once you get up to about 160- 180 beats per minute (bpm), it's time to drop right back to a slower tempo like 90 bpm- (reggae- waltz) etc, or around 110 bpm. 

So after working through an ever increasing tempo range over 10-15 or so songs in different feels, drop back. Sometimes for ballroom dancers you can mix it up even more- eg. a waltz, (93 bpm) then foxtrot (124 bpm), latin (135 bpm), pop rock (145 bpm), rock & roll (160 bpm) and then repeat.

You may find that the crowd especially likes tempos around 120 - 135 bpm, this is a very common sweet spot, but you can't play all night at that tempo, you have to mix it up. First set try a range of styles & tempos, see what works and use that knowledge to tailor the rest of the night.

Another theory (if you have time) is to always move up in keys, e.g. one in C, then E, then F# rather than going down. Don't play a lot of songs consecutively in the same key, it gets monotonous very quickly. 

Mike Lynch

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