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Most artists call it their set list.  And for most artists it involves putting your songs in some kind of order – fast, fast, slow, fast, slow, etc…

But, that’s not the best way to do it if you want to have a successful live show every time you perform!




To me, it’s not the set list.  It’s “the graph.”  And it took me years to develop. 

It involves bringing your audience the right thing at the right time in order to capture and engage them.  (the psychology of the show)  And, it also involves getting a vision for your show.


So how do you do it?  First, look at your songs.  I lay all the songs out on a sheet of paper and define or categorize them and give them a number rating of one through five.


Now I’m not talking about how good the songs are with the numbers.  And I’m not talking about how fast or slow they are.  I’m talking about whether they’re emotional, energetic, and powerful (then they’re a “5”). 


Or maybe it’s the kind of song that if you do it right, you can hear a pin drop when the song is over, because the audience doesn’t want to break the moment, (then it’s a “1”).  Or, maybe it’s a typical radio song (a “3”).


Then I think of my audience, and in my mind’s eye I see (get a vision for) what response I want to get from my audience after each song.  I should back up a little bit and tell you that when I say “songs” I’m really more concerned with “moments” and the moments within the songs.  Because people don’t go to concerts to hear songs, they go to experience moments.

So as I lay out the songs and plan the concert, I look at the song and ask myself “what moment is inside this song?”  Is it a fun moment, a touching moment, a musical moment, a visual moment?  There are a lot of different kinds of moments, and I want to begin to plan on using those different moments to change the pressure on the audience.


And then you develop the plan.  The placement in the show is important.  I often spend weeks mulling over the order of the show.  I mull over the songs themselves, listening to them over and over trying to get a vision for what moment there is in the song.  I listen for different parts of the song.  (to be developed or drawn out)  I keep listening and looking for moments in each song.


As I envision those moments and what they’ll do for the audience, which I work out in rehearsal, I can plan a show that’s not only creative, but gives me the opportunity to be spontaneous without “winging it!”


My graph is outlined in detail in my Live Music Method book, and in one chapter I give alternate graphs for different situations.  Obviously, there are so many different situations you will find yourself in, when it comes to shows. 

If you understand the concepts of WHY the ‘Moments’ are brought at the time they are within the show, you can use those concepts to tailor your own set list for the specific situation you have.


If you find that this blog has created questions in your mind, and you’d be interested in a webinar, please comment here.  If there are enough of you interested, we’ll see about getting one set up.  Until next time….Tom

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