How can I get my singer to follow a set list?

EricT43

Senior Member
Have you guys seen a band like this? They finish a song, and then huddle together to decide what song to play next. And then do the same thing again after that song is finished. Or maybe the singer calls an audible and tells the band what song is next, just loud enough for people in the front row to hear it coming. Well, that's how the band I'm in operates. Personally, I find this type of thing to be unprofessional and I don't care for it.

Not long ago, I talked to the singer about it, and asked if we could just follow the set list (yes, we DO have one), so that we can smoothly flow from one song to the next, and she said we can't do that because she's "reading the crowd". I thought of asking what cues she's seeing that tells her we should play "Highway to Hell" instead of "Separate Ways", but then I thought better of it. I think "reading the crowd" just means "whatever I'm in the mood for." Anyway.

Any suggestions on how to convince her that following a predetermined set list can be a good thing?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It's extremely unprofessional, not to mention disorganized and keeping the band needlessly on their toes. Bands don't absolutely need to be super tight and slick and paced - not that it's a bad thing - but dead air and a disconnect from the audience is just unprofessional. Maybe the audience doesn't specifically know that, but they know they don't like it. They think the band doesn't know what they're doing. They don't enjoy it, and may not come to see the band again. That's not good.

Reading the crowd is smart, but it shouldn't be happening between every song. That suggests that the band is always playing the wrong song. (ie; she doesn't know how to read the crowd.)

But if the singer insists on being so spontaneous, then at least have someone in the band talk to the audience while she decides what to do. A band huddle just looks like nobody up there knows what they're doing.

Dead air is not a band's friend. Never mind the audience, the person who hires the band doesn't like it either.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
It's extremely unprofessional, not to mention disorganized and keeping the band needlessly on their toes. Bands don't absolutely need to be super tight and slick and paced - not that it's a bad thing - but dead air and a disconnect from the audience is just unprofessional. Maybe the audience doesn't specifically know that, but they know they don't like it. They think the band doesn't know what they're doing. They don't enjoy it, and may not come to see the band again. That's not good.

Reading the crowd is smart, but it shouldn't be happening between every song. That suggests that the band is always playing the wrong song. (ie; she doesn't know how to read the crowd.)

But if the singer insists on being so spontaneous, then at least have someone in the band talk to the audience while she decides what to do. A band huddle just looks like nobody up there knows what they're doing.

Dead air is not a band's friend. Never mind the audience, the person who hires the band doesn't like it either.
Listen to Bermuda you will.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Oh yeah, a set list is important because it may involve planned guitar changes/tunings that are better coordinated when planned in advance.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I agree completely. Barring any unforeseen technical difficulties (or tuning changes) I'd want the band to move quickly and smoothly from song to song. On a somewhat related note something I think is another mood killer is too much talking between songs. Not every song needs an introduction, and bands that have too much off the cuff banter also seem unprofessional.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I should add that I've played with one local artist for just over 40 years (someone else besides Al!) and he keeps a list of songs in front of him, but in no particular order. He calls 'em as he feels 'em, and he does read the crowd well. The difference is, he's talking to the crowd while scanning the list for the next song. So, no dead air.
 

Nictarine

Silver Member
The first band I was in the guitar player would announce what song he wanted to play next by playing the first riff, he would also tune his guitar by ear by having the bassist play the low E then tuning each string to the one above it, I was young and naive but looking back now that shit was dumb and unprofessional.

The most recent band I was in we had a setlist and stuck to it. We had set breaks in between specific songs, other songs ran into each other, the singer is going to banter with the crowd between these two songs, the two songs in this tuning are together, not all the fast songs are back to back, those two songs with the riffs that are REALLY similar aren't together lol! It made a world of difference in the consistency of the show and takes away the anxiety and sloppy starts when the bassist doesn't realize the song has changed.
 

Supergrobi

Technical Supervisor
I'd second the "unprofessional" tag. With my band I played most of my gigs with, this approach would even have been impossible to do - guitarists had their sound banks in order and knew which guitar to grab, the keyboarder had to switch his banks on three keyboards, too, the brass section had to change their instruments, the DJ had to switch vinyl - the whole set was rehearsed over and over again over spring time so we managed to play a perfectly continuous show each summer festival season.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I've seen a few bands like this. Usually only once, though. I've played with one or two bands like this, too... and again, only once. Insistence on this sort of operation is more than grounds enough for leaving (or asking the responsible party to leave).
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Singer? Female? Good luck wit dat.

The best I can suggest is to ask her to "read the crowd" before the current song ends. The goal is to have a song in mind immediately without the huddle. If a guitarist needs a little time for whatever, that's when she talks. She can audible the songs, she just has to speed it up. I think it's better that one person calls the shots instead of a huddle, for performing.

I think your best chance at anything is to not change what she's doing, just speed it up
 

drumnut87

Well-known member
print them out a setlist in a set order and tell them to follow it. skip or move songs around depending on the crowd, but keep to the songs on it. and if they dont like it, then shape up or ship out. as bermuda said, its VERY unprofessional and shows you up :/

ive got a band on the go atm, two of them have never gigged before, and the singer has only ever done "gigs" as a karaoke host. its like herding feral cats sometimes! and this weekend we're trying out backing tracks and click tracks so gonna see if they can keep time and play along with them or not :/
 

SharkSandwich

Junior Member
Agreeing with the previous posts, very unprofessional.

Singers do have some latitude to call audibles in certain situations IMO. However, bands also need to have confidence in their set lists and
some familiarity with how the crowds will respond to different songs.
 

EricT43

Senior Member
Agreeing with the previous posts, very unprofessional.

Singers do have some latitude to call audibles in certain situations IMO. However, bands also need to have confidence in their set lists and
some familiarity with how the crowds will respond to different songs.
I agree with you there. I like to refine the set list over time. Every gig you learn something, and you can tweak your set list to make it better.

I may start looking for another band, but unfortunately in my town, this is the norm for the average bar band. Which is another reason why I want to step up our game. If we go out there sounding polished and can play for 3 hours with minimal downtime, we will blow the other bands out of the water.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
If we go out there sounding polished and can play for 3 hours with minimal downtime, we will blow the other bands out of the water.

That's an excellent point, unless the band is already working a lot. Then the singer's not gonna buy it.

But if there are gigs that other bands are getting, and your band isn't working so much, tightening-up is a good selling point. I assume the band would like to work more?
 
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