The art of making a set list is something that peaked my interest as I've been playing in an original/cover, blues/pop/hard rock project recently; one who's members have the capacity to easily draw from around 70-80 songs, consisting of everything from old Hendrix blues rock, 00's and 90s pop/alt rock like 3 doors down, Weezer etc. and an albums worth of originals. Anyway, I was curious if its ever an industry practice to use some kind of formula for rotating songs in, out, up and down the set lists? I'd like to have some kind of system that's there not only just to make sure each night has a noticeably different set and that bar-goers won't hear us repeat too many songs, but that the tunes that make obviously better intro songs, ending songs, encores, or simply sound good next to each, are more likely to be placed in that position on the list.

Any national/global touring band are always going to play their most popular songs/radio singles and fill the rest of their set with their best sounding pieces that weren't released beyond the album.

...however a band like say... Metallica, for example, (just using them because they have SO many songs, no hating!) has such a huge selection of music to choose from. A list with an easy 100 ish songs (most of which are well liked amongst fans), some choice between shorter and longer songs, a large amount of singles(45 total, even though most are rarely heard), and a long list of covers.

-How do bands with a huge discographies like that pick songs each night?

-How do YOU pick your bands set list, how many songs do you have to choose from, and what considerations do you make when placing songs on the list?

-Do the most popular songs always have to be played?

-Does your band play any instrumentals? Do songs with vocals get more priority over instrumentals when making a set list?

-Do any members of your band get 2-3ish minutes to have their own unaccompanied solos?

-Do you include covers or originals that are considered long? (6-7+ minutes)

-If you are playing all or mostly covers, do you consider how recognizable/popular a cover might be when deciding on its inclusion in the set?

-Do you plan the inclusion of improvisation and jams in your set? If so, do you limit them to time windows or let them run their course? Do you jam on specific songs, or does a band member make up a riff/beat/bassline and have the band follow along?

-Do you ever change your set based on your perception of an audiences musical preferences?

-Are there any notable bands that use mathematical formulas to differentiate sets from night to night?

-Have you ever used such a formula with your own set or know of one that's useful?

sorry thats way too much... thats what happens when you take speed and start writing a post. answer whatever you prefer.
Hai 2 u
Last edited by Roads5 at Jul 11, 2009,
Quote by Roads5
-How do bands with a huge discographies, like that pick songs each night?

This one caught my eye, so i'll answer this. I'm going to use Shinedown (flameshield engage!) as a reference.

This is their set list for their most recent tour

Cry For Help
I Dare you*
If You Only Knew
Burning Bright*
Call Me
Left Out
Sound of Madness
Crow & Butterfly
Fly From The Inside*
(the following are encores and are all singles)
Second Chance
Save Me


Notice how they play ALL of their singles? It's because thats what the majority of the fans want to hear. Other songs in the set, like Call Me, are chosen because they can give the fans a rest from the heavier stuff with a piano ballad. Your opening songs are usually the songs that represent the band the most. And your closers are usually the most popular, or the most energetic.
making setlists is also very different depending on what kind of band u r.

say ur purely a cover band that plays in bars and maybe some local events every weekend. Your going to want to arrange ur setlist so that the majority (and i mean like atleast 85%) of your songs are very popular ones that people can dance, party, or at least do something with. Say, where i live, if you go to a local bar and play "Sweet Home Alabama" everyone will scream and dance, even though its one of the most overplayed/over rated songs in the world, (i dont think its a bad song, ive just heard it sooo many times..) but if you play "Sultans of Swing" everyone just sits there and stares at u, then u get pissed because it took your band a lot of work to pull off sultans of swing and make it sound good :/

if ur shinedown ^^^ (see guy above) everyone goes crazy just cause ur shinedown lol so just play something and youll be alright....

so the art of setlists really depends on who you are.....
Last edited by Jamisonm17 at Jul 13, 2009,
This is what Bob Weir said:
Start with two songs of the same tempo and then one half that tempo, this will lock the audience into a pulse, and save a good song that people know for an encore
There are two main ways to start a set, 'atmospheric' or a sudden 'in your face' beginning.
Both essentialy do the same job, they grab the audience's attention.
From there, try to vary the set, both tempo-wise and key-wise as much as you can, this keeps the crowd interested.
Play your second to best song as the last 'official' song of the night and leave the best for an encore. Plenty on bands tend to make the encore something that's up-tempo and catchy, because that then has the audience leaving the venue at the end of the night humming your music.
If it's apparent that you are not going to get an encore (for instance if you are supporting someone or if it's just a really unresponsive audience) then just play it as the last song.
I don't have a band yet but these are my thoughts

-How do bands with a huge discographies like that pick songs each night?
In theory they will have "staple" songs, that they always plays in the cause of Metallica, Sandman, One ...Puppets etc so always these, then many songs that fans would like to hear but arent the most famous (again Metallica) "Battery" and songs of various types from different albums for variety

-Do the most popular songs always have to be played?
Yes, they are probably the songs are fair oercenr of the audience are there to see

-Do any members of your band get 2-3ish minutes to have their own unaccompanied solos?
No, but probably a bad idea

-Do you include covers or originals that are considered long? (6-7+ minutes)
In my ideal band...yes (Opeth)
Many bands have "long songs" eg Metallica, Opeth. Dream Theater

-If you are playing all or mostly covers, do you consider how recognizable/popular a cover might be when deciding on its inclusion in the set?
Probably a good idea but if you play for example Death Metal in a support slot for say a screamo,emo/metalcore band your choices such as "Christians to the Lions" will not be as popular with thay crows as say a -core song
So, yes and no depends on venue and headlining or support

my $0.02
Quote by Wretched_Spawn
IWhat he said.. and then some
The way Metallica usually does it is they take one of their songs from the intro of one of their albums, say Blackened, or recently, theyve been using the first song off Death Magnetic, That Was Just Your Life. They then follow with a newer song, followed by some of their older songs, then a slower song that gets heavy at the end, such as One of Sanitarium, then they play some of their newer stuff again, followed by Master of Puppets, or some huge, long song like that right in the middle of the set. Then they end with some of their more mainstream songs, then come back out for an encore by playing a cover or two, then an old song off Kill 'Em All, then usually Seek and Destroy. So basically it goes like this

Good beginner song based off albums
Newer songs
Older songs
Slower or heavy songs
Longer songs in middle of set
A handful of singles with maybe some lesser known songs thrown in
More well known covers
End with something powerful that will make a memorable encore or ending song.

Just my two cents. And I just used Metallica because you did, and I know their setlist pretty well.