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Improve Your Bands Set - Make 30 Minute Sets Great

Updated on October 15, 2012

How many songs?

The first obvious thing you need to be thinking about is how many songs can you fit in to your time slot? If you have 30 minutes get an idea for how long each song is and work out how many songs you can fit in. If you run over you make the whole gig run late, possibly cut the headliners slot short and stress the promoter, bands and engineer out!
Remember you don’t have to fill your set list. If you don’t have enough songs your confident playing then don’t play them. Think about it, you will come away with a better impression of a band if you hear them play five well rehearsed killer songs than five great songs and two they kinda messed up in the middle.


Do you know what key your songs are in? NO?! get to know, and what ever you do, don’t put lots of songs with the same key together. If your wanting one song to really make an impact make sure the song before isn’t in the same key and maybe even a tone or two below the next one. Doing this will make the impact song sound fresh & uplifting.

Song tempo & Energy

The most important thing you need to consider is designing the flow of the set. Were are the big, energetic fast songs going to go? Were are the slower love songs going to sit? What about that funky number you have?
A great starting point is to hit the audience with one or two big high energy catchy songs, ones they can sing along to if you have a following.
You cant keep the energy levels up max for the whole set, you will need to bring is down a notch or two for the next couple of songs. There is a great picture below that I saw from This Site that describes how your energy levels in a set should develop.

Energy Levels in a set list

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More Tips

Hear are some more great tips you can take on board when looking to keep the punters interested.

When your looking to build your set up after the first time you drop it down try playing a tune that is a little more funky than your other tunes. It makes people move there feet a little and gets them in the mood for something a bit more. A funky tune seems to add a little tension, pick your next song to act as a release.

Want to keep the energy level up later on in the set but think its getting a little boring? Try a song in 6/8! Most punters don’t know quite what it is but they like it!


Ok so it’s the end of the set, you’ve played all your songs and ended on your best song, the anthem that everyone sings along to. A couple of shouts for an encore and your back up playing another song, anything will do. But why play another? Why not keep them wanting more? You just played your best song, surly it could only get worse?!
I think you should only play an encore if everyone wants one, and I mean really wants one.

And only play one if you’re the last band up, that a rule.

There are a few things you can do to make an encore work though. As you all know, songs are about tension and release. Your set list is too and Ive touched on this already. Use this knowledge and end on a tune that builds tension throughout and doesn’t release. By the end of the song the crowd should want some form of release, call for an encore & then you can finish on your crowd pleaser.


Next time you go to see a big band playing a gig or a well established & respected local band, try and think about how they have structured there set and see if you can take some ideas from them.

Even listening to an album will give you some idea of songs that work together. Bands dont just throw songs on the album in any old order, they spend weeks working on which songs fit together to create the mood they are looking for.

And remember, set craft is an art form, you won't get it right first time. Keep adjusting the songs depending on audience reaction and advice from people who do it well.

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