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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Art Of Show Dynamics

There was a great post on the We All Make Music blog the other day called "What Does YOUR Set Look Like" regarding how 4 major acts developed their sets. Each of these acts did it differently but there were some common traits, like the place in the set where each peaked.

While you definitely should read the article, I thought that it dovetailed nicely into an excerpt from my band improvement book "How To Make Your Band Sound Great" on the same subject.

For some artists and bands the art of set dynamics seems to be inherent, while some never get the hand of it. For those of you who don't have your audience begging for more at the end of your set, try what's outlined below.

Like we said in Chapter 8, dynamics also applies to a set or show as well.  You want to make sure that the show builds in intensity and peaks at the right time.  It might start off with a couple of songs that are a 7 or 8 in intensity with a 10 being the most intense, back off to a ballad or something acoustic in the middle of the set that’s a 3 or 4, then end the set with an 8 or 10.  Once again, tension and release at work.
Let’s look at a typical set list for a 45 minute set or show:
Song 1 - intensity level 8
Song 2 - intensity level 8
Singer speaks to audience, guitarist changes guitars
Song 3 - intensity level 7
Song 4 - intensity level 6 (alternative Song 4A - intensity level 6)
Singer speaks to audience, sets up next song, guitarist changes guitars, drummer on percussion
Song 5 - intensity level 5
Song 6 - intensity level 7 (guitarist changes  guitars, drummer back to drums during intro)
Singer speaks to audience, keyboard player sets up backing tracks
Song 7 - intensity level 8 (alternative Song 7A - intensity level 8)
Song 8 - intensity level 10
Encore - intensity level 10
As you can see, the songs are set up so all changes are smooth and there’s no extra time taken between songs.  Also, alternative songs are predetermined (called “audibles” just like in football) and everyone knows what’s going to happen in the set.  If you give some thought to your show or set and practice it at rehearsal so everything is smooth, you’ll be surprised just how professional you will come off.
Another thing - the old showbiz adage of “always leave them wanting more” really works.  You’re a lot better off to leave too early than too late, so sometimes just a single encore song (or none at all) is really the best.
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