Arlen Roth on Planning a Set List
The rhythm and pace with which your show moves is a truly critical element of your live performances, and I know that the planning of a list for your set(s) can sometimes be rather nerve-wracking! One of the most important things to be aware of when planning out your show, is to really “feel out” which tunes will make best sense performed “live”, while some are better off remaining songs you’ve recorded, but are better off left “un-played” in public!
Another key element, and perhaps the most important, is to be flexible as you hit that stage. Once you get into your show for example, you may see that the crowd is leaning a certain way, and that the song list you have planned may not be all to their liking, and in fact might be a bit tricky for you also to navigate! It has happened to me on many occasions that I have found myself simply calling out a totally different song than I have on my list to the rest of the guys, simply because it feels right to do it then and there, and the “vibe” just points to the change being the right thing!
When you are performing solo, it’s usually an easier thing to just essentially “pull songs out of your hat” and to shift the momentum of the performance to really suit the situation. In fact, it’s a really good skill to hone as you become a more and more seasoned performer, since it’ll really help you to be relaxed onstage, and will help you get that nice “flowing” feeling that you’ll be able to lend to your shows.
It can sometimes throw the band a bit off when I do this, because they are a bit more “locked in” on what the show was about to be, and I am also relying on their knowledge of the entire possible “master” list so I can count on their ability to also “shift” with me.
So make sure to always plan your sets well, but always stay on your toes when it comes to being aware and flexible when you need to shift the order of songs, or even eliminate some. Hey, you might even realize, as I often do, that I totally forgot to put in some key songs that I normally always include in my show!! So stay focused, but stay flexible!