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Your Set List

Let the context of your show shape your response –says Shlomo

So, there I am, just before walking out on stage, scribbling some notes on the back of a crinkled-up piece of paper.

My set list.

I’m trying assess the ‘feel’ of the room – trying to match what I’m going to do with where the crowd is at.

At least that’s what I do for one of my solo performance shows.

However, if you were to bump into me before one of the theatrical shows, where I am singing with my group, you wouldn’t find me scribbling – that set list is worked out long in advance.

When other singers, musicians and technical people are involved in a show, they just have to know the list well ahead of time.

But even then there’s still room for spontaneity, through what we will do in the improv sections, for example.

Creating the List

The set list: it’s there to be followed, ignored, transformed, thrown out, slavishly adhered to and changed at the last minute.

The main thing is that you have one.

But how do you construct a set list?

Context is the key.

Key Questions for Your Performance

Here are some questions you can ask before a performance to make a judgment about the context:

What’s the room like? How full will the venue be? What the mood of the audience likely to be in that night? Are you the first act on – or are you following a group? If following another act, what is the musical state they might be left in by that group – and where might you want to take them? Do you want to have a back-up list to cool an audience down – or to suddenly get them up and dancing? What are the variables you can easily change, drop and rearrange on your list?

There are more questions you can ask –I’d like to see yours below this post in the comments.

But simply asking the questions, coming up with your best shot at the answers and writing your list will push your performance ahead.

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Chris Commisso – Selena Gomez Cover

Chris: Love your energy – a really confident performance. You sing with a lot of feeling and strong rhythmic variation. Lovely improvisations and flourishes: these add a lot of color and keep the performance interesting. Even when you ran out of ad-libs you kept our attention and made us smile. More, please!

Mikey – Frank Ocean Cover

Mikey, You have a lot of soul in your voice and it’s clear that you sing with passion and meaning. I think your performance would benefit from a little more discipline when it comes to rhythm – especially when you sing without a backing track or band. If you imagine a clear pulse in your head as you are singing, it will help you to have a stronger and more consistent rhythm. Clapping your hands, clicking your fingers or tapping your feet will also help, and add an extra element to your performance.


Check out Shlomo’s exclusive VoiceCouncil Interview – he discusses his most embarrassing, challenging and productive moments…

Shlomo gave up astrophysics to perform his amazing vocal pyrotechnics. It was a good move. Since then he has won global acclaim and worked with some of the biggest names in music. He’s the 2011 winner of the World Loopstation Championships in LA and is now knee deep in a dizzying festival season including Glastonbury and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His next project is a brand new vocal project called “Shlomo and the Lip Factory” which launches with a new EP and mini tour in October. You can check out his latest news, tunes, videos and competitions at http://facebook.com/shlomizzle or

  • girlrookie

    Great advice on the questions. Thanks! When doing a solo gig, how should you arrange the songs once you decide on them? Should you take audience requests?? And what should you do/say if someone requests a song you don’t know? Just how many songs equals one set? How long is a set usually? I’ve never done a gig before and I’m just building up the courage to go out on my own and sing at local venues with my own PA system and background music on my macbook.

  • Oh thanks, i appriciate that!