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Old 08-06-2012, 09:12 AM
tfs4473 tfs4473 is offline
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Default For those who play in public, what songs go over the best for you?

So I've been playing at open mics around the area for a few months, and I've reached the point that I'm playing about once a week (occasionally sometimes twice).

After performing last night I was asked if I'd like to do some 1-2 hour gigs at small venues (bistros, coffee houses, etc.) in the future. I don't have a particularly deep play list, so I'm soliciting suggestions for songs that go over well with your audiences.

Some background: I'm an intermediate player, usually up there alone, playing a Martin acoustic/electric. I'm a better strummer/picker, but can muddle through some basic fingerpcking, too. Am working on being a better singer (and actually I feel pretty good about that part now... much improved over the last few months). I usually play 60s-present pop/rock covers, as well as some instrumental originals, but am willing to incorporate songs from other genres to broaden my repertoire.

Thom
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:19 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Well, you gotta read your audience...there's few tunes that work ALL the time.

My best advice is the stuff that will go over the best is the stuff YOU can play the best.

There's some stuff that has a high success factor, though...Beatles done well, "left field" covers I played with a "newgrassy" group once that did Cyndi Lauper's "time after time"-- nobody ever saw it coming...taking a tune and radically changing it works too...Other stuff...hmmm...Johnny Cash is as popular as ever, young folks would get a charge out of something like Radiohead, Buffet and Eagles usually work with the Forty-ish crowd...

But you gotta read that audience...you never know...
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:47 AM
tfs4473 tfs4473 is offline
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Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
Well, you gotta read your audience...there's few tunes that work ALL the time.

My best advice is the stuff that will go over the best is the stuff YOU can play the best.

There's some stuff that has a high success factor, though...Beatles done well, "left field" covers I played with a "newgrassy" group once that did Cyndi Lauper's "time after time"-- nobody ever saw it coming...taking a tune and radically changing it works too...Other stuff...hmmm...Johnny Cash is as popular as ever, young folks would get a charge out of something like Radiohead, Buffet and Eagles usually work with the Forty-ish crowd...

But you gotta read that audience...you never know...
Agreed. Nevertheless, I think it's good to seek out songs beyond what I like to play and build into my set list songs that go over well, even if I wouldn't normally have selected them.

While it's not likely that I'll play a country bar, I bet there are some country songs that are requested by non-country audiences, or go over well with them. The same for hard rock. I wouldn't necessarily build a set around AC/DC for the average coffee house, but I have played an instrumental version of Red Barchetta that went over well. I found that Warren Zevon goes over well with a pretty wide audience spectrum. Tom Petty, too.

So I'm still curious what members have found are play list "musts," have been notably successful, turned out better than expected, etc.

And everything I play sounds like I'm playing it, not so much like a copy of the original. Not a good enough guitarist or singer at this point to provide a truly faithful rendition, so no matter what it is, it's going to be my take on it.

Thom
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfs4473 View Post
...I'm soliciting suggestions for songs that go over well with your audiences.
Hi Thom...

It's all about audience when it comes to what goes over well. At a nursing home, the swing stuff from the 30s-n-40s is a hit. At a coffee house in the summer, slow/mellow songs tend to loose themselves amid ice-crushers.

At an Italian restaurant, pop or country is not so popular.

Coffee houses and bistros - you are probably live musak so whatever you play will be equally appreciated and if you are too loud the conversational level of the establishment may increase as well.

And as token acoustic duo for two different Bluegrass shows (been there…twice), I can tell you if it ain't bluegrass, the sets are much shorter if the promoter only likes bluegrass (and wonders why they invited you in the first place).

Really, you need to feel your way into it and see what kind of gig it is. You could go see what others play there (if others play there regularly).

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Old 08-06-2012, 10:59 AM
Hotspur Hotspur is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfs4473 View Post

After performing last night I was asked if I'd like to do some 1-2 hour gigs at small venues (bistros, coffee houses, etc.) in the future. I don't have a particularly deep play list, so I'm soliciting suggestions for songs that go over well with your audiences.
The problem is that the songs that work well for me might not work well for you. It's not just about reading your audience, it's about finding songs that work well with who you are as a performer - where you can find (and express) some emotional truth.

That being said, I find the Beatles catalog to be a really deep well of material that a wide variety of audiences connect with. I have to be careful in my set planning otherwise I could find myself using them as a crutch too much.
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Old 08-06-2012, 12:08 PM
tfs4473 tfs4473 is offline
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The problem is that the songs that work well for me might not work well for you. It's not just about reading your audience, it's about finding songs that work well with who you are as a performer - where you can find (and express) some emotional truth.

That being said, I find the Beatles catalog to be a really deep well of material that a wide variety of audiences connect with. I have to be careful in my set planning otherwise I could find myself using them as a crutch too much.
Very true, and I think you addressed my question a little by mentioning the Beatles. They aren't a band that I listen to much (please don't disavow me), but of course they are very popular. So that's a good suggestion for a place to start looking for a song or two to have handy if the venue warrants it. (Any suggestions of two or three that get frequent requests?)

I played at a bar a couple of weeks ago and my version of "Pinball Wizard" was met with as positive response as someone else's Travis Tritt song. Then a fellow played a version of "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" in a somewhat unconventional way, and it worked great. So I took away from that evening that I might not play many country venues, but it might be useful to have a couple of country tunes handy that people have found work well for them. The same thing for maybe ballads, pop tunes, even a metal song that converts well to acoustic and the performer has had success before.

Anyway, I appreciate any further suggestions.

Thom
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:04 PM
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Mr Fixit eh Mr Fixit eh is offline
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I've had advise given that you're best to pick top ten type songs on the charts. Generally if tunes hit the charts well during their debut, they'll be popular.

Steve
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Old 08-07-2012, 12:58 AM
pallec pallec is offline
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As already written, it very much depends on the audience, but I have found that these songs are always popular, regardless of the crowd (maybe not including teenagers :-)):

Whiskey in the jar
The wild rover
Hotel California
Bad moon rising
American Pie
Brown eyed girl
Free bird
Sweet home Alabama
Wonderful tonight

Everybody knows these and can sing along, which is important IMO.

There are more more. but these are the ones that came to mind.
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Old 08-07-2012, 01:07 AM
thelowerlip thelowerlip is offline
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Wagon Wheel
Seems to work every time. I don´t know what´s up with that.
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Old 08-07-2012, 01:47 AM
71jasper 71jasper is offline
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You've gotten a lot of good advice and a few song suggestions. I'd add a word about your setlist - don't set it in stone. Be prepard to deviate if the situation seems to warrant it. If the next song on your list is "Longer" and the motorcycle gang has just come in, a rethinking might be in order. It's also good to plan for birthday announcements, girls who want to sing, and the unpredicable demands of drunks. Have fun.
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Old 08-07-2012, 01:20 PM
Toby001 Toby001 is offline
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Songs that you don't expect to hear from an acoustic player. You can bring down the house with Blondie's Heart of Glass when you get the audience singing the "Ooh ooh ohh uh" part.
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Old 08-08-2012, 02:44 PM
tfs4473 tfs4473 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 71jasper View Post
You've gotten a lot of good advice and a few song suggestions. I'd add a word about your setlist - don't set it in stone. Be prepard to deviate if the situation seems to warrant it. If the next song on your list is "Longer" and the motorcycle gang has just come in, a rethinking might be in order. It's also good to plan for birthday announcements, girls who want to sing, and the unpredicable demands of drunks. Have fun.
Now that's a good topic for a different thread: "Things you ought to know when you start out playing in public, but no one ever seems to tell you."

Thanks, all, for the comments.

Thom
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Old 08-08-2012, 04:35 PM
Dark Eyed Junko Dark Eyed Junko is offline
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Of course, it totally depends on the venue, audience, occasion, etc., but there seem to be a few tunes I can play at absolutely any gig, and they go over well:

You Send Me (Sam Cooke)
I'm Yours (Jason Mraz)
Better Together (Jack Johnson)
Waiting In Vain (Bob Marley)
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Old 08-09-2012, 08:16 AM
oldhippiegal oldhippiegal is offline
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Have funny songs and sing-along songs on the list, too. If they're watching you, engaging them through laughter or singing makes them happier still.
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