"How Many Songs" for a 3-Hour Solo Gig?


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Ahoy the forum from the coast of Maine.

I haven't played out solo or in a band for decades (agreed, way too long!), but I'm starting to get the "itch" to get back into it -- for fun, not for the money. For a 3-hour solo gig playing background music (solo piano, or maybe with a 2nd board for pads) at a lunch or brunch at an upscale brew pub or restaurant, I'm curious what you all think about the number of songs needed ?

At 4 minutes per song, that's 15 X 3 or 45 songs, but I'm thinking some of you may already have 2X to 4X that many songs all memorized (to change the mix based on the clientele, or to allow for a few requests) and possibly even more, if you have some lead sheets on an iPad.

Any thoughts on the number of songs, and the use of an iPad/lead sheets to expand your playlist?

Thanks in advance.

Old No7
 
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My band had 50 songs in our set list. We played three 45 minute sets with very little chat between songs. Breaks were 10 to 15 minutes. You might get a request from someone so be prepared to handle that. Did we play all 50 songs? No, we usually hit 45 but wanted a 5 song cushion just in case.
 
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Have you actually timed any of your songs? I'm working on prepping for a 3 hour gig myself, just me and a drummer. What I'm finding is that the songs seem to be a little on the short side and not the length of time I might have if there were someone else or several someone elses to "take a ride" (solo) other than just me. I only have so many "something interesting"s and 3 hours is a long time.

Right now I have about 60 songs at my fingertips that I could play fairly easily, some of them barely make 2 minutes, though I have found that sometimes songs need a buddy (playing similar songs together extending them, maybe going back and forth between them). Probably 40 or so I need nothing, no notes, no music, nothing to prompt. As I add on more songs, I do tend to need a little prompting of some kind and have a book of some lead sheets that I'll use for said prompting, along with just a plain sheet with names of songs, key, tempo, and maybe even a note or two to jog my memory about something in particular. I suspect as I play more, I'll find myself less interested in the book and just playing. I play 99% by ear and the notes / lead sheets are only there to get it worked into my brain.

Three hours is a long time. We are dividing up this gig into three segments. 1) Full hour. / fifteen minute break / 2) 45 minutes. / fifteen minute break / 3) 45 minutes. Yeah, that's only 2.5 hours. But... we may end up going past on that last segment, and if people are enjoying it and want more, we'll go with the flow. I'm pretty sure we'll have more songs than time to play anyway. And if pushed, we could either 1) repeat, or 2) pull from some less familiar songs that could vary by the mood.

I find that upbeat is actually the hardest to sustain. The hands and arms get tired when going hard and fast, they just do. And I'm an ol' fart. LOL!! And since it's just me and the drummer, I gotta make it as full and big as I can. Had hoped maybe we could pick up a bass player at least but for now...

Anyway, good luck!
 
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Good luck to you, thanks for the feedback.

I have not timed all the songs on my set yet; I was just looking to get ideas if I was on the right track. I think I am, and now I'm thinking "more is more"... Meaning I'd rather have an extra 30 songs or so at the ready, even if they require lead sheets, so I can mix it up and/or tailor it to the crowd or maybe do a few requests.

I just read this interesting stat:
Spotify has 22 million tracks uploaded in a single year, which means that a new song enters Spotify every 1.4 seconds. In total, Spotify has over 90 million tracks in its database.

Now they're not all top hits or well known songs, but there's been an amazing number of top hit songs that were released in the 53 years I've been playing the keyboards -- never mind all those older tunes and some popular classical tunes folks like to hear; oh, and some movie soundtracks as well -- and I'll plan to have a mix of popular songs from the top bands or artists, maybe strung into a medley.

For sure, it is really intimidating to try and think that anyone could ever meet any request that is ever made. But hey, my gigs will be background music -- they're there for the food & drinks and to be with their friends/family -- it's not a concert.

Old No7
 
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For sure, it is really intimidating to try and think that anyone could ever meet any request that is ever made. But hey, my gigs will be background music -- they're there for the food & drinks and to be with their friends/family -- it's not a concert.

I hear ya!

I'm kinda new at this "venue". I played church stuff for nearly 50 years. There, I was actually pretty comfortable with most requests. Now that I'm out of that scene, it's a whole new world. I recently got a hold of several "fake books", five different ones. There are something close to 1,000 songs in there. Not all of them are "complete" as it's pretty common to have an A section and a B section, but may be missing a C or D section that recordings may have on them. But I'm getting better at picking those things out of recordings if I take the time to do it.

Mostly, I'm doing 20's, 30's, 40's, and a bit into the 50's, jazz, swing, that kind of feel. The biggest challenge is trying to get BIG sounds with just a keyboard. 10 piece band I ain't. I can fudge a bit adding strings and splitting a bass sound off for the left hand but there are limits to where I can go with that. There might be some possibilities adding some more sounds through additional sound modules / keyboards / midi, fun stuff like that, perhaps playing more like I might have done with a big church organ. (I did do that for a while, had a lot of fun at a regular gig in New Orleans. Just shy of roller skating music worked great! Memories...)

The gig coming up is, well, I'm not sure the right word for it. It's in a building that has a nice restaurant and a bar, they're rooms side by side and are connected. There is a small stage on one side of the bar with a small dance floor where we'll call home for a few hours towards the end of February. So... there will be eating, there will be drinking, there will be music, maybe some dancing??, if they wanna, and I honestly don't know how much they'll be paying attention to us playing. Background? Or more? Dunno. The plan is to have fun and let it happen, with at least minimal preparation for the "Anniversary Waltz", the "Tennessee Waltz", the "Kentucky Waltz", and of course the old standby, "Happy Birthday!" LOL!!. I'm sure I'll have some butterflies and I'll hit some wrong notes, that's life. But like you said, it's not a "concert". And this ain't Carnegie Hall. LOL!! If it goes well, we may get invited back, we'll see.

Anyway, best of luck!
 
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10 piece band I ain't. I can fudge a bit adding strings and splitting a bass sound off for the left hand but there are limits to where I can go with that....

I'm thinking of using splits and layers on my Roland RD-88, and if you get creative you can add a voice way up the keyboard, then adjust the pitch down so it sounds in the same range as the piano. For instance, for "Color My World" by Chicago, I play the piano arpeggios with the left hand, and further up the keyboard, I have a flute sound for the solo, but it sounds in the correct range. I also do this on "Dust In The Wind" by Kansas, with a 12-string guitar tone for left hand, and I do the verse with higher-pitched guitar; then further up the board I play the violin solo, and again it's pitched down to sound in the correct octave,

There might be some possibilities adding some more sounds through additional sound modules / keyboards / midi, fun stuff like that, perhaps...

I may also use my Hammond SK Pro 73 on an upper tier, so I can add organ, e-piano, strings or synth sounds without messing with the RD-88 -- or my using the split and octave shift (for range) option I mentioned above on the SK -- I could have 2 voices on the RD and 2 more on the SK. I am starting to work up some registrations for that now.

The gig coming up is, well, I'm not sure the right word for it. It's in a building that has a nice restaurant and a bar, they're rooms side by side and are connected. There is a small stage on one side of the bar with a small dance floor where we'll call home for a few hours towards the end of February. So... there will be eating, there will be drinking, there will be music, maybe some dancing??, if they wanna, and I honestly don't know how much they'll be paying attention to us playing. Background? Or more? Dunno. The plan is to have fun and let it happen, with at least minimal preparation for the "Anniversary Waltz", the "Tennessee Waltz", the "Kentucky Waltz", and of course the old standby, "Happy Birthday!"

Holy schmoly! I forgot all about learning "Happy Birthday"!!! Geez, that could have cost me some tips...

Good luck with your gig! Report back on how it goes.

Old No7
 

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