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5 Tips when Selecting Music for a Concert or Band Gig: Making a Good Music Performance Great

Classical Spectacular used ordinary stage ligh...

5 Tips when Selecting Music for a Concert or Band Gig: Making a Good Music Performance Great

Whether you play in a rock band or a string quartet, choosing what music to include in a concert or gig can make or break a performance.

In my twenty-five years as a musician and avid music enthusiast, I have attended or performed in hundreds, if not a thousand, live music performances. While the quality of the performers, the venue, the audience size, etc., had much to do with the success of each music performance, the song choice really impacted the overall quality of the music concert. Follow these five tried-and-true music tips next time you need to choose which song to perform at your next music concert.

1. Make a music sandwich.
Think of your typical sandwich. Delicious meats and savory condiments partitioned between slices of sumptuous fresh bread. The bread in your concert should be faster, exciting songs. These are songs that will excite the audience when you begin the concert and will have them leaving the music concert remembering you and your music. For a long concert or recital, you might even want to throw in an extra upbeat, exciting song or two in the middle, just to keep the audience excited about the music. Take your other pieces and decide which pieces work best in relation to the other songs. Do a few of the songs follow a theme? Do you have any costuming or lighting cues that would work well with several songs to even create a short story line?


2. Variety, variety, variety.
Being largely involved in experimental and electronic music, I have gone to more than half a dozen concerts that involved an hour or more of continuous electronic music while an audience sits, watches nothing, and attempts to stay awake during the entire show. This also can pertain to classical music concerts, where nodding off without anyone noticing has almost become an art in itself - just attend any school of music recital where college students are required to attend. You will find the snoozers in the back, pretending to read the program, head slumped over in napping bliss.

Choose a different variety of songs. Have too many slow pieces? Then add in a more upbeat piece. Are all of your songs set to a super-fast dance beat that sends the audience into a frenzy? Then change things up by arranging an easy-going jazzy ballade version of your most familiar tune. Performing in a string quartet with all Baroque material? Add a video to one of the pieces or find a contemporary arrangement of the song. Add a guest artist or an unusual instrument. The point is to present your music in a way that engages the audience. Experiment.

There are ways to present your music without boring the audience. Remember, the younger your audience, the bigger the chance that "long" for them can be a three minute You Tube video. Change things up. You can do something as simple as a lighting or costume change or a short section of spoken text, or something as crazy as pyrotechnics, extras running like mad through the audience, flashy multimedia, or an impromptu mosh pit. 

Do not compromise your music's integrity, in anything you do. You don't want to add a crazy costume just because you think it will help a boring concert. It won't.

3. The concert time is not rehearsal time.
If you don't know the music a week before the performance, cut the song out. I had a wise music professor tell me that the audience will never judge you for what you left out, only for what you kept in. In other words, if you have 7 amazing songs, but a so-so eighth one, then shave off that last piece. The audience will never miss it. And the last thing you want them to remember is that one song that your band only hacked through.

4. Let the music follow a wave.
In other words, a fast song should be followed by a slower song, an experimental crazy song should be followed by something mellower. It is the creation of tension, release, and resolution over and over during a concert that can really move an audience.

5. Be flexible.
Maybe the audience wants three encores, maybe the improv section on that jazz set last twenty minutes longer because the vibe is so good, or maybe your ten minute solo has to be cut to two minutes because the amp blew out. Be flexible and be prepared. Always have a back-up plan and then another back-up plan behind that one.
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SABRINA PEÑA YOUNG

Works performed internationally at the Beijing Conservatory, the International Computer Music Conference, Miramax's Project Greenlight, the Athena Festival, the New York International Independent Film Festival, Art Basil Miami, Turkey's Cinema for Peace, Art Miami, and Pulsefield International Exhibition of Sound Art, the Holland Animation Film Festival, Australasian Computer Music Confetence, Buffalo's Women and Arts Festival, and countless venues worldwide.


Contact Sabrina Peña Young for your next creative project, educational program, conference, or special event: Spenayoung@gmail.com 

Young is the foremost expert on virtual opera production and online collaboration with the debut of her machinima opera Libertaria: The Virtual OperaLibertaria includes a live international cast and film crew, virtual choirs, sound synthesis, machinima, and contemporary choral writing, produced entirely online using crowdsourcing, social networking, and the Internet. Libertaria premiered October 5th, 2013 in Lake Worth, Florida, with additional screenings at the Buffalo Women and Arts Festival, the UK-site Moviestorm, the Holland Animation Film Festival, and other venues. 


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