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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am going to set a goal of putting together a set list to start hustling for my first gig, aiming for this summer as the vaccine hopefully will help get things back to normal around then.

How many standards do you think I should have down for a 1 hour set? I'm thinking about hitting up a couple of steak houses around town.

There aren't many musicians in this town so I'll be focusing on playing with backing tacks to start.

Thanks and I would love to hear about your "First gig" type stories. Please share your experiences!
 

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Well, if you're playing with backing tracks I guess that makes things easier as you know how long each one is!

It's been a while since I played a standards gig (😂/😭), but it depends a lot on the line up and how long everyone plays - quartet with bass solos is going to be fewer tunes than duo. I'd say maybe 15-20 tunes to be comfortable that you're not going to run out?

Good luck!
 

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Depends how long you solo for.......
Well, with backing tracks, that would be "constantly".

OP, as someone who used to do just this, I have two suggestions:

1) Keep things moving, no one wants to hear 18 choruses of anything. This means more tunes, which is more preparation, but it also means more changes of texture and tempo and key and so on - in other words, more interesting. Even as background, you want some degree of interesting. If instead of you, they were going to play canned music, say "soft rock of the 70s" they'd be playing the 3:30 radio versions, not the 13:00 album version complete with 4:00 drum solo.

2) Use more than one instrument if you can double. In a band situation you have multiple instruments coming to the foreground, which adds interest and reduces ear fatigue. When I used to do this I was almost always on flute - but I would mix that up with alto flute and even a bit of keyboards (you don't have to be Horowitz to play a simple melodic line on keys for one chorus). Most of the time in my experience any of the saxophones were too loud. Be prepared for this, and if you play flute or clarinet bring it, is my recommendation.
 

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Not a standard (although it's standard on my playlist), but Tower of Power's "Knock Yourself Out" is 23 minutes long with Lenny Pickett's solo being about 9 minutes. So follow that formula and play three songs. Can you imagine Lenny's solo at a steakhouse?
 

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Most players cant pull off a 9 minute solo if people are actually listening.

heck...with the attention span of modern audiences a tune over 3 minutes is too long.
 

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I would say 10-15 would be plenty, depends on the situation. When playing in background type settings I often use this as an opportunity to stretch out on tune. I'm not saying to work all solos to a frothy lather but maybe take an exta chorus or two to work the changes.
 

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Jokes aside, in that setting, I think melody is key. People who are not there for the music but enjoy the atmosphere will appreciate the familiarity of a standard, not necessarily the 32 bar solo. I would certainly say to solo to let yourself have fun and stretch out, but I’m a strong believer in the KISS method.
I think 3-4 per song is plenty. 2 versus, bridge, solo, verse, and out
 

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Learning to play to your room while still having fun is the key on these gigs. Sometimes they turn into more fun and lively sessions as you build an audience, other times you’re really just background noise/ ambiance. It’s important to decide exactly what your goals are and have a plan with the owner/ management for both what’s expected at the start and where/ what the event might grow to over time. Try booking/ getting a 3 or 6 month commitment for a weekly hit to allow you and the venue a chance to see what can happen and build on it. Good luck!
on the what to play front: definitely at least start out with a mix of well-known tunes and, especially when using tracks, keep the solos short because it’s just you doing karaoke and going off the rails with backing tracks is just weird 🤣...medium to up tunes go melody, one pass solo, melody. On slower tunes and ballads it’s great to do two total times through the form, Chet Baker used to do this: AA head, BA solo, AA solo, BA melody...so you get a full chorus as well as do the cool ballad thing where the head comes back on the bridge. A nice swinging mid-tempo blues can be a fun one (and a time eater) if you play two or three different heads with solos in between.
 

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Jokes aside, in that setting, I think melody is key.
And only improvise a solo if you can improvise a solo. Otherwise workout something melodic for each tune ahead of time to fill the space. Nothing grates on an audience worse than a bad solo. Oh... and no sheet music. If you need sheet music for this, you're not ready.
 

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Well, with backing tracks, that would be "constantly".

OP, as someone who used to do just this, I have two suggestions:

1) Keep things moving, no one wants to hear 18 choruses of anything. This means more tunes, which is more preparation, but it also means more changes of texture and tempo and key and so on - in other words, more interesting. Even as background, you want some degree of interesting. If instead of you, they were going to play canned music, say "soft rock of the 70s" they'd be playing the 3:30 radio versions, not the 13:00 album version complete with 4:00 drum solo.

2) Use more than one instrument if you can double. In a band situation you have multiple instruments coming to the foreground, which adds interest and reduces ear fatigue. When I used to do this I was almost always on flute - but I would mix that up with alto flute and even a bit of keyboards (you don't have to be Horowitz to play a simple melodic line on keys for one chorus). Most of the time in my experience any of the saxophones were too loud. Be prepared for this, and if you play flute or clarinet bring it, is my recommendation.
This is excellant advice. Ive done many many solo gigs and hes right. Nobody wants 20 minutes of anything. Figure 12 to 15 for a 45 minute set. and changing moods and instrument is a great idea
.
 

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Exactly 14.

That's silly I know, but after a bunch of experimentation it's what I settled on for the band I'm in that's playing old standards. You'll be close - and If you go over (or short) a few minutes no one seems to notice. More importantly, at a 30 point font you can fit 15 lines on a page in easy to read bold print - a real bonus on a dark stage!
It also gives you fast results if you're the person tasked with producing sets.
 

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If you don’t also sing you may find an audience unappreciative of a soloist spending over 3-4 minutes per tune. I second Morph’s advice of preparing 15-20 tunes.

Engaging the audience with banter (anybody know who wrote this one?) can make a 1-hour solo gig fly by. And do bring along a fake book or two. People make requests, and if you can meet them, even without backing, they appreciate it. Tell them next time you’ll include the full band.
 

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This is excellant advice. Ive done many many solo gigs and hes right. Nobody wants 20 minutes of anything.
No love for "In A Godda Da Vida"?

As others have said, one needs to read the room. If the audience is listening, then maybe some banter is acceptable - if you have something worth saying. Else, keep the music going so the people have a reason to stay and listen, and have a dessert or drink.

Keep the manager happy, and maybe you'll be back.
 

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When I first moved to the area I live in now, I did a lot of this work. I concur with much that has been written above, I would like to add:

To me, of equal importance to making the manager happy, make the chef happy. As he or she goes we all go:)
Nail Happy Birthday in any key.
Learn the Anniversary Waltz
10-12 songs usually worked for me. I would usually do 3 sets.
A simple rule I had for myself - no two keys, styles or tempos back to back.
A goal I had was to make a noisy room as quiet as I could. You might be surprised who is listening.

Bringing music: I'm a strong proponent of no sheet music. I started out with a book, it was my security blanket. I was younger and exceedingly poor, the gig meant survival. One day I forgot the book - it was the best mishap ever. I learned to listen more intently, play more melodically and enjoyed a freedom within the music that I never knew was there.
 

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10 tunes with double solos and a little time between songs - it ain't a dance job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well, if you're playing with backing tracks I guess that makes things easier as you know how long each one is!

It's been a while since I played a standards gig (?/?), but it depends a lot on the line up and how long everyone plays - quartet with bass solos is going to be fewer tunes than duo. I'd say maybe 15-20 tunes to be comfortable that you're not going to run out?

Good luck!
I don't have any gigs yet> I'll have to make a some promo videos and go and and try to drum up some bus
I once played Maiden Voyage for an entire set. It was in a bar and no one cared
LOL!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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