Set lists on the iPod

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

If you want to really improve your performance you should consider making up set lists (ie playlists) and place your backing tracks in to separate areas of your iPod for easy and quick access when on stage.

Playlists/Set lists
Most entertainers like to have some sort of set list when they go on stage. This usually takes the form of a list of songs written on a piece of paper in the order you’ll be singing them which you take on stage with you.

Some singers use the same set list in every venue they perform while others will change the set list depending on the type of venue, type of audience etc.

Personally I go one step further – I change my set list every night AND often change it half way through the performance depending on how the audience react to certain types of songs. If I see the dance-floor fill up, I just play more songs of the same tempo/feel.

And no longer does your set list have to be written on the back of a piece of paper (or the back of the proverbial cigarette packet)! The iPod has a facility to memorize and organize set lists within the machine…and does it with ease.

The iPod calls them “playlists” instead of “set-lists”, that’s all. The iPod already has a couple of playlists already created for you but making up a manual playlist yourself is by far the best way to go.

To do this, open up iTunes on your computer (with your iPod connected of course) and create a playlist on your iPod – call it whatever you want, for example CabaretSpot or MySetList etc.

Then go to your backing tracks list and drag them in to the playlist in the order you want to sing them.

Voila! You now have a playlist (set list).

A good tip if you have several different set lists, is to group them together on the playlist menu by keeping the first few letters of each sets playlist name the same eg MySetList1, MySetList2, MySetList3, MySetList4.

Another good idea is to change the “album” title on the ID3 tag of each of your backing tracks to “Trax”. This way, if you have other music on your iPod, the other music won’t get mixed up with your backing tracks because all your backing tracks will be together in one place in an album called “Trax”.

You can also make up a few albums with background music to play during your break if you want. The name of the album you use for background music can be the actual name of the album if it is an actual CD album, or you could make up your own compilation “albums” containing a variety of music.

I have half a dozen or so background music “albums” on my iPod, each with about a hundred songs in each and I’ve called them:

  • 60s
  • 70s
  • 80s
  • 90s
  • Charts
  • Easylistening

Depending on the venue I’m performing in and the age group of the audience, during my break I simply pick and play the “album” which has background music which will best suit the audience.

You’d be amazed how effective playing the right music during your break can be. We, as entertainers, can often let our egos run wild and believe that the only important thing that constitutes a good nights entertainment is our performance, but believe me, a good selection of the right background music during your break can greatly enhance the evenings entertainment for your audience.

I’ve also found that I get less “aggravation” during my break from audience members asking me when I’m going to start singing again if they are sitting quite happy and content listening to some good tunes during the break!

On-The-Go Playlist
The iPod also has a cool little function called the “on-the-go” playlist function. It lets you pick songs and make them in to a playlist from the iPod itself rather than setting it all up on your computer via iTunes.

The on-the-go playlist function is invaluable when you’re away from your computer, at your gig, and about to go on stage. Basically, a minute before you’re due to go on stage you can take a look at the audience, see how busy the gig is, look at what type of audience they are, their age group, etc and then make up a set list there and then on the spot that will suit that particular crowd.

Even artistes or bands who don’t pick music to suit their audience (i.e. they only sing a pre-arranged list of songs in a certain order and never detract from it) can benefit from on-the-go playlists.

Sometimes the venue will ask you to play a little longer – if so, you can simply enter a couple of extra songs when you’re making up your on-the-go playlist.

Similarly if there are other acts on the same bill at the venue that night or you need to take a couple of songs out because of time restrictions, then the on-the-go playlist is perfect for this.

Rate a song
The iPod has a facility where you can “Rate a song” on a scale of 1 to 5. At first you may think that this is just some sort of gimmick and the Apple designers were thinking “Hey, wey’ve got a spare bit of access memory for each song, enough to input a single number, so let’s call it song rating.”

Well, actually it can have a good use for us singers. Most singers have usually been collecting all sorts of backing tracks for years, and will often have more than one version of a backing track in their library (I bet you do).

For some singers this may be a couple of old backing tracks from yester-year, (perhaps copied from your old cassette tapes!) but you still use them from time to time, when the occasion is right.

Or, maybe you’re like me and keep backing tracks of the exact same song but in different keys so that you can sing the “high key one” on a night when your voice is top notch, or the “lower key one” when your voice is a little bit dodgy (or you’re doing an afternoon gig when you’re throat hasn’t quite opened up yet)!

Well, now, instead of renaming the songs “My Way ver 1”, “My Way ver 2” etc, and then forgetting which version is which, you can rate the songs so that you will always know you are about to sing the correct version.

Just remember to give all your backing tracks that you bought from MP3 Backing Trax 5 out of 5!

…and if you still have a few old hissy backing track copies from your cassette playing days, give ’em a definite 1 out of 5 rating…and, well, shame on you!