The Importance Of… Set Order

The Importance of…

In this edition, we look at the importance of… set order.

When a group is competing, the pressure is on to pick out the three best songs from the group’s repertoire, and to perform them to perfection. Performance is, of course, the key to success, and yet there are steps a group can take maximize the entertainment value and overall effectiveness of its sets. With this in mind, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of set order.

It’s important to open a set with confidence and energy. For most groups, this will mean an upbeat melody and some movement. It’s important not to ‘leave it all on the floor’ at this stage, though. After all, this is just the first leg of a set, and if you can’t live up to your first number, it’s going to make the rest of the set look poor. The first song should, therefore be strong enough to grab attention, but not so great that it will set your group’s bar too high.

In the traditional three song set, the middle song is a ballad. In most cases, this works, given that a group wants to start with some energy, then let things cool, then finish huge. Furthermore, popular convention has it that, while the first song gets things warmed up, the second song is often the musical climax of the set. It’s where precision takes hold, and the song may not be as fun, but will feature one of your best arrangements and best soloists. Indeed, it makes sense to put your musical stunner here, after any and all jitters are worked out in the first song, and when you’re leading to your big finale.

The third song is about going all out and making the song fun. It’s a good idea to do a mainstream song here, to draw the crowd in, and this will typically be something upbeat. This is also the place for balls to the walls choreography, bringing out all of your energy, but channeling it into precision, to appear a well-oiled machine. The temptation for the last song is often to make it comedic. This works sometimes, but, in the end, you’re only going to be taken as seriously as you take yourself, and you want to be careful to watch the line between being funny and looking silly.