How to Pick Your Play List

Here are the TOP 10 – things to remember when picking your PLAY LIST. Of course – picking the songs you plan to perform is sometimes TRICKY. First start with:

1. How long you will be performing

If you are playing a simple 45 min to 1 hour set – you will need an average of 12 to 16 songs per hour of play time. Play each song 3 to 4 times – (changing style, changing reeds, maybe sing or talk a verse – etc).

Always introduce the songs (this eats up some time too)- even use a SHORT little history of the song (I have given you great notes on each song on this sight) ALSO – if it is on a TOP 10 LIST – like the lists I posted below – that adds a “speaking point” for the selection.

2. Venue Style

If there is a theme to the venue – at least 2/3rds the songs needs to be that style (German, Italian, Patriotic, etc) AND maybe DRESS the venue style! Even Germans – enjoy a French TUNE! or a POP Song! AND don’t forget REGIONAL FAVORITES. Every French or German or OPEN style performance – I have to have the favorite TEXAS or Tex/Mex songs!

Is this a concert style – fixed audience – or will the audience be moving in and out – like a reception or restaurant or festival? If you are playing more than one hour or for a changing audience – YOU CAN REPEAT SONGS! If I run out – I just say – “AND NOW BY REQUEST!” and play a favorite AGAIN!

3. Will the audience be SINGING ALONG or dancing???

Always plan a few songs – that everyone knows the words to and plan a few songs – to GET THEM ON THEIR FEET and CLAPPING! EVEN a senior center or festival stage – stand in the middle of the audience and start a SING-A-LONG or even the Chicken Dance!

4. The approx age of your audience will determine your song list. REMEMBER that Senior Citizen centers now – were in their Teens and 20’s during the 1950 & 60’s – so update your play list! MOVIE THEMES and SHOW TUNES are PERFECT!

Festival stages and restaurants – have all ages – so plan to cater to the YOUNG! Get them hooked on accordion players! I ask if anyone knows the CUP SONG or LET IT GO – and hand them a cup or the microphone – PARENTS ARE HAPPY TOO AND TIP!

5. Is this CONCERT STYLE (you’re the only musician) – or you are sharing the time & stage?

If you are the only entertainer – then follow rule #1. If you are one of several players – establish how many songs or how long you will be asked to play – and keep to that time – to be fair to the others. (But be prepared for a few encores!).

ALSO – ask one of the other performers to JAM with you at the end of your set or the beginning of theirs. IT WILL PROVE TO BE GREAT FUN! Makes for a great transition between performers! SO plan to KNOW a few JAM SONGS like Jambalaya, You Are my Sunshine, or Que Sera Sera. ALL MUSICIANS KNOW THESE!

6. Order of Songs

I always start with my “SHINER” song – the one that I DO MY BEST ON – and the one – I don’t have to use music or THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT. It is a great warm up, a great way to Test the Sound System (if I am plugged in) and a great way to GET ROLLING confidently!

I try to plan a fast one, then slow one, then a CHANGE UP. What I mean by this – if I am playing a German venue – the 3rd song is NOT GERMAN. The last 3 should BUILD to a LARGE FINALLY.

THEN END – with a SONG – that everyone will be humming for the next 2 hours! or your 2nd best SHINER song!

7. MEMORIZE or READ MUSIC? – ONE BIG WORD – on using music. I USE MUSIC! I sit with the stand to the side – so the audience can see my RIGHT HAND. About half of the songs are memorized – and other half I use the music. EVEN the ones I use the music for – I am well rehearsed – I just CAN’T REMEMBER that many songs any more!

8. Tip Jar – If fixed audience – a tip jar is usually not recommended. BUT – all other audiences – (Ask first) – a TIP JAR is appropriate. Take one with you – I use a small metal watering can – with TIP CAN written on the side. I put a 1 and a 5 in the jar to start off!

AND – usually if someone requests a song – and you can play it – they will TIP!

9. PLAY ONLY the songs your are comfortable with. Unless you are an excellent sight reader – don’t attempt a song that is requested – unless you REALLY KNOW IT. Otherwise just say – “Great request – I will learn it for the next time I play for you”.

10. Promote Yourself (not about play list – but important anyway!)

Plan to arrive early and Plan to stay afterwords and mingle. You will hear remarks about their favorite songs, about how MUCH they have always LOVED accordions, etc. ALWAYS have business cards with you to hand out – for future performances. (Office Depot – print your own!)

Now back to your Play list:

Every Accordionist should have at least 4 Polkas – 2 French songs – 2 Italian songs – 2 German songs4 Country songs – then you need at least 4 OLDIES BUT GOODIES – the ones ALL AGES KNOW – this adds to 18 solos. AND again this assortment changes depending on ALL OF THE ABOVE LIST OF 10 TIPS!

Please see this list of suggested Play List Songs – Link – Play List Suggestions

IN FACT – that just gave me an idea – Starting in January – I will replace the Christmas PAGE with a page named PLAY LIST – to help you get started!!! I will list all the song from this BLOG into the various Play List Styles!