GUESS It Matters S3 E5 Where It All Begins

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Here’s the latest episode of Guess It Matters with Shay and Michi Guess. Looking for the audio only veresion? Scroll past the text and it will be at the bottom of the page.

We have been repainting the interior of our home, as we mentioned last week. We feel it is an ongoing project which means the people on HGTV and DIY are bald faced liars. They gave us the impression that this entire project would only take me 30 minutes minus commercials. We used to watch those shows and try to get ideas, but thinking we’re done doing that because some of the things they leave out is the taping, the removing and replacing the light switch and plug covers and washing the brushes. We have to brag on our boys though they did what we thought was an impossible task – they stayed out of the way.

Michi decided that after the paint started going on to the walls that it was a good idea to upgrade her pictures and paintings. She loves the frames or the decorative art that has bible verses, or references to home on them. You know, those items are not really necessary, but they are accents that make a room more inviting – I would think is a great way to put it. There are even designers that will stage a room right down to the right placement of a pencil and a notepad on a particular table to accent something around that piece of furniture. It’s one of those things that most people walk into a room and don’t notice it but they do. Restaurants and Hotels do this all the time – they will pay a lot of money to hire someone that understands how organizing accents effect how the patrons will react when they enter the room. 

For a singer or musician, we have to look at this type of accent and organization in a different way. Today, we are going to discuss the importance of your set list and how that effects your audience and some things that you may be doing that might be hurting you rather than helping.



One of the most important songs you will sing, or play is the first one. The way our society has evolved and attention spans have diminished over the years. It was said that in the 50’s when Lucy and Dezi did their live television with multiple cameras the average time between camera changes was about 30 seconds. Today, less than 3 seconds. Research shows that it is harder to hold anyone’s attention longer than that. It’s true – the analytics for youtube suggests that most people will only view a video less than one minute unless it’s music or news related. We do our best to hold the time of our podcast to 20 minutes when most podcasts will last longer than an hour. We don’t have the advantage of multiple camera angles so we are hoping that our tips to make you better will be enough.

The first song in your set is very important. That song determines whether your audience is with you for the next 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It cannot be your best tune and it cannot be the tune you want to end your set. SO HOW DO WE CHOOSE?

If you look at country music they have the coveted Entertainer of the Year award. That is the award that sets the bar because radio singles can be finely tuned but live shows have to stand up to whatever hype is out there. It means that country music decided they would award the person that did their job based on their live performance and ticket sales. It would be difficult to award a gospel artist and entertainer award. However, look at the artists that fill seats with people that enjoy who they are hearing. There was a gentleman in Gospel Music named Jim Hammil. He was probably a genius at effectively utilizing the Kingsmen’s time spot on the stage. I read a story once that only he and the piano player in the band knew what the first song would be at each concert – and the piano player only knew when they were introduced. Everything depended on what happened right before they were introduced.

If you are on a program and you are the only person and not sharing the stage with anyone – then your first song is probably simple. It’s identifiable to your audience – is easy listening – is catchy. Usually our first songs are not too difficult or technical, but they set the pace for the program. If you start your set list with the absolute best you have, or your latest release then what do you have to build upon after that? It’s almost like a job interview. You don’t walk into the office and shout I AM THE BEST YOU’RE GOING TO MEET TODAY! You walk in and shake hands and you introduce yourself. That is your first song in your list – this is who I am and I am honored to be here today.

Your first song should not be the only first song you have especially if you are following an opening act. If someone on stage before you has taken the audience on an emotional rollercoaster they have done their job. Wherever they leave their audience is where you have to pick up and go from there. I have seen it time and time again someone follow another artist and try to keep the audience in the same place – that doesn’t work. An example: If you had to follow Elvis Presley after he ended his concert with I Can’t Help Falling In Love with a song that is similar to that one – then you didn’t introduce yourself to the audience you continued Elvis’ set into your own. It is the same concept no matter what genre of music you are performing. The audience and their participation depends on the ride they are willing to go on with you. They are trusting you with their time and everyone knows that time is precious. Nobody wants to feel like they have wasted time. If you are approaching your set list as a way to impress your audience then we need to probably stop right there and start over from the beginning. If you have been invited to sing or play at a venue then you have already impressed someone. Your set list is not the time for that. Your set list is designed to accommodate your audience and take them on a ride with music that helps them forget about the outside world and anticipate what is next. Let’s think about that rollercoaster again. The rollercoaster doesn’t throw you into warp speed and turn flips with you as soon as you sit down. Usually, the rollercoaster takes you up a peaceful climb to the top of it’s tallest point and then it drops you into the thrill you stood in line for. Then, the rollercoaster is designed each turn, up and down, twirl and spin.

Music can heal and bring peace to a person or rial them up into a frenzy no matter the genre. Allow your set lists to form with that in mind. At the end of the day you are doing a service for your audience. If you are a secular musician you want to entertain your audience – make them feel part of it. Get them to the edge and send them on that ride they stood in line for. For our gospel music singers – music is used as a way to minister to the hurting, the broken and the uninspired. The set list you bring to them should keep that in mind – and not so much whether or not they will be impressed by your high singing, your vocal inflections or how long you can hold an ending. Allow the audience to give you the cues as to how to move through your set list in a way that leaves them with a sense that you have not wasted their time and you have met them where the Spirit can touch them. 

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