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Demo song choices for solo work + newbie introduction


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Hi all

My name's Michael. I've recently moved to a new town (200,000 people) and while in the past I've done a reasonable amount of work on the pub covers and also corporate scenes, there just aren't the opportunities here. So to get gigs I need to go solo.

I have the house to myself this weekend to record my demo which I'll then start going out and selling myself.

My thoughts are no pub manager has the time to listen through a long demo, so I'm going to pick excerpts of 5 songs and cross-fade them into a package less than 2 minutes long. Has anyone here worked with that approach and if so, how has it been received?

Finally, the song choice is the hardest part. I've given up on fitting everything into ONE demo and I'll instead do 2 - one for the pubs and rowdier bars, another for the restaurants and classier bars. I want to keep it diverse (i.e. range of tempos, songs in different keys) and a mixture of classic and fresh material.

What 5 songs would you choose for this purpose?

I will post my current setlist later today to give you an idea of what I play, and look forward to part of the forum and sharing my new project with you as it progresses


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I have done the 'medley/short take' approach for band demos. Bookers, club owner and agents are basically looking for two things: can you play, and can you sing...so no long instrumental intros, only your best, and I mean KILLER material should be on the demo. The advantage, as I see you understand, to this approach is that you can make 'custom' mixes...folk oriented, alt country oriented, classic rock oriented, contemporary, or a blending of compatible styles...tailor the demo to the room.

I would pick the songs that are

a: recognizable

b: not what everybody else covers

c: presents your skills at their best

I have not had to do a demo for my solo act, as yet.... I know one version will include an Everly Brothers [too many to choose from to name one at the moment], Crazy {gotta love Willie}, an Eagles or Beatles tune [see Everly's comment], and then something like a one-hit-wonder type pop tune from the 60s [like Don't Walk Away Renee] and something contemporary [maybe a Bruno Mars tune]. My typical private affair clients are over 50...I read them like a book.

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Thanks guys for the welcome


Potts: I'm Australian, from Brisbane originally but now in Hobart. Trying to get things going in Hobart and possibly regional parts of Tasmania as well. I'm a jack-of-all trades kindof guy, have WAAAY more experience as a drummer (a year fulltime when younger, and 6-10 pub rock covers gigs/month 2009-11) than as a guitarist/vocalist (inconsistent solo originals gigs prior to about '07, guitar/backing vox in funk/reggae group 2008-09 (not very productive) and then 2011-13 in a fairly busy 'corporate band' as guitar/backing vox/percussion(hand&stick). Just started doing the open mic thing down here to meet people and also gain experience/confidence being all alone up on stage.

So, quite a varied background. No exceptional strengths, no serious weaknesses (except a lisp most people don't notice or are too polite to mention), good enough to get gigs if I work hard at my craft and run my business well, that's for sure.

GEAR: Pretty basic setup at the moment as I've never needed gear for this type of gig before. Maton EGB808CL with Fishman Ellipse Blend preamp direct into A&H Zed10FX and renting speakers until the gigs start becoming regular.


Daddymack: Totally agree on the idea and advantages of 'custom' mixes but it is too easy to try and get clever with this sort of thing. Being a perfectionist one often goes WAY past the point of diminishing returns and can waste too much time on the 'polish' to the detriment of more essential/productive work. This applies to practice, recording, creating promotional material, finalising setlists, etc...    

As a happy compromise, I am hoping to place the venue into one of 2 "broad" categories - or possibly even asking the booking manager whether they prefer the softer stuff or the rock - and hopefully giving them the demo they would be more receptive of.


Here's my current songlist which is very much a work in progress as I've just started working on it in the last month or two. I aim to double it by year's end! (not sure you'll recognize some of the australian artists here, but be assured they are well known here)


Alice in Chains - Nutshell, Rooster

Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane

Ben E King - Stand by me

Blink 182 - Josie (soft)

Bob Evans - Don't you think it's time

Bob Marley - 3 Little Birds, Is this Love? (no woman no cry/redemption song by request only)

Bobby McFerrin - Don't worry be happy

Carl Douglas - Kung foo fighting

CCR - Proud Mary, Have you ever seen the rain?

Chris Isaak - Baby did a bad bad thing

Cold Chisel - Flame Trees

Dido - Thank you

Ed Sheeran - Lego house

Eddie Vedder - Rise

Eskimo Joe - Sarah

Everclear - Santa Monica

Foo Fighters - The best of you, Everlong

Four Seasons - Oh what a night december 63

Franz Ferdinand - Take me out (fingerstyle to run lead line and bass of main riff)

Fray, the - Over my head

Gerswhin - Summertime

Goo goo dolls - Slide

Hunters & Collectors - Holy Grail, Throw your arms around me

Icona Pop - I don't care

Jack Johnson - Better together, Times like these (on&on)

Jeff Buckley - Lover, you should've come over (when the voice is in good shape as it's a challenge)

Kings of Leon - Use somebody, Sex on fire

Matt Corby - Resolution (will improve once I get a looper)

New Radicals - You only get what you give

Paul Kelly - To her door, Dumb things

Pearl Jam - Indifference (daughter/betterman by request only)

Powderfinger - Sunsets, My happiness, Already gone

Proclaimers - 500 miles

Rhianna - We found love (hopeless place)

Slim Dusty - Duncan

Sting/The Police - Walking on the moon (percussive fingerstyle)

Sugar Ray - Every Morning

Tracy Chapman - Give me one reason

Travis - Why does it always rain on me?

U2 - Beautiful day, One

Violent Femmes - Blister in the sun


From that list, what would be your 5 for a cruisy mix and 5 for an up-tempo mix? Assuming my performance is roughly equal on all songs.


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Welcome!  I've still got one foot in the same boat, so my two cents may be more or less helpful. Something to keep in mind- you don't need to play the same songs as everyone else, but you do want to play songs that people have connections with and can appreciate. If it's unfamiliar, there should be something specific about it that'll grab them. I don't know what's big on the other side of the world but a number of tunes I could see not working.  I'm not saying to drop  anything, just to keep an eye on crowd responses and be prepared to add in more surefire tunes.  I've found that the music I like playing best is the music the audience reacts to best- generally speaking.


AIC is kind of downer (and my favorite all time band). Beautiful songs, but downer. If you really have them drawn in in listening mode, they may pay off. Don't Follow feels like the most versatile fit and is the one I play as my nod to them.


I think I would really enjoy your set. For your demo, the more familiar the better, BUT- you should be able to tell when you're knocking something out of the park. Show those tunes.

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You need to do a video this is the world we live in people want to see a video representation of you playing and singing audio alone doesn't cut it anymore.


That said I would choose five songs that represent the entire breath of your repertoire.

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daddymack wrote:


... I know one version will include an Everly Brothers [too many to choose from to name one at the moment], Crazy {gotta love Willie},...


I've always preferred Willie's version of Crazy! 


For song choice, that's difficult. Should he play to what the owner likes or what the owner thinks the crowd will like, or what himself likes and would like to play for others? Is there a happy medium between the three?

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i think your idea of two short 2 minute medleys with 4 or 5 songs in each one is a great idea.

one for more upbeat rowdier bars and one for restaurants etc.. great approach. im about to redo some stuff and go that way myself.

i could make suggestions songwise but my guesses are as good as yours..  keep the songs very well known but if possible not so well worn that someone might groan when they hear the first chord..  for example i would think proud mary could be risky, or mustang sally...  i nearly always play them live and they nearly always go down v well..  but theyre worn out, and someone checking the video out might think that too.

also, it depends how good a singer you are.  if you can really sing One, then its a great tune. if you do just a passable version then its prolly not a good choice.

but overall great approach..  and a video of you playing the two medleys would be even better.

i mean with teh videos fading out and back in to the next song.  Microsoft Movie Maker is a great free package and does this perfectly well....






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Steve - I understand where you're coming from, but once you offer yourself free to a particular venue it can be hard to get that venue at normal rates. So I'm reluctant to take that approach. Though I realise that solo and in a new town I do have to start at the bottom...    

...and speaking of starting from the bottom, SLScott - You hit the nail on the head right there - Dive Bar. I've been too busy thinking about how to get into the nicest venues in town when as you say, there are others where barriers for entry will not be so high. I've just avoided them because I really can't stand Khe Sanh*. But there's a lot of money to be made there. And I can always bring the laptop and record if things get busy/rowdy.

On a related/side note a local bar does Tuesday night open mic which doubles as audition for paid gigs (they run solos/duos every night except Mondays) and I'm thinking this may also be worth a shot. If I'm good enough, they'll show interest, if I'm not ready (and it's been over a year, I may be rusty) then I haven't lost too much and can return.

Doezer - Thanks for the tip on Microsoft Movie Maker. I'll check it out once the time draws closer. But one question - If I wanted to take the audio out and (through reaper) do some basic tweaking (noise gate, compression, eq) can I then send it back to Movie Maker and synch it with the video?

* "Khe Sanh" is a song by Cold Chisel and possibly the epitome of pub rock in Australia (i.e. overplayed to the maximum) - I wonder what the U.S equivalent is?

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Yup, that's not a problem to bounce the audio out and back. I believe the audio file is often times separate top begin with. Just make sure you keep your project and final audio export at the samesample rate as the original audio shot with the video. That is most likely 48 kHz.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Thanks again guys for the responses

So I sat down for a practice session yesterday and played through about 25 songs. Recorded the whole thing and there are a few that stood out to me.

Funnily enough, some of the most awesome songs (such as U2's 'one', and anything by Jeff Buckley) don't really lend themselves to being turned into 20-30 second sound bites, but what the whole process has given me is a bunch of songs that work well with MY voice, being:

Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane (not sure about the USA, but here it's quickly becoming a pub standard)

Kings of Leon - Use somebody

Tom Petty - I won't back down, Free falling

Foster the People - Pumped up kicks

Ben E King - Stand By me

Daryl Braithwaite - The horses (again, possibly only well known in Australia)

So to all of you who said "Just do what works well for you" - thank you. And for anyone in the same boat as me, I strongly reccomend just recording an entire rehearsal and listening...  you'll hear what works.


Thread closed!!!

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