Thursday, August 8, 2013

Making sets

Every 5 years, SJT does an anniversary concert with a medley of our songs.  We've got a great medley planned for our 40th, this October.

I was on the medley committee for the 25th, but I don’t recall too much about it, unfortunately - it was 15 years ago.  For the 40th, I’m once again on the medley committee but this will be the first time I’ve created the transition sheets for a concert.  It's a massive medley, with over 20 songs represented, taking up the entire second half of the concert.

Most people in the group have led sets before, usually the festival sets that are from 15-45 minutes in length.  When you design a set, you have to figure out what songs are to be played, in what order, who’s going to play what parts, how the drums are going to get into position, and what (if anything) is happening between songs.  It can be pretty simple for the smaller sets and pretty complicated when the whole group is involved.

For concerts, there’s usually twice the amount of gear needed because there are specialized instruments for songs we don't play at festivals.  Also, we can have people do “raps” at festivals explaining songs or upcoming events or the like, but at a concert we want to have musical and visual transitions that are more rehearsed than just “move your drums here.”

I love the challenge of trying to figure out how things can be done.  Some things are necessity, some are possibility.  You start filling in the blanks and soon everything starts coming together until the end where the final details get tricky: if I put ABC here, then XYZ can't play here...  With a concert, you have a lot more options but also a lot more juggling.  I may have more equipment to do things on, but now I have to keep track of it all, too!

To some people, this is the last thing they want to tackle – and that’s fine, there are things I’m not fond of that other people like to do.  However, I highly recommend that if it’s possible, you help plan a set with your group.  Why?

1.) It makes you look at a set differently.  You'll start looking at what makes sense and adding your own flavor as you get comfortable.  You'll also start seeing where things can piece together.  Then when you’re in sets that you didn’t create, you’re able to see things that may have been missed or need adjusting and can do them without waiting to be told.

2.) You start appreciating how sets are made.  It’s really easy to just be told what to play and do it, but soon you’ll take it for granted.  Once you do the work yourself, you’ll realize how much effort goes in to creating a set for everyone involved.  Where you may have complained about not having as many parts as a comparable member, you might instead look at the set and realize the reasons why.  Where you might feel you should get more solos, you might instead realize that newer members are being given more opportunities to step up.

3.) You start trying to make the coordinator’s job easier.  Instead of causing problems, you try to solve them.  You stick to commitments.  You don’t want to be the one that causes the entire set to need to be changed, or the person who asks for allowances that inconvenience others.

4.) It makes you think ahead to why people might complain about parts and addressing them before giving the set out.  It’s not so much about wanting to deal with complaints less, as it is about seeing to balance and fairness.

It may not be possible in your group for you to volunteer to plan a set, but you can still put yourselves in the shoes of the people who do.  Some of you might find it enjoyable, others will loathe it.  Either way, it will make you much more peripheral and appreciative of your role in a set in a very short amount of time!

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