|How To Compile A Cocktail Party Music Playlist
Music is a key factor in setting the mood for your cocktail party, therefore it is strongly recommended that you prearrange a list of songs to play.
sure your system is well-ventilated. Adding 20 people to a room can
generate a lot of heat and potentially shutdown your music.
It is a
good idea to have a music back-up plan in case of a power outage or
stereo meltdown, see Party Disasters.
Building A Playlist
We offer a systematic approach to building a cocktail party music
playlist. Begin by using the following guidelines to selecting music:
Step 1: You will need about 40 songs for a two-hour party, plus 10 songs for the 30 minutes before and 10 songs for the 30 minutes after.
- Choose upbeat tempos for a light and happy mood
- Mix genres to appeal to all tastes
- Vary styles to add interest
- Contrast artists for diversity and to avoid sameness
- Interject humor and nostalgia for surprises & smiles
- Select tunes in the spirit of your theme
Select songs to create a picking list of 60+ songs for the party. Separately, create picking lists of 15+ songs for the pre-party and 15+ for the post-party.
Bear in mind that the songs you choose will impact your party on 3 levels:
Aesthetic Of the Individual Song
- Aesthetic of the individual song
- Interplay of songs by grouping and contrast
- Overall effect of the playlist
Start with your current and past favorites. Choose upbeat songs, and add tunes that you think your guests will enjoy. With your old favorites, use songs with recognizable melodies.
Include a wide variety of genres and a diverse selection of artists. For example, mix jazz and retro classics with some current pop and rock, blend in some alternative and reggae, a dash of country and hip-hop, then top it off with some dance tunes.
Opt for unique recordings of popular songs, whether by the same or by different artists. For example, Frank Sinatra & Bono's remake of "I've Got You Under My Skin", Queen Latifah's "California Dreamin'", or Flo Rida's "Right Round".
Sprinkle in a little camp with a few fun favorites or new sounds, such as Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" or The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You".
Also, include songs appropriate to your theme, for example, a martini party could include some James Bond movie themes and a beach party could mix in some beach music. Search the internet or iTunes for ideas...a search for "Pink Flamingo" found 50 songs.
Avoid songs over 4 minutes long and arrangements with lengthy intros and bridges. During a fast-paced cocktail party, your guests will only
in 3-5 second snippets.
Keep the energy level of your party high medium to fast tempos. In addition, beautiful relaxing music will be slow and
painful in the festive social atmosphere of your party.
The pre-party playlist is to set the mood for you and your friends that you have invited to come over early.
The post-party playlist will start at the ending time of the party and
will allow a little extra buffer to send off your straggling guests.
may want to include a few "hints" in the post-playlist, for example, "Hit
the Road Jack" by Ray Charles, "The Power of Goodbye" by Madonna, or
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is quite effective.
Step 2: Edit your picking lists to keep your music fresh and interesting, as follows:
Interplay Of Songs
By Grouping and Contrast
- Remove all songs over 4 minutes (exceptions allowed)
- Remove slow songs
- Choose a maximum of 1 song from each artist on your list and remove the rest (no exceptions)
Once you have picking lists comprised of more than enough songs for your party, you can create segments to accentuate the interplay of the songs and highlight contrasts.
Step 3: Create 10 segments of 4 songs each from your cocktail party picking list, and 2 segments of 5 each from your pre-party and post-party lists.
Select songs that complement, but contrast styles and tempo. Then take each segment and arrange the 4 songs in order from the slowest song to the fastest one.
After listening to your songs in order, replace any song where the sound level is too soft or loud in comparison to other recordings in the playlist.
Overall Effect Of the Playlist
The overall effect of your playlist should move from slow to fast over the duration of the party with rises and falls with each segment.
For this reason, concentrate more of your retro and lounge music in groups toward the beginning of the party and current pop hits and dance tunes toward the end of the evening.
Step 4: Order the 10 segments from the slowest segment to the fastest. Move songs between segments, as desired, keeping them arranged from slowest to fastest song within each segment. Repeat for the pre- and post-party playlists.
Use your campy songs at the start of your 4 song segments, whenever
possible. Campy can get old too, so make sure these types of songs are
at least 20 minutes apart (every other segment) in the overall playlist.
The end result is that the juxtaposition of the fastest song in one segment with the slowest song of the next will create dramatic musical highs and lows throughout the evening.
Step 5: Adjust your 3 playlists for time. Your pre- and post- party playlists should be approximately 30 minutes each, while your party playlist should be about 2 hours (or the length planned for your party).
Step 6: Listen to the complete playlist and make adjustments as needed.
NOTE iPod Users: For the party:
Sample Party Picking List
- Set the "Crossfade" to 6 seconds or more.
- From your computer: Select Edit->Preferences->Playback->Crossfade
- Sync your iPod to update the setting
- Turn the Shuffle Off
We have compiled a sample list of the 60 songs we would include in a picking list for a 2-hour cocktail party. Songs are sorted by artist and not the order they would be played. The picking list is used to create each segment.
You Know I'm No Good [Remix]
I Want It That Way
The Other Side
Strangers In the Night
Evacuate the Dancefloor
With Plenty of Money and You
Point Of View
I've Got You Under My Skin
In Love With a Girl
She Thinks I Still Care
Stare Into the Sun
The Bare Necessities
Only a Fool Would Say That
Ain't It Funny
Ring Of Fire
Suddenly I See
What I've Done
Climb Ev'ry Mountain
From Russia With Love
Life In The City
These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
Pocketful of Sunshine
Tomorrow Is My Turn
Stars Are Blind
When You're Good To Mama
Hit The Road Jack
Make You Feel Better
The Last Farewell
Suerte (Whenever, Wherever)
Get the Party Started
It Feels So Good
This Could Be The Start Something Big
Stand By Your Man
Andy, You're A Star
Push Me to the Floor
I Think I Love You
Don't Leave Me This Way
Frank Sinatra & Bono
Harry Connick, Jr.
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Pet Shop Boys
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Squirrel Nut Zippers
Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé
The Mamas & The Papas
The Partridge Family
Alternative & Punk
Alternative & Punk
Alternative & Punk