Music is a key factorin setting the mood for your cocktail party, therefore it is strongly recommended that you prearrange a list of songs to play.
In addition, your playlist is a great opportunity to set up musical “surprises” throughout the evening to make your guests smile.
In this section, we discuss:
The Sound System
Building A Playlist
Sample Party Picking List
The Sound System
Obviously, you do not want a well-intentioned party guest to derail your carefully crafted playlist, therefore:
No one touches the music except you
accessibility to the sound system. If you are using an iPod, keep it out of reach and locked. If your sound system controls are in an easy-to-reach location, put a piece of tape over the controls with the message "Please Do Not Touch".
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:
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
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.
Select songs to create a picking listof 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
Interplay of songs by grouping and contrast
Overall effect of the playlist
Aesthetic Of the Individual Song
Start with yourcurrent 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 diverseselection 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:
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)
Interplay Of Songs
By Grouping and Contrast
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:
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
Sample Party Picking List
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.
Name You Know I'm No Good [Remix] I Want It That Way Broken Dreams Womanizer The Other Side Strangers In the Night Evacuate the Dancefloor Dark Lady With Plenty of Money and You Point Of View Boss Right Round I've Got You Under My Skin In Love With a Girl She Thinks I Still Care Clint Eastwood Heavy Cross Stare Into the Sun The Bare Necessities Only a Fool Would Say That You're Beautiful I'm Yours Ain't It Funny Ring Of Fire Amazing Pumpkin Soup Suddenly I See Poker Face The Fear What I've Done Climb Ev'ry Mountain Hanky Panky Disease From Russia With Love Life In The City These Boots Are Made for Walkin' Pocketful of Sunshine Tomorrow Is My Turn Stars Are Blind Opportunities Downtown [Remix] When You're Good To Mama Hit The Road Jack Make You Feel Better Millennium The Last Farewell Suerte (Whenever, Wherever) Get the Party Started It Feels So Good Tempted My Drag This Could Be The Start Something Big Santeria Stand By Your Man Debbie Andy, You're A Star California Dreamin' Push Me to the Floor I Think I Love You Don't Leave Me This Way
Artist Amy Winehouse Backstreet Boys Basement Jaxx Britney Spears Bruno Mars Cake Cascada Cher Count Basie DB Boulevard Diana Ross Flo Rida Frank Sinatra & Bono Gavin DeGraw George Jones Gorillaz Gossip Graffiti6 Harry Connick, Jr. Ivy James Blunt Jason Mraz Jennifer Lopez Johnny Cash Kanye West Kate Nash KT Tunstall Lady GaGa Lily Allen Linkin Park Lora Munro Madonna Matchbox Twenty Matt Monro Michael Franti & Spearhead Nancy Sinatra Natasha Bedingfield Nina Simone Paris Hilton Pet Shop Boys Petula Clark Queen Latifah Ray Charles Red Hot Chili Peppers Robbie Williams Roger Whittaker Shakira Shirley Bassey Sonique Squeeze Squirrel Nut Zippers Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé Sublime Tammy Wynette The B-52's The Killers The Mamas & The Papas The Parlotones The Partridge Family Thelma Houston
Genre R&B Rock Electronica/Dance Pop Pop Alternative Dance Rock Soundtrack Electronica/Dance Pop Hip-Hop/Rap Easy Listening Rock Soundtrack Alternative Alternative Alternative Children's Music Soundtrack Pop Pop Pop Country Hip-Hop/Rap Pop Pop Pop Pop Alternative & Punk Electronic Pop Rock Soundtrack Reggae Pop Pop Jazz Pop Rock Rock Soundtrack R&B Alternative & Punk Pop Easy Listening Latin Vocal Electronica/Dance Rock Jazz Easy Listening Rock Country Rock Alternative & Punk Pop Rock Rock Soundtrack