A holiday gathering isn't a party without Christmas music. But how can you ensure the tunes on your playlist will set a celebratory mood for your guests?

Jeff Brown, of Northwest Indiana's Jeff Brown Trio, says the first step is to know your audience.

"My trio does easily 15 to 20—both corporate and private—holiday parties for groups of all sizes," he says. "It's my job to make sure that the music is appropriate for the occasion."

The repertoire used needs to fit the situation. "Obviously, certain genres render themselves more readily than others," he says. "Holiday music means different things to different people."

For casual gatherings, upbeat tempos can get the party hopping. For more formal parties, Christmas music that plays in the background and includes instrumental renderings of holiday carols may work better.

While some crowds may prefer vintage recordings by Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and others, recent tunes by Paul McCartney, Eartha Kitt, Bruce Springsteen and others may be more fitting for other groups.

"This doesn't even take into account all of the artists from various genres that have recorded holiday standards and originals," Brown says. "There are great country, jazz, classical, rock, and rhythm and blues holiday recordings available from international as well as regional artists."

When Brown plays for a party, he says he plays tunes several generations have listened to growing up. A few of his favorites include "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Johnny Marks, and "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Gene Autry.

Live musicians can also perform your playlist of favorite holiday tunes—giving your guests their own personal concert.

"I think that it is much more affordable than some people think," Brown says. "Having said that, the Internet has unlocked a myriad of musical options available and in many cases, categorized by genre and/or artist."

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