For almost 9 years now I have conversed with couples about their wedding music. Over steaming cups of coffee illuminating their joyous faces, they look into my eyes and ask “ I was wondering… well… what I’m really hoping is to walk down the aisle to Canon in D. Can you play that?” I’m always both happy and a little sad over this interchange: happy because yes—we can and do play Canon in D with passion. Sad because I know that the fact that we do play the song doesn’t really tell this bride about our ensemble: because any musician playing for wedding ceremonies better have the most popular selection of the past two centuries hot on their fingertips…in reality these brides aren’t learning as much as they might think about their options. So what questions really do distinguish one company from another? Here are 3 points of discussion to ask the band leader & company owner that will separate passionate professionals from the musical vultures looking for a quick buck at your expense.
1. What is your musical background? Tell me about the other members of the ensemble. How do you go about adding new musicians to your ranks?
2. What types of music do you play? What instruments/combination of instruments do you offer?
3. Where do you get your music? Do you do special requests for songs? Do you arrange the music specifically for your group or do you play off of music from other sources?
As you listen to the answers to these questions, you should be able to tell whether the people have well thought out answers or if they are scrambling to make themselves sound competent. Beware the person who just gives a blanket yes without explanation and if money is a factor in your decision, be sure and clarify what additional costs might be involved in the various offerings. Many groups will arrange music but additional fees above the listed price may be involved.
While photos, flashy advertisements and even referrals are handy, you are hiring these musicians to play live music, so there is really nothing you can do that is as important as listening to samples of their music. I am simply amazed how many times I field calls from brides who want to know how much we charge without having heard our music. Most companies have audio samples on their websites as well as a CD they can send you to listen to. Don’t worry if you don’t see a sample of the actual song you want to have played—most musicians try to give a sampling of the various types and styles of music they specialize in—so for example, if you hear a Beatles tune, chances are pretty high that you could have a great rendition of the Beach Boys. You can also request things like “I’d love to have a fast version of Canon in D” or “I’d like Ave Maria with vocals instead of instrumental.”
Wedding advice columns often tell brides to listen to the musicians performing live before booking. It certainly doesn’t hurt, but keep in mind that the repertoire and even the conduct of an ensemble in a concert setting is going to be different from how they will be at your wedding. To cut right to the point, your wedding is about you and your relationship. Everything—music included should be aimed at drawing attention towards that. Imagine Lady Gaga performing at your wedding ceremony—while just perfect for millions of screaming fans in a stadium, it would be beyond awkward to have someone in a meat dress singing as you walked down the aisle! The music and the musicians should play in a way that focuses on you.
The bottom line is that you should not be intimidated about the process of finding great live music. Just because you might not play an instrument yourself does not mean you can’t tell whether something is beautiful. . .and you certainly can tell if you are being treated with courtesy and professionalism. Live music in the right hands will add the perfect soundtrack to the visual beauty and joy of your day!
The work week of a certain violinist began and ended at polar extremes!
Monday: 6 hour studio recording session with my quartet for the heavy metal band Alesana’s forthcoming release. . . later that evening a meeting with a really cool bride about her upcoming August wedding for which I’ll be arranging some Keane and Adelle tunes for string quartet.
Friday: Jazz violin and vocals with guitar and bass by Nate Macy & Nolan Staples for the Mama Baby Haiti charity event aboard the Portland Spirit: a room filled with midwives, doulas and those who love them gathered together to support the efforts to provide birthing services and pediatric care to mothers and children in Haiti.
For myself and many of my friends who make music for a living, there is rarely a “normal” week… and if there is, we often find ourselves wondering if we’re doing something wrong! In all of the hubbub of going and coming, I’m trying to learn to just take each moment as it comes and invest fully–even if tomorrow may find me playing a totally different style in a different place with different shoes!
Many people mistakenly believe that unless they are wealthy enough to hire Elton John and his piano to be delivered to their ceremony site, that live music will limit them to a range of classical songs that mean nothing to them. When they hold up that option (boring…possibly expensive music they don’t recognize) against having their deejay play a recording of Ben Harper or Etta James, it is easy to see why some would conclude music to be as gratuitous a luxury as hiring in a flock of live swans to waddle through the reception.
If you are choosing an ensemble whose repertoire consists almost entirely of Classical music, and you don’t really LIKE classical music, than yes, it probably isn’t worth it. If however, you choose an ensemble with a versatile repertoire and the ability to add songs of your choosing to the playlist, than all of a sudden you’ve upped the style and sophistication of your event 100 fold.
In a nutshell, here are 5 reasons to go live for your ceremony (and beyond)
- Live music is better for timing your processional. Maybe your flowergirl gets distracted down the aisle. Maybe you have 9 bridesmaids…or 2. The average recorded song is about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in length. The average length of processional is 1 to 1.5 minutes. A deejay can fade or start in the middle of a song but live musicians can arrange the song to fit exactly with what is actually happening in the moment.
- Live music is more interesting than recorded music for you and your guests to enjoy. Anyone who has ever been to a concert knows this! Why would you fork out $75 or more to see your favorite artist from the nosebleed section of a stadium if listening to an mp3 on your earbuds were more enthralling?
- Live music is cross generational. By having a range of music played by an ensemble such as a string quartet, you offer a style of music that anyone from your friends to your elderly grandparents will enjoy.
- However brief your ceremony may be, the moment you begin walking down that aisle will stay with you forever. The song that is played will remind you every time you hear it in the future so choose carefully and make sure it’s done well!
- Live music is more appropriate for outdoor weddings. As you are surrounded by nature, the sounds of birds singing and wind rustling the leaves, how much more organic and appropriate is a beautiful violin than a big black speaker? Very.
The most important…in fact, the only ingredient necessary to have an amazing wedding celebration is the love that you and your partner share. As you think of the elements that will go into reflecting that love, live music is one very special option that can help express the happiness that you feel! For more information and ideas for live music, check out sample live music on the Effesenden Music website!
It has been a really enjoyable year for us at Effesenden so far. Being able to play creative music for people who really value our attention to detail, quality and customer service has been highly satisfying. Since our best form of advertising is the positive experiences of our clients, here is sampling of their responses.
Effesenden String Trio: playing Tangos, Baroque, Rock and Bach
“Thanks for your part in making our Intel Technology Development Grand Celebration June 2010 a immensely successful event. I appreciate your professionalism, dedication and art. It truly added to the ambiance of our event. I have been doing these events for 30+ years now, I believe beyond doubt this event was one my best, and Effesenden Music contributed to that wonderful and meaningful success.”
-Ed Bonnot, LTD Projects/WRCS Manager at Intel
Effesenden Guitar, Violin & Bass playing Classical, Oldies and Swingin’ Jazz
“Thank you so much for playing at our wedding last night. You and your
musicians were incredible. So many of our guests told us they never wanted
you to stop playing. Thank you for making our day more beautiful.”
-Tim and Natalie at Garden Vineyards
Effesenden Guitar, Violin, Cello and Vocals playing Scottish, Classic Rock and Folk
“Your music was my favorite detail of the day. You have such a gift and I’m
so glad you shared it with me and the people I love! Thanks so very very much!”
-Janet W. at Youngberg Hills Vineyard and Inn
Effesenden String Quartet playing traditional classical music
“The highlight of Jody¹s ceremony was the beautiful music. Several commented
on the selections and the excellence of the musicians. We were all thrilled
to have such accomplished musicians and selections.”
-Patti L. at the Resort at the Mountain
Effesenden String Quartet playing Ballet, Movie themes and late Romantic classical music
”Wendy, I can’t thank you enough for the beautiful music for Jennifer’s
wedding! It was exactly what I had hoped for!”
-Barb H. at Youngberg Hills Vineyard and Inn
Effesenden String Trio playing a specially arranged song from the video game “Final Fantasy” along with traditional music: Canon in D and other classical selections.
“We both thought you did an amazing job at our wedding, especially the Final Fantasy peice. Thanks!”
-Tammy and Marcus L. at Warner Pacific Chapel