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Trumpet Tune
Air on a G string
Eine Kleine
Con te Partiro
All I Ask of You
Moon River
The Rose

Choosing Pop Music for a String Quartet
at your Wedding


cello with flowers

Many couples like the traditional sound and elegance of a string quartet for their wedding music but also like the idea of having some popular music in addition to classical music. For some this means choosing one popular song while for others it means choosing several popular tunes for the ceremony or reception. The purpose of this article is to give wedding couples an idea of what types of popular songs will work best for string quartet. Hopefully, this will facilitate the process of choosing music and, by educating the wedding couple, will result in the highest quality of music. While this article is written with the string quartet in mind, it also applies to any string ensemble (i.e. trios an duets) or other classical ensembles (i.e. flute/violin/cello).

Remember, we are classical musicians!

When you are thinking about what popular song(s) you would like for your wedding, keep in mind that you are choosing music for classical musicians to play. Classical musicians can be very adept at playing many popular tunes; however, certain styles do not easily transfer to classical ensembles. For instance, choosing a hard rock tune by Rush may not be the best choice for classical musicians! Or heavy metal music that is full of "grunge" or distortion with a pounding rock beat will probably be a disappointment! True, there are several string quartets that play amazing arrangements of heavy metal and hard rock tunes. However, many of them have rock backgrounds and/or have spent many hours putting together special arrangements. This is not to discourage you from using your imagination, so always ask if in doubt, but keep in mind these general guidelines for the best results.

Tuneful melodies work the best

Melody is the part of music that is usually sung by the lead singer in a rock band. Some rock melodies sound great on strings while others do not transfer well. Generally speaking, pop songs that have memorable melodies that can stand on their own without the words work the best for strings. When choosing a pop song, listen to it and imagine the melody without the words being sung and ask yourself how it would sound. Or to put it another way, imagine someone listening to the string quartet who does not know the song or the words and ask yourself if it would make sense to them.

Choose melodies that have simple rhythms.

This is similar to the first point. Here is what I mean: Some popular songs have melodies sung by the lead singer that strongly mimic the rhythms of speech. Rap, of course, is an obvious example of this but other popular songs that are not Rap are also very "speech-like". Speech-like rhythms can be awkward to play in any instrumental version of a pop song and can even sound a bit random without the words. We recommend melodies that use rhythms that are not so much geared towards the rhythms of speech but ones that enhance the melody. This is hard to put into words so I hope this makes sense!

Remember, there will be no drums!

We recommend choosing popular songs that do not overly rely on the drums for musical interest. Of course, most pop music relies on the drums for at least some of the musical interest but there are gradations of emphasis put on the drums in different songs. Follow this simple exercise; listen to the song and imagine it without the drums and ask yourself how it would sound. There are certain limited techniques that string players can do to make up for the lack of drums, but remember, the drum set will be missing!

Choose several options of popular songs

Unless your heart is set one particular popular song, it is a good idea to choose several options and run it by the musicians to get their input. They will know which ones will sound the best played by a string quartet. YouTube is a great resource for this. In fact, it is a great idea for you as a wedding couple to brainstorm together and listen to the tunes on YouTube, keeping in mind the ideas in this article to narrow down your options.

Is the music even available?

There are many rock bands that have yet to publish sheet music to their new albums. One great place to check to see if music is available is to do a search at musicnotes.com. They have a wealth of downloadable sheet music for sale. If you cannot find it there, check with us as we can look at alternative sources.

Putting it all together

Hopefully this article will not only help you choose popular music that will be meaningful to you on your special day but also music that will sound great when played by a string quartet. In the end, use your imagination. If your heart is set on a particular piece, and you don't mind that it will sound a bit stiff played by a string quartet, we'll do our best to accommodate. We can't promise we will do any piece requested -- after all, we don't want to make fools of ourselves trying to play a psychedelic rock chart! -- but we will do our best. And as always, it never hurts to ask! And Have Fun!

We hope our website is useful to you. If so, please consider telling others about it (i.e. fellow "knotties" at theknot.com) or linking to us. Thank you!

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