Did you realize the name of this article, “Five Piece String Quartet“, does not actually make sense? Well, a few weeks ago, I received an email from a wedding planner (a client) wanting to book a five-piece string quartet for a wedding. The other day another bride wanted a violin duo. I totally understand these misunderstandings. I’ve been assisting my clients in arranging musicians for their events since 2007 and realized many people have little to no knowledge about classical music’s composition and structure in general.
There are many blogs on popular wedding websites discussing ceremony music. However, these blogs are often written by writers, not professional musicians who perform during weddings. These blogs are providing readers with incorrect and misleading information. For example, suggesting brides hire students from local music colleges. We’ll talk about this next time.
When I started contracting musicians in 2007, the most requested ensembles were a string trio and very often a violin & cello duo. A fraction of our events requested a string quartet, which is the optimal instrumentation needed to create a lush and complete feel/sound with these authentic European instruments.
European weddings have always been different; string quartets were a must. Classical music education has a much longer history in Europe than here in the US, and quartets are the standard.
Here is video of a string quartet performing Mozart at Waldegg Castle in Switzerland
The US trend changed when the Vitamin String Quartet started uploading their string pop covers on YouTube back in 2012. Brides started requesting quartets, and instead of choosing traditional wedding ceremony music, they started choosing pop songs. I think most brides didn’t actually know the definition of a string quartet but were booking quartets simply for the name – quartet.
The string quartet’s popularity has spanned hundreds of years from the 18th century, starting with Haydn’s Royal Viennese Quartet to quartets such as the 2019 Grammy Winning Kronos Quartet.
What do all these have in common? Two violins, a viola, and a cello. Simply put, what you get with a string quartet is 400 years of tradition and excellence in beauty, sound, and perfection. If you’d like to be more creative but still maintain that sound, you can replace the 1st violin with a flute, oboe, and saxophone (or piano). I think baby grand pianos look so elegant at weddings! For church weddings, we like adding a trumpet player.
Here is video of Quartet with flute.
In the string quartet, the first violinist plays the lead part; the melody and the other three musicians fill the harmony and make the sound richer, nicer, and louder. That’s why a violin & guitar duo or a violin & piano duo also sound good because the piano and the guitar are capable of filling-up the sound by playing chords and filling the sound.
Video of New York Virtuosi string quartet performing “La Vie en Rose”.
Or imagine this situation: a singer, a keyboard player, a drummer, and a bass player. The singer is violin 1, the keyboard player is violin 2, the drummer/percussion is viola, and the cello is the bass. If you only hire cello and violin, you’ll only have vocals and bass. If you hire violin, viola, and cello, you will not have the drums’ rhythm. If you do end up requesting a pop set, the quartet is essential to achieving pop music elements! Imagine only hiring John Lennon and George Harrison. You’re missing Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr! Got it?
Video of Charleston Virtuosi String Quartet performing “That’s Amore”.
A string quartet should be the standard for any event performance longer than one hour. And it doesn’t matter if your wedding has 20 or 40 guests. If you are having an intimate wedding, especially now during the pandemic, you should still hire the quartet if your venue allows it. We’ve been a part of intimate weddings where our clients hired a string quartet instead of a big party band, and we were performing for four hours. The event was so elegant and so romantic!
For most clients, the most important wedding music entertainment is the wedding band. Everybody loves to party. Just remember that the ceremony musicians are the ones who set the tone or atmosphere of your wedding. They do it by using their talent, energy, and the quality of their tone, the quality of their instruments, and of course, their playlist too.
Video: wedding ceremony in London with Giardino Strings
Our suggestion regarding the string trio, when you are hiring musicians only for the wedding ceremony, and you need to save a couple of hundred dollars, book the string trio. Other good sounding and commonly less booked trios are: 1. violin, cello & piano 2. guitar, violin & cello 3. flute, guitar, cello. The trio will be fine. But please, book a quartet if you are planning a wedding where you are inviting 150+ guests. I promise that Your guests will appreciate it!
Video of Charleston Virtuosi string trio/ wedding ceremony in Savannah, GA.
Our violin & cello duo video of Canon in D has almost two million views on YouTube! Unfortunately, this is probably the only wedding song that sounds okay in this combination.
Video of Violin & Cello Duo.
I am always surprised when we receive an inquiry for a violin & cello duo for a luxury wedding or a larger event. I’ve discussed this with our clients, and they usually said it’s because of the look/aesthetic or that they’ve heard about the duo online. I agree, a violin & cello duo looks cute, but unfortunately, that’s it. The duo will never sound like a trio or quartet and will never create a memorable musical experience for you and your wedding guests.
My other advice is that if a wedding music group is trying to sell you a violin & cello duo, they are most likely not professional musicians. They have no clue how good event music should sound, or they don’t care, and for them, your wedding is just another gig. There is absolutely no way a professional musician would ever suggest a duo and be able to enjoy their own performance.
There are many unprofessional wedding musicians and music groups on the market, misleading shoppers with pretty photos. I would hire the violin & cello duo if you need music in a small room or you’re on a restricted budget (below $600), and you are set on having live music.
If you are open to different duo ensembles, these are my favorite duos that sound excellent! For example: 1. violin & guitar 2. cello & guitar 3. piano & violin 4. piano & cello 5. violin & harp 6. flute & harp 7. piano & saxophone.
Videos of Violin & Piano Duo, Guitar & Cello Duo and Harp & Flute Duo