What Happens When I Request a Song?

We get a lot of questions about song requests. There’s just so much good music out there! Because we’re fond of expanding our repertoire, we accommodate 99% of requests. But what does that process look like?


Once our clients finalize their wedding or party playlist, I take a look and see what songs are new to me. After playing probably 500+ weddings between us, there’s a lot we’ve played before, and I like to think we’ve got the most popular hits nailed down! But, of course, I’m often surprised.


Songs I haven’t heard, or artists I haven’t heard of, send me straight to YouTube or Spotify. I spend a little time familiarizing myself with the style and trying to hear how it would translate to a string ensemble.



After a few listens, I get on my music notation software and notate the melody as a starting point. From there, I fill in the chords and other parts of the musical texture, depending on what particular ensemble is requested to play the piece. A good duo arrangement takes me 1-2 hours, a trio 1-3 hours, and a quartet up to 5 hours. If the piece is for a processional, I make good places to loop if necessary, and make stopping points clear. Sometimes for background music quartets I’ll get carried away and make my compatriots rather challenging parts (sorry guys). In any case, a song request is tailor-made for our ensemble and for the requestor’s event.


Sometimes, if a request comes in after our deadline, we’ll scour the internet and purchase a piano part to read from and improvise off of. In the most challenging case, we’ll find some lyrics, chord names or a guitar chart, and listen obsessively to the song in order to play it by ear… Which isn’t quite what classical musicians are used to, but it builds character :) Sometimes, if an arrangement just won’t work for strings (rap is really difficult for us) or if a request just comes too late, they fall in the 1% of requests that don’t make the cut.


All this happens behind the scenes so that our clients can hear their special songs. After we perform, the piece lives forever in our repertoire for the next time someone asks for it. Want to add your favorite song to our permanent list? Just reach out!


Cheers,

McKinley



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