"We are so glad you will be playing violin at our wedding. One thing: can you play 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' by Elton John?"
If you've played a few weddings, you've probably had a few requests like this: for a pop song that you may or may not know, for which you definitely do not have the music. (Is anyone old enough to remember "You Light Up My Life"?) While the violin repertoire gives us all kinds of wonderful music that is perfectly suited to weddings, people still have their favorite pop tunes that are special to them, or special to their relationship. This is okay, and I think we should try to accommodate such requests.
One of my students, a bit too young to have negotiated the whole wedding-gig circuit yet, was asked to play in a wedding, and she was struggling to figure out how to pull off "Don't Stop Believing" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." She'd be playing on a seaside cliff in Malibu, outdoors, no pianist.
In helping her figure this out, I thought I might share some ideas for my V.com friends who are asked to play weddings. (I welcome your wisdom and advice, as well!) The two challenges I'm addressing here are: having no accompaniment, and being asked to play an unfamiliar pop or folk song.
In an ideal situation, an accomplished and flexible piano or organ accompanist can help you put together something with minimal (or no) rehearsal. Also, in an ideal situation, you have a roof over your head and you are asked to play something you know really well, or at least you have the music for. It's also nice if you can be hired as a quartet, which allows you many options for music.
But you might be hired (or asked) to play all by yourself, with no accompanist. In this situation -- now please don't get mad at me for this suggestion -- I advocate taking advantage of modern technology.
At most weddings, though there may be no piano or organ, there is usually a sound system. You'll have to do some inquiring, but you will likely be able to hook up an MP3 player, a CD player, or maybe just your iPod, so that you can play an accompaniment track. (Or you can just bring your own boom box, if things are really minimalist!) You can do this for classical music you are playing, as well as for pop music.
Here's the thing to google: "vocal accompaniment tracks" or "violin accompaniment tracks." You can use such tracks to accompany your standard classical pieces, and you can use such tracks to accompany pop music requests.
For example, here's one such site, with piano accompaniments to standard, mostly classical, violin pieces: Piano-Accompaniments.com Or, you can often find something fuller. For example, I wouldn't mind playing Schubert's "Ave Maria" to this accompaniment track, and here's the matching violin sheet music part in B flat, free from IMSLP.
Important note: make sure that your sheet music is in the same key as the accompaniment track!
Now, how about those pop tunes: Elton John, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga? These probably require that you read a vocal part and find a "vocal accompaniment track." Fortunately, the range of a violin is well-suited for vocal parts, and if you are in the mood for some fun, you can do a bit of improvising once you get the basic song (or not!)
Here are a few examples, to get you thinking:
EXAMPLE 1: Elton John, "Can You Feel the Love"
I did some Googling, and I found this CD accompaniment track. Of course, they assume you are a vocalist who does not read music, so they give you a version with someone singing, plus lyrics. If you want to play by ear, you can work it out, But since most of us do read, you also might want to find some sheet music that has actual notes. A quick check with the piano tells me that this is in B flat, so after some googling, here's the sheet music. This is all pretty quick and downloadable, but in this case, the track and the music cost a total of about $16. You should pass this expense on to whomever is hiring you. (If you play a lot of weddings, you might find yourself simply having a standard fee for playing any piece that is not part of your standard menu of wedding tunes).
EXAMPLE 2: "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey (or Glee)
First, you'd need the Journey version; the Glee version is a four-part vocal score (it's pretty cool, I must say, if you have a barbershop quartet you can use this version!) -- I digress..
Here is a vocal accompaniment track for "Don't Stop Believing" (I'd recommend the instrumental version without backing vocals). I had to use the word "karaoke" a few times in my search! Of course, people usually do not use sheet music when singing karaoke; they use a lyric sheet and summon the notes with alcohol-enhanced courage. So you must find the vocal sheet music, and here it is, easy to find by searching "sheet music" and the name of the song.
EXAMPLE 3: "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" -- traditional Irish tune
In some ways, traditional tunes presents more of a challenge, because they tend to be available in a lot of different keys and styles. I would seek out accompaniment that sounds good to you, and that is acoustic (not all synthesizer, if possible). In the case of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," a search brought me to a flute version, with sheet music as well as an accompaniment CD. Nice that it was all-in-one! (I haven't heard this CD accompaniment, though, so I can't recommend it 100 percent.) Flute versions can also good options for a violinist, as they tend to be in the same range, though you will likely need to be comfortable playing a few things in position.
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I hope that gives you some ideas for how to accommodate requests for pop tunes at weddings and other occasions, and also how to cope with a situation in which there is no accompaniment. I welcome your ideas as well!Tweet
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