How to find the perfect wedding pianist and what to ask
Finding the best musicians isn't easy, follow these easy steps and guidelines.
Booking a wedding musician can be the easiest thing or the most difficult but remember, the music on your big day sets the tone... Think about the whole day... not just the DJ.
I always find this one the most surprising things when I speak with brides at wedding fairs. Possibly though an inexperienced wedding planner or a venue keen to appear like they've 'covered everything' in one price, the DJ is NOT your wedding music. Its a very small part of it and arguable the part you can stress the least about. Its fair to say that DJ's know what works at that time in the evening and they'll do an excellent and very well rehearsed job of it.
What requires more thought and careful selection is your choice of music for your Reception, Wedding Breakfast and of course the The Ceremony. The latter is THE most important choice you have to make
You have 2 options: a live musician or a mp3 and both have their place! The recorded track (CD/MP3) - The budget option and after the stack of other things you've bought for your big day it might well be the only option. Also, if the song has a big band sound with drums then the recorded track might well be the best way to go. It's incredibly hard to create this with a live band especially in a church... it will sound rough at best and super expensive too. If you do decide to use a recording please don't use a streaming device!... I know it's obvious but I'd actually rather use a CD than spotify or google music... the risk of application failure / battery issues etc is not something you want to be worried about as you walk down the aisle. Most services (paid subscriptions) have a 'download to the phone' option which reduces your risk of technical failure.
A live musician can not just add a visual element to your ceremony but important, more than anything is that they can adapt to changes on the day. I performed a ceremony recently where (due to a wedding dress malfunction) the bride appeared long after the bridal party.... trust me, the CD would have ended long before the bride appeared. Any credible musician can hold the music, the can build it up... add drama at the key moments and pull it back as you reach the alter. Its a beautiful experience when the music adapts to your every step. Its one of my favourite experiences as a wedding pianist.
Go direct, pay less and talk more..... Don't get me wrong, agencies are excellent sources of musicians if you can't find what you're after. They're especially good if you want to arrange multiple musicians across an event or festival. In this sense, they add incredible value. I'm registered with several agencies and get paid work from time to time which is great for me..... AND the agency, just not necessarily for the bride and groom. Why? well, you've just paid 20-40% extra for the pleasure and even worse than that, you've paid extra to erect a wall between you and your musician so chatting through song ideas and themes is in some cases almost impossible.
And, it gets worse, in many cases the 'agency' is actually a band or artist themselves. You might think they have a massive selection of artists and they will select the perfect act for your event. What you will actually get is a 'curated' selection of acts featuring the agency owner and/or good friends of the agency owner, sorted in order of least resistance. I'm generalising here and there are a number of good agencies who pride themselves on the actual 'match'.
The internet is a force of change here such that web based agencies are gaining traction providing unbiased directories of acts and artists with ratings and comments etc. The best examples don't even charge a commission per event and simply charge the musician a yearly rate to be part of the service. A great example of this is Lastminutemusician.com They have a massive selection of musicians and as it's global there is no filter on specific acts and even better, the then have a direct connection between you and the musician. All the benefits of an agency without the downsides. I really hope more agencies look seek to make their selection process much more transparent than they have right now and crucially, allow seamless communication between the the musician and the bride and groom.
Meet your musician before making a booking and definately before the big day! We're (most of us anyway) only human and in most cases as musicians, our goal is for you to be extremely happy with the music on your day. if your musician can't find the time to have a quick chat to discuss your day either at their home/wedding fair/gig then the chances are you're hiring the wrong person. Personally I insist on it (when i'm not behind the agency wall) for a number of reasons.
First I get to confirm all the essentials, dates, times and venues etc. Second though, I want the make sure i can meet (and exceed) their needs and expectations. Only this morning I did a 'meet the bride & groom' at my home and the amount of detail that dropped out of this half hour meeting was incredible and I can say without hesitation that I've more than enough information to ensure I hit all the right notes (no pun intended) on the day.
The groom for example is a guitarist... he likes Rock music... actually almost obsessed with it. Our chat started with him saying something like 'we've got very different taste in music but just focus on keeping Brenda happy'. Great, he was getting brownies for this but it didn't stop me digging deeper and finding out exactly what the groom likes and be able to fire out a couple of rock classics that he really won't expect and others that i promised he would. Not only that, i was able to help them with a host of other things they were looking for from photographers to florists. They left as friends and i really look forward to their big day.
Check and vet their website and facebook. Booking direct is THE best way, for sure. What you don't want however is to book Trevor down the pub who can crank out a great Wonderwall and thinks he can totally nail it. Great, he might even do it for free... but he might also just not fancy it on the day then you're goosed. Ok, thats an extreme case but realistically. Facebook and twitter are good indicators of an acts longevity and authority. Importantly, professional musicians care about their reputation. Poor acts get crushed on this platforms so their visibility can be a big tell. If their website is good, they've invested in their reputation of offering, again a great 'tell' in how serious and professional they are!
Introduce your musician to your videographer if you have one! Professional musicians with good equipment are more than happy to pipe a quality signal from the keyboard/mics etc direct to the videographers equipment. Essentially, it provides a best possible sound quality for your ceremony video and you'll enjoy the replay so much more. I'll not dwell on this too much but it if you bring this up early, it can sometimes be a very good initial filtering process where an artist is not comfortable with their own skills or equipment.