The Wedding Guitar Gig - Getting and playing wedding music gigs. Tips and information for solo guitarists.
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Join CleverJoe's newsletter for clever musicians, and he'll let you know when new articles are posted. The Complete Wedding Music Collection

Playing Solo Guitar at Wedding Gigs

By Jim Graham   www.jimgraham.ca/

Also be sure to check out CleverJoe's top picks in wedding music fake book/guitar tab collections.

Along with teaching guitar and bass at two music schools, playing bass in a rock band and promoting my own independent CDís, I play solo guitar at a number of weddings each year. These are a very different type of booking than most. For one thing, they pay pretty good money and to date I have never had a problem getting paid. Another aspect that makes them different is that almost no one acknowledges your presence as you sit in the corner playing song after song. This is something that you have to be prepared to accept, as you have been hired to provide live background music, and most of the people attending the average wedding donít really care if you are there or not. The best you can hope for is while you are packing up afterward one or two kind souls might come forward to tell you they enjoyed your music. Overall though, I like these bookings, itís kind of nice to be able to zone out and just play most of your repertoire without everybody staring at you in silence.

Some of the things you will need to have are
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My repertoire consists of a handful of classical "standards" such as "Ode to Joy", "Fur Elise", "Romance" and some of the more common pieces by Carulli and Guiliani. Along with these I play Classical Gas", "Blackbird" and a variety of songs from several genres such as Flamenco and Celtic. All in all I find that almost anything you play on a nylon string guitar can be made to fit at a booking like this. I also have a binder with about forty-five minutes worth of Classical music that I can sight-read on demand as a back up for the pieces I have memorized. Every now and then I get a booking that has me playing one more set than I am used to and this comes in handy then. I keep the pages in heavy plastic holders to minimize the effects of high winds for the outdoor bookings.

There are two types of wedding bookings, Cocktail hour and Processional, Cocktail hour is usually the time spent after the ceremony and before the dinner and the musician is there to provide a nice backdrop while the guests have a few drinks and chat. These are almost always a two hour gig, you play two lengthy sets with a break, and occasionally I get booked to play during the dinner instead of Cocktail hour, again for two hours. I charge $250.00 for these dates and more if there is a long drive involved.

The Processional is usually a one hour date and goes something like this, I start playing about thirty minutes before the actual wedding ceremony is scheduled to take place, I play until either I am given a preset cue, or I notice that the processional is about to begin. At this point I play "Romance" until everyone in the processional is at the front facing the Priest/Justice or whoever is performing the service, then I gracefully fade out. After the couple has been married and "announced" I play until everyone has left the area. This being a one hour booking, I charge $150.00 and up, considering driving distance. These monetary amounts may vary depending on where you live.

This Is the Ultimate Fake Book With over 1200 Songs I have done quite a few Processonals lately as more people have decided they no longer want the traditional "Wedding March" played on the organ, and the surprising thing is that many of the people that call me for these dates are not familiar with classical music and will just ask me if I can play something slow and romantic for the processional.

How To Get The Wedding Gigs
Ads in local newspapers have had mixed results for me, sometimes they make the phone ring and sometimes they donít. I live near a moderate size city and I have heard that in the bigger cities these ads do work well. My main source of bookings comes from people calling the local Musicians Union office, of which I am a member. Because I belong to the union and I file contracts with them on all of my gigs they know I am reliable and will gladly give my name and phone number out, along with several other union members who are known to do a lot of wedding work. Another avenue is to leave demo tapes and business cards with stores in your area that supply party needs such as printed napkins, folding chairs, flowers etc., I have gotten some results that way as well.

When You Get a Call For a Wedding Gig
100 Graded Classical Guitar Studies The first thing I do when I get a call is find out the time and date they want me for and check my calender to see if I am available. If I am available I answer all of the callers questions, fill them in on what I usually do and ask them if they would like a demo of my music. If they do want a demo we now have a couple of options, the demo tape/CD that you mail them or the internet. I always ask if they have access the internet before I mail out a demo, because if they do, and if they have a sound card (who doesnít these days) I direct them to my website where they can see a picture of me and listen to a couple of my songs, in particular, the "Romance" I mentioned earlier. Donít have a website? No problem, mp3.com will give you a free page where you can post a picture, write up some text about yourself and put up as many songs as you like. These sites also allow anyone visiting to send you an e-mail, the only thing you have to be careful about is ownership of rights to the songs you are posting. If they are "public domain" and you are not using a copyrighted arrangement of someone elses you are OK. If you are going to go this route go to the classical music category at mp3 and check out the guitar chart, you will see many time honored classics already posted by other artists.

Once they've heard your music and spoken with you on the phone many of these people are ready to book you. Sometimes however, I'm asked if I would mind meeting them in a local coffee shop before they make a decision. I always agree, and show up on time, dressed well and have a pleasant chat over a cup of coffee.

Once You Have the Wedding Gig
When someone has agreed to hire you for a wedding the first thing to do is type up a contract and get it to them so they can sign and return it. This not only protects you, but it protects them as well, now you canít take that "better offer" that came in at the last minute and leave them in a lurch. Also, a properly filled out contract gives them your mailing address, thus enabling them to send you a nicely worded thank you note that can be used as a reference in future. At this point you want to make sure you have good directions to the location in question and you may find that some of your clients like to phone once or twice in the weeks leading up to the wedding to ask questions about your repertoire and what you will be wearing.

At the Wedding Gig
Wedding & Love Songs For A New Century Arrive early, if no directions were laid out beforehand concerning where you are to set up, find out, ask the first person you see and soon you will be all set up and ready to play. A couple of basic rules of behavior are to smile and speak only when spoken to. When you are playing, remember that this is a special day for the happy couple, not your day to show off, just play song after song with a very brief pause between pieces, donít expect applause, and just enjoy playing your music. I usually amplify my electric classical guitar with a small amp, just loud enough to be heard in amongst the conversations going on in the room/area, and once I have set a volume level I like to leave it there. If you start turning it up it just makes people talk louder which may draw negative attention.

When you are finished playing, quietly pack up and prepare to leave. At this point I usually get paid by one of the members of the wedding party, sometimes they pay me as soon as they see me, before I have played a note, just to get that detail out of the way. In some cases I have been invited to sit down and have something to eat, maybe a glass of wine, I usually gracefully decline unless the people are just so friendly and downhome that I canít refuse, but in any case I never linger for long once I am finished playing.

Even though I have a website of my own I use an mp3 page for these bookings. For one thing, the URL is shorter and easier to give out on the phone, ( http://www.mp3.com/jimgraham ), and my own site is geared toward several things about my musical endeavors whereas I have the mp3 page set up for just my solo guitar career. One more thing, if you go to my mp3 site and listen to "Romance" you will notice that I have slowed the tempo and drawn out the melody, it just seemed to sound better that way to my ears.

So if any of you are putting the finishing touches on a classical guitar repertoire and are looking for somewhere to use it I hope this article helps you out. The Ultimate Pop Rock Fake Book

Regards, Jim Graham

So now where do you find the music you need to start making money?
Check out CleverJoe's top picks in wedding music fake book/guitar tab collections.

A guitarist since age nine, Jim has played everything from rock and blues to country and classical. Jim has two solo guitar music CD's which are available at GuitarNine.com. He also has a guitar instruction book/CD, available at Renaissance Music. When he's not performing, he teaches at two music schools. You can check out Jim's web site at www.jimgraham.ca/.



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