Our advice: a series of regularly updated articles written by band leader Mike Paul-Smith, detailing everything you need to know before booking live music for your event.
We often get asked if we are able to learn new song requests for particular events, or for the first dance at a wedding, so we thought we’d write this article to explain the options available.
Essentially, the answer to the question “can you learn this song” is very often “yes”. However, there are some songs that we just can’t perform; we are a very flexible band but we don’t feature a guitar in our regular line-up, so guitar-heavy songs like Sweet Child of Mine are probably out.
However, don’t worry too much about this – just ask and we’ll let you know if a particular song is possible.
The next question we need to ask is – what do you want the song to sound like? There are two main options:
- Basic arrangement:
We can perform from sheet music or chord sheets. When doing this, we would normally perform the song with a basic line-up, i.e. just vocals and rhythm section. The melody, tempo and structure of the song are usually kept the same, but some important details like string lines or solos may sound different to the version that you know. Often, it makes it makes it sound more like an ‘acoustic’ or ‘live lounge’ version of the song.
- Full transcription and orchestration:
We can attempt to transcribe the song note-for-note from the recording, and then orchestrate (or ‘arrange’) it for the musicians in our band. This means that the song sounds extremely similar to the recorded version, and it also means that you get the benefits of having the fantastically rich sound produced by our full line-up. This is the process we go through for all the songs in our function band repertoire list – almost every song that you hear us perform live is from our own, customised orchestration of a song arranged specifically for the musicians in our band.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that option 1 is the cheapest option, if we can find sheet music for the song. Option 2 is more expensive, as it is a time-consuming process. With some simple songs it can take 3 or 4 hours to do a transcription and arrangement (but rarely any less time than this); more complicated songs can take a lot longer. The current record for our band is 21 hours spent by Mike transcribing and arranging a swing tune for a jazz dance called the Tranky-Doo!
If we had to guess the average time taken to transcribe and orchestrate a song, it would probably be around 5 hours for a soul, Motown, pop or disco song, and around 10 hours for a big band, Rat Pack or swing tune.
It all comes down to the song that you want us to perform, so get in touch with your requests and we’ll see what we can do.