Wedding bands vs. DJ repertoire/playlist
The usual Chicago wedding band contract is for a minimum of 3 hours…180 minutes. The band takes 2, 15 minute breaks and that leaves 150 minutes of live music. Consider that a song is typically 3 minutes (or more) and that means you are going to having around 50 songs played by your wedding band. During the breaks we always have our iPod with us for background music. But you can also give me your iPod, with your own playlist. 30 minutes of break time equals another 8-10 songs.
With DJ’s, or with wedding bands, you’re looking at 60 songs for dancing, and that’s probably on the high side. Most brides and grooms want a good variety of musical styles. Unless you want an all Beatles wedding, a salute to hair bands of the 80’s, or a tribute to Jerry Garcia and the Dead for 3 hours, a great wedding band can give you what you want.
There is a musical compromise with Chicago wedding bands because they cannot play every song ever written. We also can’t physically learn a dozen new songs for every wedding. If any wedding band says “Sure, we can learn all of those songs,” to every one of your requests, it just ain’t so. With wedding bands, there has to be some give and take. Let’s say that my wedding band is already learning three new songs for you – your first dance and 2 other songs. You also tell me that you love the music of Bruce Springsteen. You‘d like to have us play “Thunder Road” and “Glory Days”. I then tell you that, in our repertoire, we already play “Hungry Heart”, “Dancing in the Dark”, and “Cover Me”. Now remember, we’re already learning 3 songs for you and learning new songs is labor intensive. It does take time, and depending on the difficulty of the song, it may take a lot of time.
Standards (big band, swing, jazz) and Broadway show tunes are usually easier for wedding bands to learn. So many different singers have recorded any particular standard that usually there is not just 1 definitive recording. The wedding band doesn’t have to sound like a specific artist. The exception may be something like “Fly Me to the Moon”, with the Sinatra version being the most famous version. Rock and Roll songs are generally more musically involved – especially when any really good wedding band wants their arrangement to sound very much like the original recording, and you want that, too.
Anyway….going back to the Springsteen example. If we can possibly learn another song we will. But if we can’t, then whether it’s us or any other wedding band, you’ll need to say to yourself, “OK, they are learning 3 songs for us, and that’s great. If I can’t get the exact Boss songs I want, at least I know that the band will play some Springsteen”. The requests that the wedding band is unable to play can be put on the iPod and played during band breaks. Now if playing all of your requests is a deal breaker, then you’ll have to go with the DJ. But, if you want the energy, excitement and fun that naturally come along with a live performance, then a Chicago wedding band is the way to go.
I want to spend some time on the “sound“ of wedding bands. The truly great Chicago wedding bands work very hard at authentically duplicating any and every musical style. As a keyboard player, I want to make sure that when we play Lady Gaga, my keyboard sounds like Lady Gaga. And those sounds are different from…say…Michael Jackson keyboard sounds. Our guitarist, bassist, drummer, vocalists…we all want to sound “right”. One of the biggest compliments we can get is when someone says, ‘”Wow! You guys sound just like the recording!” Honestly, we’re not unique in our approach. The best wedding
bands do the same thing. Are we impersonators? No. Are we a tribute band? No. We are a highly skilled and talented group of musicians, who want you to have the absolute best musical experience possible.