Everything You'll Ever Need To Know About Booking A Classical Musician
In our exclusive guide, find out what classical musicians we have available at Alive Network, what they will do at your event, what type of music they'll play, how long they'll play for, how much space they will require, how much it costs to hire a classical musician and much more.
What Is A Classical Musician & What Do They Do?
A classical musician plays an acoustic (unamplified) instrument usually found in an orchestra, such as a violin, flute, harp, cello, trumpet, and including other solo instruments such as piano, saxophone and classical guitar. Many people think of classical music as purely Western (i.e. from Western Europe), but almost every culture in the world has a 'classical' music tradition, from Japan to India, Indonesia to Bali. (We've got a few world music musicians on our books such as sitar players - just ask.)
While classical musicians do spend the majority of their time playing classical music such as you'd hear on Classic FM or at the BBC Proms, most also have a very wide repertoire (music they know). So, if you book them, they can play music to suit all tastes, including arrangement of pop and rock classics, jazz, easy listening and musicals.
Classical musicians can perform solo or as part of a group, such as a flute and harp duo, wind instrument trio or string quartet.
At Alive Network, our classical musicians are in great demand for occasions where high quality music is required, such as weddings, dinners, receptions, product launches, society parties, VIP events, sporting occasions, etc. Some are so popular that they already have their own Alive Network Booking Guides!
* opera singers
* classical guitarists
* string quartets
What To Look For In A Quality Classical Musician
The best classical musicians will have trained at a music college or university and have a diploma or degree in music. Traditionally, graduates from the UK's major music colleges (conservatoires) such as the Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Trinity Laben, RSAMD, etc are considered the elite performers, but this does a major injustice to the many excellent players who graduate from UK universities, or who train abroad. So, look for a qualification, yes, but don't worry too much about the differences between them.
Experience counts for a lot in classical music, but like most professions it can be hard to get a foothold on the career ladder. So, if a player or a group has experience performing in concerts at famous venues or major festivals, great. However, that doesn't necessarily automatically mean that they will be perfect to entertain at your wedding reception. Check your classical musician has experience performing at the type of event you're holding, and if in doubt, as the Alive Network team to check for you.
Classical musicians study for years to perfect their playing; even top professional will often still have lessons with a teacher to keep polishing their skills. In addition, they will spend hours practicing to ensure they know their music well, and of course, also performing as often as possible! This doesn't mean they will necessarily perform without sheet music in front of them, but it ensures they always sound the best regardless of what style of music they are playing.
What Formats Are Offered By Classical Musicians?
Formats vary according to what your occasion is - and what you want!
At your wedding, for example, your classical musicians could play as you enter for your wedding or civil partner ceremony, entertain during the signing of the register, and serenade you as you both leave. Then, they could entertain your guests at the drinks reception while you're having photos taken, or as a special act during your meal.
The golden rule to remember is that classical music is not usually very loud when played by just a few players - and that's what makes it special! So, don't a classical player to entertain everyone at a drinks reception for 200 people in a echoing room and expect them to be heard over all the talking - they won't be. However, with a drinks reception on a terrace or in a suitable room, and your musicians can delight with elegant background music for those who want to move closer and listen.
Classical musicians are defined by which section of the orchestra they would play in; strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. Classical ensembles (groups) usually contain players from the same section, such as string quartets or wind quartets. However, by mixing players from two sections, such as harp (strings) and flute (woodwind), you can create gorgeous sound combinations that are just a little different, for your guests to enjoy.
Soloists (one player) offer tremendous flexibility in where they can play, as they don’ take up much space, and often have a range of music they can perform. Some soloists play with backing tracks, while other such as classical pianists or classical guitarists don't use accompaniment.
Trios (three players) and Quartets (four players) offer a bigger range of instruments, with more opportunity for harmony, so these ensembles will sound 'bigger' and 'fuller', but of course, will cost more too and need more space to sit and play!
Classical bands and chamber groups have more than four players, and are best for bigger events or for those who really love their classical music. Brass bands are perfect for outdoor events, adding a touch of glamour and a bright, energetic sound that's perfect for a summer's day fete, festival, street entertainment and more.
For classical music with a modern twist, and for bigger venues and events where music will definitely need to be amplified, look at an electric violinist or cellist, who often perform with backing tracks, lighting and popstar-style showmanship!
What Equipment Will My Classical Musician Require?
Most classical musicians are entirely self-contained, bringing their own instrument and music stand. However, they will require a dedicated space to perform, preferably with a flat floor or surface, with decent lighting if inside (although they might bring their own for the music stand), and usually a dining chair or similar to sit on. Plastic chairs are usually not comfortable enough, and slope in the wrong direction for many string players, but do ask in advance if this is all that will be available at your venue.
Classical pianists will always prefer to play a 'real' piano, but since hiring a grand piano is expensive, and venue pianos vary in quality so much, many pianists now bring their own high quality digital instrument instead. (For more details on pianos, please see our Pianists Booking Guide.).
Classical musicians very rarely provide their own PA system unless they use backing tracks or electric instruments, so if you want to amplify their sound for a bigger audience, ring Alive Network for advice first as the microphone and speaker requirements are totally different from a function band or jazz band.
What Space Will My Classical Musician Require?
The requirements vary according to which instrument you've chosen to enjoy, but as a general rule, you'll need at least 6ft by 6ft for a solo player and more for a trio or larger. Some instruments require longer spaces, such as harps and cellos, which are played in front of the chair the player is sitting on, so always ask your Alive Network consultant for the exact space requirements.
Remember, too, that players often need lots of elbow room, especially string players, and that it is best to provide at least a 2 metre 'buffer zone' around the players so that the sound mixes naturally in the air and they don't get jogged by passing waiters, etc!
The space required by pianists varies considerably - again, see our Pianist Booking Guide for details. The same applies to harpists.
What Performance Length Do Classical Musicians Offer?
Performance lengths vary according to the occasion, but most musicians will be happy to play two or three sets during an evening, usually of around 30-40 minutes each. Most musicians will not be happy to play longer than 60 minutes at a stretch, and will welcome a 20-minute rest, loo break and a drink between sets.
If you have a particular requirement, such as a 90-minute drinks reception, or want to have musicians at two points during an event, such as a wedding ceremony and reception, just ask. Most musicians very much enjoying playing, and the more opportunities they get, the happier they are!
How Much Does A Classical Musician Cost?
Most classical musicians have a standard minimum charge, and add a little on top for extra playing time, special requests, longer waiting times between sets, etc. Prices do vary according to the number of players, their level of experience and how much kit they have to bring with them. Concert harps, for example, are very heavy and require careful handling - you can't carry one around on the Tube or the train like a violin!
Fees start from as little as £220 for a young classical soloist. Duo fees start from £250, with experienced duos charging around £350. Trio costs starts at around the £350 mark, with most string quartets charging at least £550, but again fees do depend on the level of experience and popularity.
Even if we say so ourselves, price is not the best criteria to judge players by; always take a look at their Profile page, the type of music play, listen to any demo tracks and watch their video if they have one. The most important question to ask is "Will they suit my event?"
Performers who provide a full show with PA system and backing tracks charge more; electric cellist Lizzy May has toured with pop legends such as Take That, Cheryl Cole, Leona Lewis and performed for royalty, so her fees for her all-in show start from £480.
Anything Else I Need To Know?
Our classical musicians are all professional players who very much appreciate being looked after during their time at your event. Always offer a private room that can be locked, so they can get changed and leave their instrument cases if required. Many musicians won't require it, but not everyone can arrive dressed in their finery (especially the girls) and asking them to change in a toilet is simply not an option!
For larger instruments, make sure there is a car parking space as close to the performance position as possible, and that their route to the space is as level as possible, as most large instruments such as harps are moved on wheels.
For digital instruments or electric performances, check there is a clean 13-amp power supply and socket near the performance area. This will also apply if the performer requires a light.
The music world is full of in-jokes about how brass players love to prop up the bar, but most musicians just appreciate the offer of tea and coffee on arrival and soft drinks available during the event, especially in hot weather. If the provision of alcohol is stipulated in their contract, find another musician!
When considering outdoor performances, many instruments (and especially stringed instruments) do not respond well to extremes of weather. If you wish your classical musicians to play outside, always ask first - some will decline outside bookings as their instruments are too delicate (or too valuable!). Also, playing outside in cold weather is not much fun either, simply because cold fingers don’t work as well as warm ones, so again ask our team if you wish outdoor performers during the colder months.
If you do ask performers to play outside, always have a Plan B if the weather changes - and that includes sunshine as well as rain and high winds. A gazebo might be fine to provide shade, but it's hopeless as protection against driving rain or gusty winds, which plays havoc with sheet music! Equally, amplified performances outdoors will require protection for both players and equipment. If in doubt, ask one of our friendly booking team who will gladly help with advice and consult your short-listed artists if required.
How To Book Your Classical Musician
Booking your classical musician with Alive Network is easy; simply browse the profiles of our professional musicians, listen to their audio, watch a video if available, and add any that take your fancy to your own Wish List. Then, check their availability on your chosen date, and use the instant online quote facility to check they are within your budget. If you have any questions, feel free to call one of our expert team at Alive Network for expert advice.
Once you've chosen your artists and checked they are available, simply click to book them. One of our team will contact you to check final details, before a contract is issued and a deposit requested. Both you and your chosen artist will sign the contract, which is a legally biding document, so you can be sure that your booking is secure and confirmed with the artist you chose.
Then, sit back, relax and plan the rest of your event, secure in the knowledge that the team at Alive Network will ensure your artists is fully briefed, and knows to contact you around two weeks in advance to check any last minute details. For added peace of mind, we also provide you with an emergency telephone number for the day itself, just in case.
After your event, please take a minute or two to provide feedback on your artist that we can add to their profile to help other bookers choose the right act for their own event.
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