Journal

Quartet or Trio?

“The most perfect expression of human behavior is a string quartet.”  Jeffrey Tate

Many couples have been asking us lately if we provide a trio, and what the difference is between trio and quartet.

For us, the main difference is sound. Try taking Paul McCartney out of the Beatles, or The Edge out of U2. You quite literally subtract a main harmony part. For instance, what hits did Eternal have as a trio?

The more players we have, the more imagination we can use in our composing of unique arrangements. Trio is fine but without the same impact as quartet, especially in the heavier rock numbers. We can pull it off as a trio but we want to do more than that, so we encourage quartet.  We are the Cairn String Quartet for a reason. Our band line-up is four and everyone’s uniquely arranged parts are what have the guests talking for weeks after weddings.

“I have quite a low budget – Can Cairn Quartet offer a Trio?”

It’s true, the big plus point to the trio is that it is cheaper simply because one person is missing, but we encourage against it where we can, and try to fit into budgets as much as possible as we don’t feel we are offering the same product to our clients as a Trio.

“Our venue is tight on space”

Coming from four ladies who have dangled off windowsills in highheels in order to fit in, it’s true, some venues are quite tight on the old space, but we nearly always find a nook that works perfectly with the acoustics of the venue. Take Glenskirlie Castle. Who would have thought it, but playing outside the room at the back fills not only the ceremony room, but the whole castle with a delicious warm sound. In Solsgirth House, why, there’s a lovely string quartet sized stage at the back for us.  In the Vu, I’m not sure why anyone is worried about space in the Vu but whilst emailing for quotes, our prospective clients are being advised by other groups that the Vu as a venue is too small for a quartet but this is completely false. We play there regularly and in the drinks reception it is best to have a quartet as it can be quite noisy.  It’s best to ask the quartet have they performed there before and if they know the venue. Most times, in order to fit in, three of us stand while the cello sits, this saves miles of room when required and is still comfortable provided we’re not standing in heels for hours on end (we can never get the boys out of those 4” heels!)  So yes, if space is tight, trio may be the thing for you but always ask first because there may be a way around it.

“We are having a small wedding and are worried the sound of a quartet would be intrusive”

Any good quartet will play sensitively to their surroundings.

We are equally at home with audiences of 6 – 600. In all honesty, the smaller the wedding, the easier it is to play musically as you’re not worried about it being heard at the back or any of that. You can play with whatever dynamics you feel appropriate at the time. Just because you only have 40 guests, why should they get 3/4s of the performance?

So, to sum it all up, trio is fine. But quartet is stunning. It’s the perfect combination. That’s why Haydn wrote 68 pieces for String Quartet and only wrote one for String Trio. He tried it once, and didn’t like it. No matter what, we always strive to make each wedding exceptional, and to do something that you and your guests will remember for years to come.  We’re happy to play as trio if that suits your budget, but if given the choice, we’d prefer to wow with what packed out the tents with singing fans at T in the Park, what is getting thousands of views on youtube, and what we love.