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How to Plan For Different Band Types at Your Event

Published: 27th September 2018 15:22

You've already taken the first step towards making your event a success – you've decided to feature a live function band! There's nothing as universally engaging and enjoyable as music played live and loud – people of all ages and nationalities can get on board with some musical talent and passion.

So what genre of music is right for your event? This is the million dollar question – and there are a lot of factors to consider before we can answer it. We're going to focus on a few of the most popular forms of live music act available in the event entertainment business, and explore what they do, who likes them, and how best to accommodate them at your venue.

A Rock Band

If there's one style of music whose energy and intensity is impossible to ignore, it's a good old-fashioned rock band. Wailing guitars, thundering drums and some over-confident rock-star posturing are just what the doctor ordered. AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana and any other band you've seen emblazoned across a moody teenager's black t-shirt is up for grabs. Rock music is all about letting your hair down and sticking it to the man, so it's probably best saved for less formal occasions (especially if you think your guests might object to some of the saucier source material).

Rock bands will tend to require a medium to large amount of space, as you can guarantee you'll have a drum kit and a couple of amplifiers to contend with. This, and rock musicians tend to like to move around a lot – so you may struggle to accommodate them unless you have a designated stage area at your venue. Also, place a dance floor between the stage and the seats – not only will some of your more reserved guests prefer to keep their ear drums intact from the safety of the opposite wall, but also the thrill seekers among them will need somewhere to rock out

A Pop Band

One genre of music that you can guarantee every last one of your guests will have heard is chart and mainstream pop. However cheesy some of these hit songs may be, you'd have to have spent the last decade under a rock with your fingers in your ears to not be able to hum along to their choruses. These songs could include anything from ABBA and Madonna to Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber, so you'll still be getting quite a range of material. A pop group is probably your safest bet when you're looking for an act that will please the majority of your crowd.

Pop groups vary a lot in size, depending on whether they perform with a full backing band or to a backing track. Naturally, hiring a pop vocalist who sings along to backing track will save a lot of space (and money), but if you have the means, it's worth going all the way to really bring the joy out of the songs. Like with rock bands, it pays to have somewhere to bop and boogie for those who feel the need – even if it's just to a singer and backing track.

A Jazz Band

There aren't many genres considered half as cool as jazz – those cats really know how to play. Not only will your guests be treated to some of the most impressive musicianship available on the circuit (that goes for saxophonists, guitarists, drummers – the lot), but they'll also bare witness to a highly emotive performance from a highly skilled jazz singer, channeling the best of Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Nina Simone and Louis Armstrong. While jazz is perhaps less directly in the public eye as is was half a century or more ago, it still appeals to all ages, and will generally be considered a more cultured choice than a pop group or disco band.

There's a lot of variety when it comes to jazz bands, spanning from a solo pianist or guitarist performing instrumental music to trios, quartets and beyond. If you've got the space for it, it's definitely worth considering a band with a jazz drummer, as these are without fail some of the most breathtaking to watch. Please be aware that often jazz bands will feature brass sections, but these are often optional, so just be sure to clear with your jazz band well in advance how many members they have, and cross reference that with the space you have available.

An Instrumental Band

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words, and some musicians like to let the music speak for itself. Instrumental bands range from acoustic folk ensembles with guitars, banjos, mandolins etc. to string quartets or ensembles with cellos, harpists, flutes et. often playing classical music, traditional compositions and popular songs reworked to feature the vocal melody on another instrument. You're likely to receive a mixed bag, so an instrumental band should have something to offer everyone – not least the opportunity to converse at a comfortable level, as many instrumental bands are more than happy to twiddle away in the background rather than vie for your attention.

In general, instrumental bands won't require as much room as other acts featured on this list – they'll just gather around their sheet music in a huddle, and keep playing until the night draw to a close. Some of the instruments these ensembles use tend to be a little on then loud side, so be careful where you position them – but, by and large, they'll play at a much more conservative level than a rock band or pop group.

A Swing Band

Swing numbers in the style of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and any other Rat Pack alumnus for that matter bring an undeniable degree of class to any event. You'll win over any more mature guests on your invite list, as well as younger ones with a fascination for that bygone era they've only heard about through the likes of Mad Men and Casablanca.

Swing bands tend to be similar to jazz bands at the larger end of the scale – you'll typically have a lead vocalist, a core band and a few backing musicians, including a horn section. For the full effect, it's worth booking yourself a larger venue – and make sure your guests have somewhere to try out their moves, as the rhythm of swing is pretty much irresistible.

A Folk Band

Folk bands, along with Ceilidh and Celtic bands, tend to take a rustic, rootsy approach to their music, utilising mostly acoustic instruments and the natural beauty of vocal harmonies. Mumford and Sons spearheaded folk's re-entry into the mainstream, and bands such as the Pogues and the Corrs still received regular radio airplay. For the most part, folk and traditional music is inoffensive to the majority of ears, and tends to be quite upbeat.

Depending on the size of the folk band or Celtic band, you may need to reserve a middle-sized area for them. Often such bands will incorporate hand-held percussion or other alternatives rather than a full drum kit, but when you add in tin whistle players, flautists and mouth organists, the area quickly gets crowded. Bare in mind too that some of these bands, particularly Ceilidh, often play as part of a traditional ceremony with its own dance – so strike up a dialogue with them if you think this would go down well at your event, and figure out the logistics of hosting a full-scale hoedown.

A Solo Musician or Duo

You'd be amazed by how much you can achieve with just an instrument or two! Whether it's an acoustic and vocal duo a la Simon and Garfunkel, a solo pianist or a harpist, less really is more when it comes to solo musicians and duos. Bereft of strings, background vocalists and other such trimmings, you can really get to the core of a song, and filling in the blank spaces really test a musician's range. All you need sometimes is chords on one hand and melodies on the other!

Space is barely an issue when it comes to soloists and duos – you could easily set up a solo acoustic guitarist at the bar on a stool, and you wouldn't get in each other's way. This is ideal for smaller venues, as you can situate your instrumental group much closer to your seating/eating area without drowning out your guests' voices.


So there you have it – a rough genre-by-genre guide of he types of bands you'll be looking at when shopping for event entertainment. Of course, styles may vary, but in every case, he best thing to do is communicate with the band or artist you're interested in, and explain what kind of event you're envisioning – then you can work together to make it happen.

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