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Which Group Should You Choose: The String Quartet or Trio?

Updated: Mar 6

Ariana Strings quartet at a Wadsworth Mansion wedding ceremony. Credit: Alicia Ann Photography.
Ariana Strings quartet at a Wadsworth Mansion wedding ceremony. Credit: Alicia Ann Photography.

One of the biggest questions I get asked is, "Which group should I choose: the string quartet or trio?" The short answer is: Both groups are wonderful! Since you need can only pick one, let me help!


As a Connecticut violinist who has performed for 600+ weddings and private events over the last 15 years, I know exactly how to help you narrow down your options with expert advice, real music videos, and tips on how to apply it all to your wedding day.




First, let's take a closer look at each group:


String Quartet


Ariana Strings quartet at a Wadsworth Mansion wedding ceremony. Credit: Alicia Ann Photography.
Ariana Strings quartet at a Wadsworth Mansion wedding ceremony. Credit: Alicia Ann Photography.

What is it?

A 4-piece ensemble (a.k.a. group), comprised of 2 violins, 1 viola, & 1 cello

What's it like? The fullest sound of all, the quartet is our most popular and versatile group as it has the ability to play pretty much anything under the sun.  This group plays 4 even parts (melody, harmony, rhythm and beat), so this is, traditionally, the most balanced sound of the acoustic ensembles. (Balanced = Your ears understand it quickly, which our brains like!)


What does that mean?

The first violin plays the melody - that's the thing you hum that makes you instantly recognize a song. For pop songs, that's the lyrics. The cello sets the foundation with rhythm and bass with a low, warm sound. For pop songs, that's often a catchy hook or the "groove". In between those two voices (high and low, respectively), we have two instruments: the second violin and viola. This is where the magic happens. These two parts add harmony, texture, and give you that lush string orchestra sound. The viola is the one that looks like a large violin, but it can hit low notes lie the cello. It adds a rich, deep sound that fills in the middle for a totally balanced sound.


Most music (be it classical or pop), involves 8-80 instruments to perform/record, but it can usually be reduced down to those 4 recognizable parts (melody, harmony, rhythm, and bass). Since the string quartet has the ability to play these 4 parts that our ears and brains love so much, it's the natural choice to cover pop songs and classical music alike.


When the quartet plays, the 4 performers create a really beautiful sound that's warm and emotional.

Depending on the song they're playing, it can sound gentle and soft, or it can get really intense and exciting. It's like listening to a really animated conversation between the instruments, where they take turns talking and supporting each other (with interruptions, just like my family!). Overall, it's just a really beautiful and versatile sound that people can enjoy whether they're into classical music or not.


Ariana Strings at The Wadsworth Mansion by Zajac Photography
Ariana Strings at The Wadsworth Mansion by Zajac Photography

Is it loud?

That depends on the musicians. With Ariana Strings, the answer is both. We strictly hire phenomenal musicians who play out and project on concert hall-style instruments, so your guests really hear us and interact with us. We can always play softer though, to suit any setting. The quartet will definitely be heard loud and clear in both outdoor and indoor settings.

Watch out!

With other wedding music groups, who may be hiring students or amateurs (it's common in the industry, sadly), it's rare for a quartet to be that loud. Only players who have spent years dedicated to their instruments usually have the confidence and tools to play out like a soloist. This is why it's so important to compare the style and ability of groups in your area by watching their videos closely.


Ariana Strings at Dickinson Mansion
Ariana Strings at Dickinson Mansion

What can the quartet play?

With Ariana Strings, the quartet easily plays many music genres in a clear way that is a true cover to the original song and artist, including:


  • Top 100/Bridgerton Style

  • Classic Rock

  • Romantic wedding pop

  • Soul/Funk

  • R&B

  • 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s

  • Disco

  • Motown

  • Pop/punk rock

  • Soft rock/Folk pop

  • Disney/ TV / Movies

  • Broadway

  • Classical (Waltzes, Tangos, Polkas, Symphony, Opera, Baroque, Romantic, Royal Wedding, Ballet)

  • Christmas/Holiday

Number of Songs in Library: 410+



 



String Trio

Female string trio in front of wedding ceremony arch with bright pink and light pink flowers
Credit: Lee Asher Photography

What is it?

A 3-piece ensemble comprised of either:

  • 2 violins + cello

  • Violin, viola + cello

  • Flute, violin, + cello

What's it like?

 The trio is small, but mighty! This popular ensemble has a lighter sound, compared to the quartet, but our custom song arrangements make our trio's sound incredibly full. The first violinist (or flute) carries the melody and the cello lays down that low rhythm and bass foundation. In between is either violin 2 or the viola, who pull double-duty (compared to the quartet), alternating between supporting the first player's melody with harmony or joining the cello to provide richness in those bottom notes.


What does that mean?

Compared to the quartet, it's a simpler and lighter sound. Most music (be it classical or pop), involves 8-80 instruments to perform/record, but it can usually be reduced down to those 4 recognizable parts (melody, harmony, rhythm, and bass). Since the string trio only has the ability to play 3 of those parts, your ear has to do a little more filling in with the imagination, comparatively.


However, guests are your wedding will not be comparing these two groups because they'll only hear the one. If you decide to book the trio, please do not worry!


Depending on the song the trio is playing, it can still sound like a really animated conversation between the instruments, where they take turns talking and supporting each other, but there'll be fewer interruptions. (Perhaps, it's a more harmonious family!)


String Trio at The Wadsworth Mansion/ Credit Sue Takes Photos
String Trio at The Wadsworth Mansion/ Credit Sue Takes Photos

Is it loud?

That depends on your musicians. With Ariana Strings, the answer is yes, but compared to the quartet, it is softer. The trio will definitely be heard loud and clear in both outdoor and indoor ceremony settings. Overall, it's better suited for smaller cocktail hours.

What can the trio play?

With Ariana Strings, the trio easily plays the below music genres in a clear way that is a true cover to the original song and artist.


  • Top 100/Bridgerton Style

  • Classic Rock

  • Romantic wedding pop

  • Soul/Funk

  • R&B

  • 50s, 60s, 80s,

  • Motown

  • Soft rock/Folk pop

  • Disney / TV / Movies

  • Broadway

  • Jazz/Standards

  • Classical/Traditional Wedding (Waltzes, Baroque, Romantic, Royal Wedding) Number of Songs in Library: 264+



Here are the top 3 questions I ask to help guide my couples to answer, "Which group should I choose: the string quartet or trio?"


Question #1: Are you having us play for your ceremony only or your wedding ceremony and cocktail hour?


Wedding Ceremony Only

If wedding ceremony only, you can most likely choose either size ensemble without worry*. Your guests will have no trouble hearing us outdoors as our instruments carry beautifully.


Eolia Mansion string trio at pergola
Eolia Mansion Styled Shoot (See credits below)

*However, if you're getting married in a public noisy park, near a road, or indoors (with a ton of guests), the quartet will be even more appreciated.


Wedding Ceremony and Cocktail Hour

If you're having more than 100 guests, we usually recommend the quartet. Cocktail hour is when the party begins and you want to be sure our music is heard well and mixing with the many celebrating voices.


With Ariana Strings, you don't have to choose: We can add on amplification to either ensemble. We have state-of-the-art specialty pickups designed especially for strings and a fantastic Bose sound system. This ensures we'll sound warm and true-to-life, not tinny, like other systems can be!




Question #2: What kind of music do you like?


Both of our groups have an incredible library filled with classical music, Top 100, Disney, classic rock, you name it! There is a bit of crossover, but both are actually very different. Ultimately, the string quartet is more popular because it can make more authentic pop music covers and has a larger library. Plus, when you book the quartet, we can easily play any song from the trio library, so there's that added flexibility.


If you love classical, you can't go wrong with the trio or the quartet. If you love modern pop (a la Bridgerton), you'll have more options with the quartet, but the trio still is fun!


Question #3: What's your budget?


Simply put, a string quartet is only more expensive than a trio because it's one more musician performing with the ensemble.


Now, compare the sound of the string quartet and trio:


Below are comparisons of our top requested songs: Can't Help Falling in Love and Pachelbel's Canon in D, with an extra surprise at the end for your enjoyment.


String Quartet: Can't Help Falling in Love



String Trio: Can't Help Falling in Love

This trio performance was recorded at a cocktail hour at The Pond House Cafe in West Hartford, CT.


String Trio with Flute: Can't Help Falling in Love

PS Don't panic that it says "Canon in D" - This link goes straight to Can't Help Falling in Love




String Quartet: Pachelbel's Canon in D


String Trio with Flute: Pachelbel's Canon in D



String Trio: Pachelbel's Canon in D


String Quartet: Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift



Which group will you choose? We are booking for 2024 and 2025 now, so click here to inquire about having Ariana nStrings perform for your wedding day.


Happy wedding planning! -Ariana





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