Please, not another wedding music question...
July 11, 2005 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Needed: "Romantic songs of the 1930s/40s/50s that are very easy to play on guitar". My brother has asked me to sing "something" at his mostly secular wedding on August 13. No piano available, *maybe* a guitar player of unknown skill level. He seems to want something romantic and 1930s-50s American pop. He's mentioned "It's Only a Paper Moon" with enthusiasm, but I'm not sure that would be easy enough to play on guitar.

I've done a quick bit of googling, but didn't find anything that looked like a list of "Romantic songs of the 1930s that are sure to be easy to play on guitar". I figured there'd be somebody out there who would know of some standards or even simple obscure show tunes that would work.

I might be able to ask my own fiancé to play guitar, but he's new to the instrument and still prone to nervousness; the bride's sister plays guitar, but she lives in California, I'm in North Carolina, the wedding's in Georgia, and I've never met her and don't know anything about her.

This will be the first time my family's heard me sing in about 10 years -- they're not tremendously supportive. I've been studying voice (modern art song, some German song, etc.) and doing pretty well in the intervening time, but I do worry that their first impression will be something lame. I wish I didn't care, but I guess I do. Plus, it's my brother's wedding; I'd like to do a good job. And I've only got about a month to prepare.

The bride's sister will be singing with a CD track (karaoke style) and I don't think my brother fully understands why I'm not interested in doing this. I'm someone who, when I'm lucky, can get in the moment with a piece of music and bring the feeling of the song out; canned accompaniment would kill this.

The wedding has a 1940s theme, but they're not being too strict about the time period. (I'm still looking for a dress...)

My brother has said he hates "Don't sit under the apple tree", and he didn't like the idea of "Exactly like you" - we think the reason is that they're too silly.

Any ideas? song suggestions? Please help...
posted by amtho to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It will be fine. I used to be a jazz vocalist and I did a lot of weddings. My One and Only Love might work well on guitar. (I don't care for the well known Sinatra was written in 1947 and I really like Ella Fitzgerald's version. Nancy Wilson's rendition of The Very Thought of You would be pretty on guitar. Embraceable You...I'm sure I'll think of others AFTER I post this...
posted by jeanmari at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

This is one of my favorite genres of music (though I prefer 20s-40s). I don't know anything about the guitar, but I can make some romantic-song suggestions. But you could more by googling songwriters like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Richard Rogers, and George Gershwin.

Here are some I love:

Where or When
It Might As Well Be Spring
Small Hotel
Night and Day
Lets Face the Music and Dance < -- hauntingly beautifulbr> I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket
What'll I Do
Isn't It Romantic?
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
'S Wonderful
But Not For Me
Embraceable You
Someone to Watch Over Me
Nice Work If You Can Get it
The Man I Love
Blue Moon
Here in My Arms
I Could Write a Book
I Didn't Know What Time It Was
My Heart Stood Still
Spring is Here
With a Song in My Heart
I Get a Kick Out of You
Under My Skin
Let's Do It

God, there are SO many!
posted by grumblebee at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2005

True Love. Very wedding.
posted by JanetLand at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2005

Here's a great primer on music of the era:

Songwriters Hall of Fame: 1880-1953. From there, you can browse through the different categories, ranging from film and stage music, ragtime, swing, jazz, big band, popular standards, blues and early folk.

Try something by Rogers & Hart, Cole Porter or George & Ira Gershwin. Their songs are standards, easy to find sheet music for and recognizable to everyone.

I second grumblebee on these two selections:
Small Hotel (very sweet, especially if they're honeymooning)
Night and Day (sweeping, beautiful!)
posted by cior at 10:18 AM on July 11, 2005

Best answer: Wait! A couple of good ones...

I'm Beginning to See the Light
I'm in the Mood for Love
I've Got a Crush on You (you might want to transpose it to a different key)
Isn't It Romantic?
Just in Time
The Way You Look Tonight
My Funny Valentine
The Nearness of You
You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To

And here is Paper Moon...

Try listening to some versions by Carmen McRae, Helen Merrill, Sarah Vaughn, Susannah McCorkle. And be careful about the years on this notes the year that THIS version (guitar) became popular...not when the song was written, released, or first became popular. I would look to when it was written...
posted by jeanmari at 10:22 AM on July 11, 2005

I was suckered into doing Cheek to Cheek at an anniversary party once. I wound up going with the karaoke style tape, and it really wasn't *that* bad. The best part was that I got it from a music store that could transpose it to any key, so I found the one that worked best for me. Plus I could practice it in the car... I can see why this option would be less-than-appealing to you, but I wanted to share my experience.
posted by lalalana at 10:48 AM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you for the ideas so far; they are helpful.

I should be clear about one thing, though: the critical thing here is that they be _very easy to play_ on guitar. If you have experience playing any of these songs on a guitar, that would be golden.

When I say easy, I mean 6 or 7 chords easy. I think. The ideal song would be playable by someone who isn't much of a guitarist.

I realize that this song may not exist.

Thanks for the links to guitar chord versions of some lovely songs! I appreciate any help with this yet-another-wedding-music question
posted by amtho at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2005

amtho--Don't let the chords in the linked songs intimidate. Complex chords can sometimes use easier substitutes (there are many ways to play the same chord...see the A chord for examples.), or transposing the song can put it in an easier to play key. (That is why I am so fond of the Keys of D or G when I strum a guitar.) Using a capo will allow you to play the song in any key, but still use the easiest chords.

Man, I love the guitar for these reasons alone.
posted by jeanmari at 12:29 PM on July 11, 2005

If you really care about how this performance comes off, I think you'd be nuts to have either of these people play for you. Unless the bride's sister is a real musician, I think you need to make other arrangements.

Find a pianist or guitarist in your home town and have them record the music for you on a decent tape or CD. Why take any chances?

How to find a musician in your home town? Call any big church - they all have organists and musicians that they use for weddings.

Another option - call churches near where the wedding will be and tell them you'd like to hire an accompanist. If you're willing to spend $50-100, you could probably hire a real musician for a practice session and performance. If you both know the music in advance, 20-30 minutes with a real accompanist should be enough time to feel comfortable.

In either case, you will have a real musician backing you up, which lets you choose the song that feels right to YOU, and a good accompaniment will make you sound better!

Take control of this situation!

(P.S. If you're stuck, I can record the accompaniment for whatever you need on piano. I've been playing that kind of music for years.)
posted by kdern at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2005

If you do the "I'm In the Mood for Love" linked above, you can play it straight or do an Alfalfa. If you're looking for easy, that arrangement of "True Love" linked above is pretty basic two- or three-finger stuff. And if you've been studying voice, you'll sing any of these wonderfully.

But don't let a nervous beginner guitarist spoil the song. You play the piano? Rent a piano for one day, for one song even, just to do it right. If they're cheaper or the logistics are easier, rent an electric piano and a small amp.
posted by pracowity at 1:47 PM on July 11, 2005

Also, keep in mind that people will foremost be listening to your voice. Most won't even notice the guitar, as long as it's tuned and the playing is remotely passable.

So that said: The wedding's still a month away. Lots of time to teach yourself 3 or 4 chords.
posted by deshead at 6:48 PM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: I don't really expect any more answers than these (thank you all for responding), but I felt I should clarify for the record: I don't play guitar *or* piano well enough for performance. Really, I'm not being modest, the guitar isn't my thing at all and I can only use the piano well enough to learn songs for singing.

My wonderful fiancé seems to have gotten some chords worked out for "Paper Moon" thanks to the link posted earlier; we'll see how it goes when I try singing it with him tomorrow.

I'm definitely going to save some of these other songs for later.
posted by amtho at 7:41 PM on July 11, 2005

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