The Hampton String Quartet, considered by many to be one of the founders of the "alternative music" genre of chamber music, is a string quartet specializing in rock music and other popular styles, playing serious chamber music arrangements of songs using classical composer influences and frequently quoting or paraphrasing snippets from their works. For example, their arrangement of "Earth Angel" is a paraphrase of Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D, and Reed's "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" quotes Schubert's "Erlkönig."
According to the liner notes of their 1986 debut album, "What if Mozart wrote 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,'" the quartet was formed specifically for that album in response to RCA's desire to record chamber music arrangements of mostly-secular Christmas music. That album went on to sell close to a million copies and together with their following albums and CDs have made HSQ one of the largest selling string quartets in history.
Their debut album was followed in 1988 by "What if Mozart Wrote 'Roll Over Beethoven'"and "What if Mozart Wrote 'Born to Be Wild'" in 1989 and then "What if Mozart Wrote 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.'"
Following the "What if Mozart . . ." series, little was heard from the quartet until 1993, when they released an album featuring the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil as its title track, first on Eastworld/Toshiba-EMI in Japan, then re-releasing it on Dolphin/Allegro in 1994 in Europe and then making it the debut album on the cellist's own, then newly formed sheet music publishing company's label, Mona Lisa Sound () in 2000.
Since then, the quartet has released three additional albums through Mona Lisa Sound, "HSQ Rides Again" (2004), "HSQ Does Christmas (Again)" (2004) and "Take No Prisoners" (2005). Their most recent releases include an all-Beatles CD, "The Off-White Album," as well as "All Zeppelin," the content of which is self-explanatory. The quartet has also collaborated with a number of rock bands.