[Sheet Music]

Lesson 14: Arranging

How Do You Arrange?

Arranging can happen in many different ways. You can:

  • play a tune with a band - every musician can provide valuable input
  • record a tune in a studio - you can come up with and add one part at a time
  • write an arrangement by hand on sheet music paper
  • write an arrangement with notation/ score writing software

The Skills an Arranger Needs

The following skills are needed if you want to become a good arranger:

  • a good sense of form
  • a good sense of genre/ style
  • a good sense of taste
  • ( perhaps even a good sense of HUMOR?)
  • knowledge about harmony and voice-leading
  • knowledge about the instruments you're writing for

What Is Arranging?

Arranging can be a very creative process unto itself. Arranging a song from a lead sheet can involve:

  • reharmonization
  • writing countermelodies
  • writing a bass line
  • writing a completely new part, for example an intro, a solo section, a coda/ ending/ tag
As you can see, there's a fine line between arranging and composition. Arranging is, as a matter of fact, in most cases composition to a greater or lesser extent...

Less Is More

Remember, once again, that very often LESS IS MORE! Many of the greatest arrangements are very sparse and the effectiveness of the ideas is mostly due to the fact that the ideas used are very few. Take for example Cyndi Lauper's Time after Time. There's really not a lot going on in that arrangement on the whole and that's just what makes it so great!

Recommended reading on the fine art of arranging:
The Professional Arranger/ Composer by Russell Garcia

2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.