john

Musical Arrangement

13 posts in this topic

Hey

Ok a bit of a theme going here... :)

What do you do? How do you go about it? What do you try to achieve (other than a "great" song)? What do you tend to give prominence to? What elements do you not really use?

It's one of those subjects we frequently touch on during critique, but not something we tend to discuss much up front.

Cheers

John

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I am a big fan of American pop music so I try to use those methods used by American musicians. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find information about different methods and tricks used producers. Most had to learn from records.

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I am a big fan of American pop music so I try to use those methods used by American musicians. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find information about different methods and tricks used producers. Most had to learn from records.

hey

I think many are quite protective of their techniques and knowledge. I don't know of any specific books on American pop production techniques, although some techniques are no doubt sprinkled through more general books . It's a knowledge that tends to be gained from observation and experimentation, and in the case of more formulaic production, books on human physiology and psychology. The latter examples not being specific to American pop production but more general principles.

As ever any books document general technique. They don't provide a formula, or at least i do not know of any. The techniques tend to be older, not cutting edge. As the time to write and publish the book will lag someway behind the technique being used.

Anyway, BTT, what do YOU do for arrangement?

Cheers

John

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Oh, there is one book that is a tour-de-force: Tunesmith.

I've been reading it for about a month now ... ??? ... and I'm almost done (with my first read-through).

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although i m noob..

i haven't made any full song yet..all my songs so far are rough work..

i m basically a writer..so when i write things just flow in my mind..about how things would go when this lyric is used in the song..that includes bass line, {supposedly} chord sequence and keys..

although this method is more of trial and error..but it seems to be working for me..

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I write lyrics and put them to music; I just write what is on my mind. It relieves stress to be able to just sit down and play my guitar to the lyrics I had written a few minutes ago or a few days ago. I love it, and I have so much fun. Hopefully I will be very successful with music. So far I've written eight songs :)

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Arranging to me is like putting the puzzle pieces together.

 

I think one of the most important things for people to try to do when arranging is to really understand how the instruments are working together- because they should compliment each other - and this can definitely help in the mixing department.

Choosing too many similar in tone sounding instruments can end up making musical mud  (I am guilty!)

 

Another thing is while having some tasty guitar or keyboard licks filling in the spaces between verses and choruses adds interest and can give a song personality (personality, setting the tone or vibe is vital, I think.) too much of a good thing makes your ears have a conniption. 

 

Having too many "busy" instruments can also be distracting.....picking, plucking, plinking when combined can be a bit like trying to follow three conversations at once.

 

How a piece starts too is really important - first impressions and all that. You wouldn't go on a first date with your fly undone would you? So if it starts kinda iffy  -or takes three hours, seven minutes and thirty five seconds to actually hear the first note of the vocal come in ....well, yawn.

 

Dynamic is REALLY important. (again, I think, and I think a lot.) 

To me a really good song should ebb and flow.  It should tease... ;)  

You should be enticed along....WANT to get to the good part, not feel like switching channels on the telly....and when you GET to the good part, (usually the chorus) you should want it AGAIN.

If a song is at mega force full power right from the start and has absolutely no dynamic my ears get tired and I feel like punching something.  (this may work for the death metal people though, but they are strange.)

 

One thing I am learning is that it's probably a good idea (tell me what you think?) that if you plan to introduce say for example....a violin somewhere in the piece....that it shouldn't just come from nowhere - suddenly- BOO, then just disappear.

If it's part of the party then surely it should ease in - not jump out from the closet and scare all the guests?

Peoples ears have to get used to, slowly, all the guests in the room, for them to feel comfortable. 

So, I reckon, say if you want a saxophone sound for the lead break....he has to make a subtle entrance just a little bit sooner so people know he's there. (I'm really in a strange mood tonight.)

Am I on topic?  In the right place, contributing anything that might be helpful?  You can be honest.

Edited by Desertrose

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And here we have a perfect example of my problem. What gives?  I have searched until I'm sick on any resources that describe a "formula" for arranging a composition.  It's like no one's talking.  I guess after you figure that part out you realize how valuable the information is and then lock it down.  The funny thing is I have hired 4 tutors and the first three even had a difficult time talking about it.  I seem to keep getting advice on just listening and learning.  Unfortunately that has not turned out very easy for me.  One day I'll crack this nut and I will write a book on it for those like me that just want a general outline so that we can get to work on using good theory to fill it in.  I can write a nice piece about 8 to 16 bars long with lots of instruments complementing each other, but how to build the rest of the song is a mystery.  Sure I've tried it many times, and accidentally accomplished acceptable work.  But this is very frustrating.  I even had one guy I paid to teach me some things, say on a video interview once to someone else.  "he didn't mind giving away his secrets about sound design, because putting an entire song together was an entirely different ability" I am assuming this meant he didn't have confidence in others being able to use his technique to accomplish any thing meaningful.  I will admit, I am the problem, but I wish there were resources to learn more about this than just trying to reverse engineer other people's work.  Any directions to resources would be appreciated. 

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I get what you're sayin'...arrangement's not the easiest thing to get a feel for.

What's makes it even harder is the fact that there are few stringent guidelines for how to go bout it.

There aren't many absolute do's or don'ts...everyone's process is different.

These days, much of the process has become software-based.

Musical dinosaurs, like myself, are about the only ones still doing things the old way. ;) Honestly, much of it comes boils down to trial & error.

 

If you're looking for some insights on non-software related approaches, I have done a series of blog articles as well as a 3-part drum creation tutorial you may find useful. To be clear, none of these will tell you how to arrange. They'll simply provide insights into how I went about it. from there, it's up to you to determine what works for you & what doesn't.

Blog URL -

Most of these articles discuss a bit of everything...arrangement, lyrical content, how the song came about, production process, actual song structure, etc.

Bottom line...you may have to skim over the parts less pertinent to your particular interest. If I recall correctly, the format used for the first 10 or so articles is pretty similar. After that, I began to mix things up a bit more. You may want to skip over the "Real World" & "Rams" articles altogether. I don't believe either contain much arrangement related info.

 

3-Part Crafting Drum Parts Tutorial -

 

 

Although the series does primarily address drums, much of it related directly to arrangement. What to put where & why...that type of thing.

Part 3 is actually dedicated to breaking down a specific song. It gets into basing choices on what works best with specific types of arrangement elements, etc.

 

Hopefully you're able to find some useful tips in these somewhere.

Remember though...it ain't rocket science! :blush: To a great extent, it's about finding a process that's comfortable for you & yields the desired result.

Above all, have fun with it!

 

Tom

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Posted (edited)

To me, the very term, "musical arrangement," implies and refers to a musical-pre(!)-production process that may or may not be relevant to your present situation . . . 

 

. . . "but that, perchance, possibly should(!)"

 

Traditionally, "the musical arranger" plied his work, "entirely on paper," before a bunch of Union Scale™ Musicians set foot in a recording studio, staffed by Union Scale™ Engineers, at which moment the Union Scale™ Clock($$) would begin ticking($$) !!

 

His/Her job was to strive to work out as much of the performance ahead of "time as possible," so that the Expensive Musicians,™ and the Expensive Technicians,™ would waste as little "time (equals money!!) as possible in executing the intended performance."  (And, "do please(!) note(!!)," at this point there was no(!) question(!!) "what the target song would be!")

 

- - - 

 

Even though ... ("of course ...") ... "the Artistic Exigencies Of The Moment™" ... "conceivably might" ... occupy several future complete issues of Rolling Stone magazine with regards to "y-o-u-r(!!) industry-reshaping breakthrough(!!!)," I would frankly argue that the actual odds are very-decidedly against it.  

 

Insofar as possible, "try your very best to plan ahead."  Try your best to pre-produce "your very best paper-product," in order to confine your "Artistic Exigiencies of the Moment™" to the narrowest possible traffic-lane ... and to preserve as best as possible "the good graces of" both your fellow performers and your financial backers. (Neither of whom particularly like "uncertainty," most-especially "at un-godly ... <never mind him/her, why are we still here> ... hours.")

 

Uh huh.  Do your homework ... ahead of time.  "Thank you!"

Edited by MikeRobinson

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I think the type of "arrangement" John was referring to is more in line with Wikipedia's description Mike. At least that's how I interpreted the question.

 

Quote

 In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work.[1] It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings.... Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety".[

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrangement

 

In other words, the process of taking a bare-bones song & turning it into a fully developed piece.

Something you might hear a band play....with additional instrumentation, percussion, vocal harmonies, synth or strings, a fully developed intro & ending, etc.

 

Back in my full time band days, that was the process we used for developing new original material.

  • Someone (typically Charlie) would bring a basic new song idea to practice. It typically consisted of lyrics, melody & a basic chord structure
  • He'd play it for  us & share his overall vision for the song
  • From there, the band would develop a full arrangement for it. The process typically included a million different little decisions for finalizing variables like Key, BPM, intro & ending structure, breaks, genre, overall feel & texture, etc.

My personal process for arranging is very similar...minus the band. ;) Because I work alone, the decisions & ideas all came from me.

One thing I discoved...when you have no easy access to outside opinions & perspective, forums like Songstuff can be very helpful.

 

Tom

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Hey Tom and Mike

 

Good to see this topic going again :)

 

To be honest i think of modern arrangement as everything built on top of melody and words, up to the end of aspects of mixing. So yes, taking a bare bones piece to a full piece including song structure, instrumentation, harmony, rhythm etc. In this modern age I also include production in this because in particularly electronic pieces (but not only) production can produce unique musical components of the finished recording. Personally I don't distinguish between the skills of taking a song for the first time from melody and words to full song, than I do re-arranging an existing song, or for that matter re-mixing a song. They all involve imagining or reimagining a song, taking a song from where it is to where you want it to be using skills in instrumentation, song writing and more

 

Cheers

 

John

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