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Music Theory: Arranging


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Ok, So how many of us are arrangers? It's a big part of what I do for a living...arranging transcribing, orchestrating...close to 5000 charts now... How many are curious about the process of arranging? There are many aspects to arranging: vocal harmonies, piano music, horn section writing, writing for strings, woodwinds, etc... Taking an existing song and altering it's "vibe"... Taking an existing song and re-harmonizing the melody... Taking a song typically in "3" and arranging it to "4" A song in "4" to 7/8... There are many different styles of arranging for each group of instruments: section work for horns, or orchestral brass...supplemental string quartet, or string section...writing for supplemental cello for ballads, or a solo cello piece...orchestral percussion, or drum set... Knowing the ranges, keys and capabilities of each instrument... In transcribing popular styles, there are many aspects to the approach...I've streamlined the process over the years, so that my charts are clear, and have only that which is totally necessary, but filled with information, needed for the musician to interpret the piece effectively and still add their own personal touch to it... When to write every articulation and dynamic, when to leave it up to the musician... The difference between arranging for different styles: Jazz, pop, orchestral/classical, world music, country...what each chart should look like... Information to leave off of a chart, information absolutely necessary... Clear chord analysis; Nomenclature; The clearest interpretation of rhythms; Music software...Finale is what I use…there are many others... Many things to discuss... Peace, Scott [url=http://www.scottjonesmusic.com]www.scottjonesmusic.com[/url]
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Arranging for Horns (Three Part Primer) I'll give you a note for note primer on three part writing, but in the end, use your ears and common sense, keeping in mind the ranges of the instruments, but think musically, and unless your just doing a direct "lift" of the horn parts from a C.D. , then remember that they don't have to be playing the whole time... Anyway, in three part harmonization, the quality of the given 7th chord and whether the given melody note has a chord tone, an extension, or neither determines the harmonization... In general, the harmonization should conform to the following principals: Span one octave or less... Add two parts below the given melody... Do not double (repeat) any note in two voices... Do not have a half-step between the upper two voices... Include as much parallel motion as possible... The principals below are the main guides for adding two parts in a three-part harmonization: Add the 3rd and the 7th to the given note... If the given note is the 3rd or the 7th, add the other one (the 7th or the 3rd) and any other chord tone... If the melody note is an appropriate higher extension, the 3rd or the 7th may be added along with the other chord tone... Now, the exceptions: The 5th of a major or minor triad may be changed to the 6th(making a major or minor 6th chord) when using triads to harmonize major and minor 7th chords... For half-diminished chords, the harmonization should include the b5, avoiding major 2nds between the upper two voices... For diminished 7th chords, add any other two chord tones to the given note... For major 7 chords and minor 7 chords, the 5th and the 3rd may be added to a given 9 or b9... If a given melody note to be harmonized is not a chord tone or an appropriate extension (for instance a #11, with a minor 7 chord) it should be harmonized exactly parallel to the harmonization for the next melody tone... Other options are to use only parallel diatonic triads, quartal voicings(harmonization in 4ths), polychords (using notes derived from the altered tones of an altered chord that make up a "new" triad)... And when I'm in a hurry, I throw all of this out, and just write all unison and octaves, with the occasional harmonization... With your having three saxes, you should be creative... Have the bottom two voices harmonized in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves, while the top guy solos through it... For the funk thing, space is as important as filling the measures... Think in syncopation with groups of four 16th notes... Think of octave doits on the "and" of 1,2,3, and 4...(placed strategically) Think of hits on the last 16th of each beat as well...(placed strategically) Here's an instrumental arrangement of mine from 1998, it's a Tower of Power style arrangement of the Christmas song "O Come O Come Emmanuel" [url=http://www.scottjonesmusic.com/aufiles/jazzmaster/Track01.ram]O Come O Come Emmanuel[/url] -Streaming only This is a 6 piece horn section: 2 trumpets, alto and tenor sax, two trombones... In this, I considered the two saxes, their own section, apart from the bones and trumpets... I often had the saxes playing against the "other section", or in the spaces... Every now and then, I would join them with the bones, or the trumpets for power... Also, I would have the trumpets play an octave line, followed by a harmonization in the saxes.... Or I would harmonize the melody to a point under the lead trumpet, then have the two trumpets join in octaves at the end of the melody for power... Anyway, as I said, in the end, use your ear and common sense... Really, the classical "rule" of NO parallel 5ths and many others, go out the window in any modern music and become more of a tool or conceptual element than "can't do's"...and it all comes down to a matter of the composer/arranger's discretion... For most mainstream jazz writing, the most commonly used intervals are 3rds and 6ths, not strictly parallel, but diatonic... Quite often, "clusters" and tight harmonic structures using 2nds and 7ths are more frequent in more modern styles... Anyway, some stuff to get it going... Peace, Scott
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[quote]Originally posted by Curve Dominant: [b]I like when I'm strumming an E chord on my guitar, and then suddenly switch to the D chord. That's cool. The chicks love it, too. Then, I'll switch back to the E chord, and things really get interesting. Yeah, arranging is cool. E :) [/b][/quote] Sounds like you have a real grip on it... :p
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I arrange, but it's more on a Brian Wilson gut feeling kind of level more than a "written out" level. What I mean is... I've learned a good bit of music theory and I have done counterpoint, orchestral arranging, choral arranging, and jazz arranging... But I never use any of it for my own music. In fact, I've probably forgotten most of it and would probably be lost if I had to "properly" arrange something for live musicians now. I'm not saying one way of arranging is better than the other -- in fact, if you're planning to have a small (or large) group of folks play stuff live, it's a necessity to write stuff down properly and perhaps analyze things a bit more. But for my purposes (home studio production, me writing my own songs, playing all the instruments), doing everything by ear is my preference... And it's more fun, too. :)
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[quote]posted by Steve: [b]O Come O Come Emmanuel-Streaming only This is a 6 piece horn section: 2 trumpets, alto and tenor sax, two trombones... In this, I considered the two saxes, their own section, apart from the bones and trumpets... I often had the saxes playing against the "other section", or in the spaces... Every now and then, I would join them with the bones, or the trumpets for power... Also, I would have the trumpets play an octave line, followed by a harmonization in the saxes.... Or I would harmonize the melody to a point under the lead trumpet, then have the two trumpets join in octaves at the end of the melody for power...[/b][/quote] You know, I think I sampled that piece for a soundtrack I produced last year. The client loved it, if I recall correctly. Good work, Steve. You really know your stuff! E :)

Eric Vincent (ASCAP)

www.curvedominant.com

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Thanks for the horn tips. How about some orchestral percussion tips? I'd have to say that is my weakest area. It's so hard for me to "hear" the parts before writing them, always worrying that it will distract instead of augment. I suppose analyzing other scores would be a start, but it's still frustrating compared with writing melodic parts. I remember when I had to write a fullblown orchestral score for a song I arranged that had an Indian percussion (a sample from the Heart of Asia samplecd) as the main element that tied the song together. Of course they didn't have any Indian percussionists or instruments...
Raul
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Hey Scott, I too am somewhat of an arranger. Mainly a guitarist/composer. I have a couple of small jazz bands, but one of them regularly expands to a three horn front line (tenor/alto/soprano/flute; Trumpet and Trombone), with guitar, piano, bass and drums. Often I write guitar parts that go with the horns so I can get 4 parts, then I might add the piano if need be. It gives me the wonderful opportunity to exercise my arranging chops. The pianist and Tenor player are also great arrangers so there's never a loss for material. We're planning a big band CD and I'm beginning work on some big band arrangments for a jazz singer I'm starting to work with. My favorite current arrangers are Maria Schneider and Vince Mendosa. Also Bob Brookmeyer. I don't have a lot of time for arranging/composing these days; too busy engineering, gigging and being a husband/Dad. There are only so many hours in the day.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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HAHAHAHAHAHA @ curve is this going over everyone elses head? [quote]Originally posted by Curve Dominant: [b] You know, I think I sampled that piece for a soundtrack I produced last year. The client loved it, if I recall correctly. Good work, Steve. You really know your stuff! E :) [/b][/quote] HAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA yeah i was the client by the way. we used this shit.. sorry, this piece, for a contrast in our Art:Sound piece "PERISH OLD CRAP, ENTER THE NEW DRAGON - AN EXPLORATION OF SONIC CONTRAST" great work again curve thanks.
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[quote]Originally posted by Curve Dominant: [b]I like when I'm strumming an E chord on my guitar, and then suddenly switch to the D chord. That's cool. The chicks love it, too. Then, I'll switch back to the E chord, and things really get interesting. Yeah, arranging is cool. E :) [/b][/quote] Eric, try to go from a G13 chord to a Fis min 7/9 and see how the chicks like that :D
The alchemy of the masters moving molecules of air, we capture by moving particles of iron, so that the poetry of the ancients will echo into the future.
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I have a question for you arranger-types: Are there any rules to doing this properly? (written or implied) The way I approach instrumentation generally starts with hearing another instrument on the base, hearing a complimentary or supplimentary melody in my head, choosing an instrument (or sound if it's a synth), laying it down, adding to that, and continually adding and editting until it's so overproduced it sounds like a pile of sonic mud :D Any pointers on the approach? God knows I need it.. :D Thanks, Harold
meh
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[quote]Originally posted by 'rold: [b]I have a question for you arranger-types: Are there any rules to doing this properly? (written or implied)[/b][/quote] Yes and no... It depends what you're doing stylistically. For stuff like 16th century counterpoint, yeah -- there's a whole lot of rules. :eek: For other styles, there's maybe some guidelines as far as what is considered appropriate for a style of music. As much as many of us would love to believe that what we're doing is totally original and sounds like nothing else, arranging (or playing, or writing, or whatever) usually involves meeting the subconscious expectations that listeners have. In other words, most of us have to "conform" so that there's some link to what other folks have done in the same style. One of the things that helped me immensely with that is to *really* get inside of other folks' arrangments. There's a couple ways you can go about that, but some of the things that have helped me are... 1) Listening to in-the-studio bootlegs of certain artists I enjoy. It's great to hear stuff that's a work in progress and hear the artist struggle with it, especially when you know what the finished recording sounds like. 2) [i]Really[/i] analyzing other folks' mixes. Sometimes this might be as simple as just listening to the left or right channel (this is especially cool with older stereo recordings, like the Beatles). Other times I might reverse the phase of one channel and combine it with the other to mono, which will take out everything that's panned in the center of the mix. Suddenly, all the subtle things in the mix are up front and center. 3) Trying to duplicate someone else's arrangement. This is not easy, but it can be very educational: Take a recording where you really like the arrangment, then overdub every part that's on the recording and try to match up the sonics and playing (even if it's all sequenced keyboard samples). Mute the original recording and compare it to what you've tracked, and keep going back and forth -- Sometimes you don't notice the subtleties in a mix unless you have to recreate them yourself. 4) This one is goofy, but try regularly singing entire arrangements acapella. I don't mean in a recording studio either -- I mean, when you're driving, when you're in the shower, etc. An example of what I'm talking about is... Let's say you chose the song "Strawberry Fields Forever". You've probably heard it a million times, but try being away from the recording and singing the vocal line but interrupting yourself to sing all the other parts (horns, strings, drums, etc.). Imitate the other instruments as best as you can vocally. It'll sound awfully goofy and if other folks hear you they'll probably think you're nuts. :D But what this trick will do is make you relive the entire song in your head and strengthen exactly what parts of an arrangment catch your attention when you're listening. And then the next time you're listening to the song, you'll have a new appreciation and will probably pick up the parts you *weren't* singing. [quote]Originally posted by 'rold: [b]The way I approach instrumentation generally starts with hearing another instrument on the base, hearing a complimentary or supplimentary melody in my head, choosing an instrument (or sound if it's a synth), laying it down, adding to that, and continually adding and editting until it's so overproduced it sounds like a pile of sonic mud :D [/b][/quote] There's nothing wrong with that approach -- I used to work that way, and I still do once the arrangment is pretty much there and I think that the song needs something a little bit "extra". If you do a lot of the things I've listed above, over time you'll get the ability to "hear" what an arrangement should sound like before you lay down a single track. It's not easy -- it's taken me over 10 years to be able to do it, and I still feel like I have a lot to learn. But hopefully the above tips might get you started. [ 01-04-2002: Message edited by: popmusic ]
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[quote]Originally posted by Sjonesmusic: [b] So how many of us are arrangers? [/b][/quote] Strictly speaking anyone who participates in the process of deciding which instruments play which parts is arranging. If you've ever cut a demo, you've done some arranging whether you put pencil to paper or not. Mr. Jones, good tips on horn parts, particularly from the harmonic aspect. It might help to list examples of each approach, whether your own tunes or on commercial releases by bands like Chicago and Tower of Power. I'd like to add some comments about the functional role of horns in the pop and dance genres. In addition to providing a set of soloists to the band, a horn section fulfills one or both of two roles. The horns can add texture (similar to the role of background vocalists) or they can act collectively as a virtual rhythm instrument (similar to the role of a rhythm guitarist). Or they can do both. When the horns' role is to provide texture, the arrangement should use sustained notes grouped in unison, octaves, or close or open harmonies. The desired effect is warm and full, almost like a vocal choir. Horns are well-suited for this type of arrangement because horns offer many articulations that can add nuance to the piece: notes of varying dynamic level, crescendi and decrescendi, sforzando (loud attack followed by an immediate drop in volume, often followed by a crescendo), tongued versus slured attacks, muted timbres, trills, etc. (Examples: Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues", the beginning of Chicago's "Just You And Me") When the horn section is used to add rhythmic accents, the notes tend to be shorted and more frequent. Other articulations like falls, staccato, bends, sharp accents, and sudden octave leaps. (Examples: Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke", Blood, Sweat, and Tears' "Spinning Wheels"). [ 01-05-2002: Message edited by: Dan South ]

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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OK, here is where I really show my ignorance. I have become a home music producer in just the last year. Ya know, like last year I couldn't even pronounce it and now I are one! Anyway, I got into it because I fell for the sound of the Native American flute. I like the fact that it only has six holes to which I can apply my fingers. That leave four free to use to do stuff like press the record button and twist knobs. Generally speaking, I don't like the sound of other instruments with this flute but there are a couple of melodies I have come up with that are just begging for some acoustic background harmony. But then I got to thinking about my weakness in the music theory department. So I bought a keyboard and started taking lessons. Add to this the fact that for many years I played guitar and bass and you have one dangerous dude. Mostly because I remember a high-school music talking about how a V7 chord demands resolution. I can hear it. It makes perfect sense to me. So now where do I go to learn more about this stuff? I tend to think "chordally" (makin' up my own words now) so I know that any note in a melody line can be harmonized with any chord that contains that note. I also know that it's best to keep the chords in the same key as the melody. I know, the more I write here the more I realize I am asking you guys for a full course in music theory. What I'd like to know is is there a book or place to go and have some very simple arrainging practices spelled out? Any thoughts will be appreciated.

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ME: "Nobody knows the troubles I've seen!"

 

Unknown Voice: "The Shadow do!"

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Someone asked about "rules". Six years of music school (2 degrees) taught me to learn 'em and then move on. There ARE these rules for making stylistic music. There are different rules for big band, pop, bebop, 16th (and 18th) century contrapuntal music, gregorian chants, bluegrass, acid jazz, R&B, country, rock...they ALL have "rules" which you follow if you want the music to be characteristic of that style. Of course, the BEST music tends to break out of the stylistic rules a bit, but it still helps to know "the rules". For someone wanting to learn music theory - UNRELATED to "classical" music, I would highly recommend a book by Jai Josefs called "Writing Music for Hit Songs". It's one of the VERY few books I've seen on music theory for pop music - not jazz, not symphonic (or other traditional) music or film scoring, but POP music. For books on arranging or orchestration, there are dozens available. A good place to find a bunch of stuff like that is [url=http://www.musicbooksplus.com]www.musicbooksplus.com[/url] - although Jai's book isn't there, but at Amazon. ...and if you REALLY want the chicks to go nuts, hit an A chord after that E-D-E progression - but play an extra B note in with the A chord. They'll love you! :D [ 01-11-2002: Message edited by: lwilliam ]
Larry W.
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Thanks for the link Larry and for the suggested book. I'll look into it. I found and bought a copy of "Hearing and Writing Music" over the weekend. It is written by Ron Gorow. Has anyone heard of this? Anybody know enough about it to comment? Thanks

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ME: "Nobody knows the troubles I've seen!"

 

Unknown Voice: "The Shadow do!"

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