Arranging music

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I’ve always been fascinated with the art of music arrangement, from the early days of playing in a band and figuring out the length of sections, introductions, middle sections and bridges to endings. In university I learned about how to write for larger ensembles and various instruments, learning about harmonic support of melodies in Jazz like you might hear in Count Basie or Gil Evans.

This reminded me of an earlier conversation with my friend, Richard Freeman, who happens to be an immensely talented jazz piano player. Over drinks a few nights ago I was talking about how I’m in the early stage of writing music and he interjected with the comment to make sure they’re well arranged. At first I agreed that yes, arranging is important but he insisted that it was at least as important as the song writing. That didn’t sit well with me. I believe it’s crucial to focus at first on writing a great song: melody (possibly lyrics) chords and rhythm. Personally, if I start working on arrangement, instrumentation and structure a may get distracted and shift my attention to the sonic details. I just didn’t seem right but then again I’ve written plenty of song by being inspired by a specific sound I’m getting on a guitar going through some combination of pedals. Maybe I should try going back and forth between arranging and composing and see what that yields.

Here’s a few interesting articles about music arrangement:

Ways of thinking about song arrangement by Paul Carr
8 intelligent music arrangement tips for producters by Ask Audio

How do you write music? Melody first? drum pattern first?

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