Arranging Techniques

Up Arranging Techniques Assignment 1

By G Eaton

To arrange means to take an existing composition and:

·       Re-write it for other instruments

·       Re-work it in a simplified or more complex form depending on the abilities of a particular group of musicians

·       Extend and enhance it for performing to a broader or more specific audience.

o       Therefore, when arranging, consider your:

1.      Instruments

2.      Musicians

3.      Audience

o       The purpose of arranging a piece might be to:

1.      Present a popular and familiar tune in a fresh way

2.      Make an unfamiliar tune accessible to new audiences, e.g. arranging a classical tune in a popular style.

o       Musical considerations:

1.      Appropriate tempi

2.      Consistent stylistic elements  (not potpourri)

3.      Overall form and structure

4.     Clear presentation and development of the original tune

5.     Harmony – original chord progression and possible variations


Some techniques that work, include:

·       Melody:

o       Clear first statement of the original tune

o       Move melody between instruments

o       Double the melody in different instruments

o       Vary the register of the melody (High / Low)

·       Structure

o       Decide number of verses, choruses, and whether to use an introduction, links, bridges, and/or a tag (coda).

o       Phrasing – use the break between phrases to add interest and activities in other instruments (e.g. have the Brass punctuate the phrase endings)

o       Change key, perhaps for the last verse to give it a lift.

o       Texture – perhaps thicken the texture as the arrangement progresses

·       Development of the original tune

o       Add a harmony to the melody, (i.e. another instrument moving with the same rhythm as the melody and in 3rds or 6ths parallel to it)

o       Add a countermelody (a new melodic idea with an independent rhythm, that interacts with the original tune – try to make it active rhythmically when the melody is static, with held notes)

o       Embellish the melody with passing notes etc.

o       Use a motif (short, characteristic section of the tune) and repeat it in other instruments

o       Make a sequence of such a motif (i.e. repeat it at different pitches)

o       Use ‘Imitation’ – e.g. copy and paste the melody a bar later in another instrument (check harmonic implications)

o       Use ‘Augmentation’ of the original tune – i.e. playing it (or sections of it) half speed or with doubled note values.

o      Perhaps include Harmonic variations, (changing the accompanying chords)

o      Change the tempo – e.g. broaden (make slower) for last verse, and make the accompanying parts more active.


Up Next