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A general overview of musical arranging

From: Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form

Video: A general overview of musical arranging

When we speak of musical arranging we are referring to the organization of musical ideas contained within a song: How should a song, how should it end and what is going to happen in between those two points? All of these questions are eventually answered as a musical arrangement unfolds. It's important to understand that arranging the song is not the same thing as writing a song. An artist or songwriter can sit down and write a song on a piano or guitar and at that moment a marriage of harmony and melody occurs. But before the age of computers and desktop recording, musical arrangers were brought into recording sessions to work with the studio musicians in crafting the perfect parts for the song. Maybe the bassline is too busy for a certain section of the song, so the arranger might work with the bass player in simplifying the part.

A general overview of musical arranging

When we speak of musical arranging we are referring to the organization of musical ideas contained within a song: How should a song, how should it end and what is going to happen in between those two points? All of these questions are eventually answered as a musical arrangement unfolds. It's important to understand that arranging the song is not the same thing as writing a song. An artist or songwriter can sit down and write a song on a piano or guitar and at that moment a marriage of harmony and melody occurs. But before the age of computers and desktop recording, musical arrangers were brought into recording sessions to work with the studio musicians in crafting the perfect parts for the song. Maybe the bassline is too busy for a certain section of the song, so the arranger might work with the bass player in simplifying the part.

An arranger's job can entail working with the entire song structure or just a specific part in a specific section. When you take a look at some of the popular albums of the 1950s and 1960s, you will often see a musical arranging credit listed among the album credits in the back of the record. One such example is Nelson Riddle, who is a prolific arranger for Capitol Records from the 1940s until the 1980s. His arrangements can be found in recordings by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole, just to name a few.

But as more and more musicians began working out of their own studios, the arranging duties started to fall on their shoulders, thereby blurring the once- divided lines between producer, arranger, songwriter, artist, and engineer. So what makes a great musical arrangement? First, a strong musical arrangement has an ebb and a flow to it, telling a supplemental story to that of the lyrics and melody, if the song happens to be a vocal-driven song. Second, the arrangement should not attempt to cram too many musical ideas or moments into the song or track.

Let's use a cooking analogy for a moment. The secret to a great recipe is to use the proper amount of required ingredients. Each musical part contained within arrangement can be looked at as an ingredient, and the challenge is to figure out how much or how little each one should be used.

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This video is part of

Image for Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form
Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form

31 video lessons · 5619 viewers

Josh Harris
Author

 
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  1. 2m 59s
    1. Welcome
      1m 17s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      23s
    3. Why did we record this course in four different DAWs?
      49s
    4. Using the exercise files
      30s
  2. 4m 58s
    1. A general overview of musical arranging
      2m 4s
    2. An overview of remix arranging
      1m 34s
    3. An overview of radio and club arranging
      1m 20s
  3. 51m 30s
    1. Referencing the original or demo version of the song
      3m 2s
    2. Listening to stems and deciding on the musical direction
      4m 36s
    3. Creating a sketch arrangement
      8m 36s
    4. Developing the drums and bass
      13m 31s
    5. Adding synths
      8m 43s
    6. Adding guitars
      7m 49s
    7. Arranging the rest of the song
      5m 13s
  4. 51m 54s
    1. Referencing the original or demo version of the song
      5m 7s
    2. Listening to stems and deciding on the musical direction
      3m 42s
    3. Time stretching stems and creating a sketch arrangement
      11m 18s
    4. Developing the drums and bass
      11m 10s
    5. Adding synths
      10m 30s
    6. Working from the hype backwards
      4m 27s
    7. Arranging the rest of the song
      5m 40s
  5. 18m 31s
    1. Trimming down the club version
      3m 32s
    2. Identifying arrangement changes within the body of the song
      9m 44s
    3. Listening through the final arrangement
      5m 15s
  6. 19m 38s
    1. Adding a vocoder
      5m 36s
    2. Adding filtered delays to vocals
      7m 42s
    3. Adding drum fills
      6m 20s
  7. 14m 48s
    1. Listening through the final radio mix
      4m 12s
    2. Listening through the final club mix
      6m 47s
    3. Listening through the final radio edit
      3m 49s
  8. 38s
    1. Final thoughts and next steps
      38s

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