Arranging:

Arranging can refer to two distinct songwriting functions: How the song is orchestrated and how the different parts Verse, Chorus, Solo etc are arranged in order. As in most creative ventures there is only one rule and that states that there are no rules! But there are conventions, suggestions, tips and tricks.

Here we shall provide some personal insights to support the novice composer with their quest. This site is dedicated to assisting in the production of contemporary popular music so we shall not talk about advanced complex arrangements or symphonic adventures.

The most important point is don't over do it. A good song is almost always a good song when played just on acoustic guitar or piano probably with solo vocals. If you fancy your hit being sung around the campfire don't make it reliant on an over complicated arrangement.

How many songs? A good song has three or four distinct musical ideas, and we would lean to the lesser. Any more than that and you may have enough ideas for two songs. KISS-Keep It Simple...

Arrangement:

Before discussing how to arrange different parts of the song the first challange for the budding songwriter is identifying and naming these sections. Often when we are presented with a tentative arrangement it is described like so: this 'bit' follows this other 'bit' and then we do this 'bit'... Let's look at some common terms:

Let us now look at some arrangement variations starting with the classic simple pop/rock/country song. The Intro has been left out as it borrows from one of the other parts:

Here is a typical pop arrangement: Orchestration should be used to make the song interesting and to control the dynamics as the song progresses.

Orchestration:

No this doesn't mean for an orchestra. What we are referring to is how to use different instruments to support your tune.

Form verus Content: You can have either but it is really hard to have both. If the lyrics are important or 'deep and meaningful' then having loads of different musical ideas coming in and out is just a distraction. If the lyric and melody are simple the song is probably a pick me up, good time tune then extra melodic parts like a riff or hook work well together with the vocal melody.

Whilst restricting the song to a limited number of musical moments, the use of dynamics and orchestration can make it sound much more interesting. There is nothing wrong in fact there are many rights about starting or pulling the song back to one accompliment instrument such as guitar or piano. We have all heard that thumping rock song that pulls back to a hauntingly sweet acoustic guitar Break just before the final Chorus kicks in. Dynamics make for a good arrangement.

More adventurous arrangement variations are the use of: Key change, Tempo change or Metre change. The best way for the novice to understand this is to experiment with their own productions or listen to their favourite tunes and take note of the changes.

TIP: It is very common for new instruments to be introduced on the first beat of the bar such as 'bring in the organ at the start of the Chorus'. This can start to sound a little predictable, try changing the orchestration a bar or so before or after the obvious change in the song. This enhances the dynamics and renders the song more interesting to the listener.

HELP: Get other people involved with your songwriting process. Invite other musicians to suggest an idea or play a part (litteraly) in production.

COLABORATION: Find some other songwriters and bounce ideas off each other. There are many songwriting 'nights' at venues where you can meet fellow songwriters.

PROFESSIONAL: Many small studios such as the sponsor of this site offer reasonably priced assistance with songwriting. Larger studios are in gerenal more concerned with the recording process rather than the writing process. Be aware that even if you pay someone to compose half your song they are still entitled to half (or a percentage) of the potential royalties.

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TECH TIP

Perhaps introduce a new guitar part a few bars into the Chorus... It could be there at the start but lower in volume for example...

 

TECH TIP

If the Drums come in at the first Chorus, place a fill in the last bar of the preceeding Verse.

TECH TIP

Nowadays this can be done over the Internet. You don't have to be in the same city let alone the same country!

TECH TIP

We all want to have a hit!

TECH TIP

And DEFINITELY discuss this before you even start.

TECH TIP

For example if you have a lyric and ask someone to compose the melody and arrangement.

TECH TIP

Usually a melodically simple repetative lead line different from the vocal melody.

TECH TIP

Such as changing the time signature from 4/4 to 6/8. This is a more advanced songwriting application.

TECH TIP

It is suggested that the novice works out the tempo changes or tempo map before commencing audio recording.

TECH TIP

Where the song moves from one musical key signature to another. Tip: Try doing this during or after the Middle8.