Everyone loves to listen to music. We all have our favorite song, but the vast majority of listeners do not understand what music arrangers do.
Ever since I left employment and ventured into the world of freelancing, I’ve been having a hard time explaining to people what my day job is.
The conversation would go something like this.
Person: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “Oh, I’m a music arranger and a producer.”
Person: (Raises his or her eyebrow)
“What on earth is that?”
Understanding What Music Arrangers Do
A musical arranger, simply put, is someone who enhances the musical ideas of a song. He reimagines everything from a musical perspective and adjusts the elements that shape the beauty of a song.
We can begin to understand what music arrangers do by taking a look at the following.
Setting The Music Format Of A Song
A music arranger can change the flow of a song as he sees fit. Today’s songs follow a particular format.
A common example would be:
Intro – Verse 1 – Refrain – Chorus – Verse 2 – Refrain 2 – Chorus 2 – Bridge – Final Chorus – Coda.
A music arranger improves the structure of a song. He can tell you to omit the intro and go straight to the chorus.He may tell you to do just one chorus, or make the chorus your intro.
He can actually juggle all the parts of a song as he sees fit.
Deciding On What Chord Progression To Use
Deciding what chords to use is also part of an arranger’s job. He determines the chord progression of your music.
Some songs work with a simple chord progression, while others have a more exciting sound.It’s the musical arranger who is in charge of determining this technical aspect of a song or music.
There are arrangers who prefer to keep it simple by using very minimal number of chords.
Then there are those who likes to explore the various interesting sounds of chord progressions.
Use of Instruments and the flow of the music
Your favorite song on the radio may only have one instrument. It can also be a full band or an entire symphonic orchestra.
A good example is the hit song “More Than Words” by Extreme.
The guitar is doing all the orchestration of the song.
It is also worth noticing that the chord progression of the guitar in the song “More Than Words” is absolutely stunning.
A musical arrangement can also have a full band performance.
A good example would be songs from bands like Journey, Guns and Roses, Air Supply and the list goes on and on.
Changing the melody, rhythm, and tempo
In most cases, arrangers do not change the tune of a song or a composition.
Arrangers have tremendous freedom of re-imagining a given melody or tune of a song. They can alter a specific part of the melody if they feel the need to.
An arranger may speed up or slow down the tempo and change portions of the rhythm of a music. This is an integral part of what music arrangers do.
Enhancing The Vocals and Adding Harmonies
The single most crucial element of a song is the lead vocals. The vocals convey the message of the song.
An arranger can alter the parts of a vocal performance.
He may want to ask the vocalist to belt out a specific line in the chorus or sing softly at the coda.
The addition of vocal harmonies is also dependent upon the arranger. Vocal harmonies take many forms.
A duet, trio, quartet or an entire choir ensemble.
Making the vocal line attractive to the listener is an arranger’s job.
Finding The Right Key Signature, Styles, and Genre
A singer should always sing in a comfortable range and within the limits of his or her vocal prowess.
That’s where an arranger is very helpful – determining the right key signature for a singer.
An arranger is especially helpful if a singer is competing. The arranger matches the music to the singer’s vocal range and singing style.
I wrote an article discussing how singers should prepare for a competition. Go visit the 8 Essential Steps To Prepare For A Singing Competition.
As I mentioned before, a song can start out as a lullaby and end up being a rock material.
Any song can have any genre or style of singing all thanks to your musical arranger.
The Music Arranger
Everything you’ve read so far is the technical aspect of an arranger’s job.
Think of your musical arranger as your house interior designer. An interior designer’s job is to make designs look pleasing to the eyes. Your musical arranger’s job is to make a song pleasing to the ears.
You can also learn more about the role of a music arranger from this article.