Arranging a Song: What’s That?!

That last workshop of our Musicians Toolbelt Workshop Series is fast approaching! Arranging: Make It Your Own will take place Saturday, May 18, 2019, 1:00-3:00pm at Artichoke Music. Not sure what I mean by “arranging”? Read on …

What does it mean to arrange a song?

Songs are like people: we all look very different, and present ourselves in different ways to the world, but underneath, we are made of the same elements. To continue the metaphor, you might say that the “bones” of a song are the structure and patterns of chords, melody and lyrics; that is, what the song is made of. The “skin” of a song is the arrangement of time, tempo, and organization; or, how a song is presented to the world. To arrange a song is to take the fundamental elements of it and figure out how you want to present them in a musical setting.

Why learn about song arrangements?

  1. Own your musical learning. Contrary to what we might believe, we are not solely at the whim of our teachers or songbooks or online chord charts! You can own more of your learning process when you can recognize and create arrangements.
  2. Deepen your understanding of the elements of music. When you pick apart someone else’s arrangement or create your own, you get to interact with the elements of music directly. For example, when you choose a strum pattern, you have to feel the rhythm of song more profoundly; when you choose the key, you have to be more aware of how the melody travels throughout the song. All of these challenges deepen your musical understanding.
  3. Arranging allows you to make a song your own. As you learn more music, you can take and borrow what you like best from different genres and artists and start to create your own musical voice with your song arrangements. Are you more of a folkie? Do you like songs with a more bluesy feel? Do you prefer the sound of picking to strumming? All of these preferences will impact your choices of arrangement, and help you develop your own personal style of playing.
  4. Collaboration. If you want to play a song with other musicians, they may look to you to guide them through it! You’ll need to know how you want to start the song, navigate through verses and choruses, and then bring it to a neat and tidy end.
  5. Learning about arrangements makes you a better musician. Learning to recognize and create song arrangements forces you to engage in the ultimate musical skill: listening. Whether you are working with your own song or someone else’s, arranging a song will make you listen to it – and to yourself – in a way you never have before, and that is what learning music is all about.

what you can learn

Our upcoming Arranging Workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Recognizing Arrangements. We’ll listen to original recordings and look at song charts to learn about arrangement choices others have made. What’s the rhythm? How did they start and end the song? How did these choices help the song be fun to listen to?
  • Arrangement Choices. We’ll discuss different decisions you’ll need to make when arranging your song. Handouts will be provided to help you understand the different elements of an arrangement to consider, what effect your decisions have, and what options you have when working within the parameters of someone else’s song.
  • Arrangement Workshop. After reviewing all the tools at your disposal, you’ll have a couple opportunities during the workshop to work on arranging a song yourself. Walk away with a song ready for you to practice, to memorize, and/or to bring to your next jam!

I hope you can join us at: Arranging: Make It Your Own – Saturday, May 18, 2019, 1:00-3:00pm – Artichoke Music – 2007 SE Powell Blvd, Portland OR.

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