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How do you get started as a music arranger?

2017 July 14
by Eric Ng

Next week will be our first lesson for our music arrangement course! Teaching music arrangement and songwriting are actually very different though both elements are very important in making up a great hit song.

For the uninitiated, according to Wikipedia, this is what music arrangement means.

In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging “involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings…. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety”.

I’d say the last sentence sums it all. Music arrangement is dressing up an existing melody to turn it from a good song to a great one. As a pop music arranger, you plan the structure of the song to give the listener the fullest emotional experience. You choose instruments, you design where they appear throughout the song. It’s like you are a painter. Given a subject (melody + lyric) you combine the most suitable tones out of the different instruments you have to bring out the song.

So how do you get started as music arranger? Other than joining us in our 10 month basic music arrangement course, you should already get started on these

– Explore a DAW of your choice

A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is basically a software where you can record, combine and manipulate different instruments to create a music arrangement. There are many different DAWs in the market including Protools, Logic, Garageband, Abelton Live etc. I’d say they all can perform essentially the same functions in different styles of workflow. Find one that you feel comfortable in and start playing around with it.

– Notice when and how music instruments appear in hit songs

When does the acoustic guitar come out in the song? When does the drums come in? What is the bass doing? Is piano playing arpeggiated notes or comping chords?

A drum part filled with frantic rolls might sound good in a driving rock song but will kill the mood of a ballad. Till today I’m frequently listening out to all kinds of music to stay in touch of what works for different styles of music. It’s about building your own ‘taste library’ that will benefit you when you work on your own music arrangements.

– Starting observing how your favourite records sound

Music Arrangement is not just about adding some drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and you’re all set. A snare drum is not just a snare drum. A snare can sound fat, it can sound thin to blend in with a clap. It can be an acoustic snare, it can be a 808 drum machine sound. It can be drenched in reverb or dry in your face.

Play around with sounds

Nowadays most DAW comes together with sounds for you to create your own music arrangements. These are called soft synths. Guitars, Bass guitars and hardware keyboards/synths can add on to your palette of sounds as well. Play around with what you have and see which sounds you like and which you don’t. Music arrangement is not just about notes, it’s about how things sound as well. The best recordings have well planned instrumentation. These elements combine together to create a music backing with well balanced frequencies.

I’m always asked how do you start writing songs, or how do you start making music arrangements. And I always say, just start. That’s more important than anything. As for teaching music arrangement, we aim to provide you with information on the concepts of music arrangement, not really to teach them to use a software. That kind of information is really all over the internet. The concept and musical taste of a music arrangement is more valuable and important than learning how to use a DAW.

End of the day, it really boils down to interest, practice and hands on experience that will allow you to create great sounding and interesting music arrangements.

So if you have always been interested in music arrangement, go ahead and get a DAW and get started now! If you interested to learn the concepts of music arrangement and what goes behind a music arrangement with our well experienced lecturers, read on!

As a songwriter or a musician, we understand that when you are starting out, often you have no clue on how to begin creating an arrangement for the songs that you’ve composed, or even how to begin using the music software.
Our Music Arrangement courses takes you through the concepts of music arrangement, demystifying the basics using Apple Garageband starting with built in loops and moving on to building your arrangements from scratch using Protools -the leading music industry software found in most recording studios.
The 10 months syllabus, formulated by 黃韻仁 Eric Ng and Jim Lim 林倛玉, taught together with our highly qualified lecturers, caters to anyone interested in music arranging, no matter if you are guitar or keyboard based.

This music arrangement course will be beneficial to songwriters and musicians that would like to learn how to arrange songs using Garageband and Protools.
What you will learn in 10 months:
• Learn the concepts of music arrangement
• Gain awareness of the interaction between commonly used music instruments
• Understanding groove and harmony, the basic building blocks of music arrangement
• Building your own multi-instrument arrangements from scratch, track by track with guidance by our highly qualified and patient instructors
• Learn the basic concepts of polishing and mixing your tracks
Basic requirements:
• Basic knowledge of one of the following instruments, drums, bass, guitar or keyboard
Group Class Size: min. 5 max. 15 students
Commencement Date/Timing : 19th July 2017,Wednesdays, 7:30pm
Course Duration: 10 months, 40 weeks (40 lessons),
Course Frequency: : Once a week (1.5 hours per lesson)
* Trainees will be awarded a “Certificate of Participation” during their last class of their course (T&C applies).
As you will be trained using Apple computers with Garage-band, Protools software and a midi keyboard, it is advisable for you to have your own set up to hone your arrangements. However, we do provide Apple laptops during class usage at a first come first serve basis.
Email your enquiries and interest to First come First Serve Basis. Limited Seats only.
#fmpopmusicsch #writethesonginyou

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