3 Tips For A Better Arrangement
Published on: October 07, 2019
3 Tips For A Better ArrangementIt is no secret that the recipe to a well-crafted song is a solid musical arrangement. There have been countless tutorials and articles written on this topic emphasizing its importance, but very few have actually highlighted practical steps to crafting a memorable musical arrangement without digressing into notation and theory.This is a problem!As someone whos had the privilege of composing music for a living, Id like to share a few tips that have helped out my arrangements over the years. Tip #1: There Is No SecretContrary to what you have read or heard, there is NO secret formula to a good musical arrangement. Music production in its entirety is an art form. While art has guidelines, these guidelines arent rules to be abided by.Now dont be disappointed. This tip is necessary to remind ourselves that creativity has no limits. While this tip doesn't necessarily give you an actionable tip that you can apply to your productions, it gives you the mindset that is needed to approaching arrangements. Producers, especially inexperienced producers, are always looking for shortcuts to make the next hit track. There is no one arrangement that you can use in every one your tracks to make you a superstar producer. The sooner you understand that there are no shortcuts and the sooner you understand that creativity and experimentation are the key to getting a well crafted arrangement, the faster your productions will improve. Tip #2 Study Your Favorite TracksThe answers are right in front of you!You can hear exactly what arrangement your favorite producers are using to create an compelling arrangement. Pick a few of your favorite songs and analyze their arrangement.Find out what makes them sound the way they do and make a list of questions and answer them with your analysis. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when analyzing your favorite tracks:
- What do these songs have in common? (Similar synth leads? Good drops? Fat bass sounds?)
- What are the song structures of these songs like? (chorus, intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro?)
- What and where are the catchiest parts of these songs? (the chorus has a great guitar riff that loops?)
- How do these songs transition from one point to another? (how does the song escalate from the verse to the chorus?)Now, your analysis does NOT have to be so methodical. It really depends on you. Do you know what kind of learner you are? Are you self-aware of how you learn?Are you talented enough to just listen to a song and be able to take it apart section by section and decipher what makes it sound good? Or do you have to pick up a pen and paper and jot down notes while breaking the song down into its little intricacies before you analyze it?Tip #3 Practicality Unless you are creating a song for multimedia, (commercial, movie, etc.) you have a blank canvas to work on. Given todays accessibility of numerous music creation tools, there are two categories that today's producers fall into. This is of course, an overgeneralization, but do bear with me:The Lazy Producer:Yes, this is you if you simply create a riff or a drop and repeat it 50 times throughout your song without changing it. Your song will never be successful if you do this Now Im not against copying and pasting, but if youre just doing that and thinking its music production, it really isnt. Copying and pasting loops isnt music production. Its one of the many facets of it, but its definitely and most ideally, not very helpful in getting a great track. Here are some solutions:
- Change up the melody line at different points
- Change up the tone with different instruments, synths, leads, octaves
- Layer your instruments and add creative panning
- Add automation in BOTH volume and effects to create dynamic contrasts in your track
- Add a transition phrase to your song (most obviously, from the verses to the chorus)
- Add breaks in your song (silence, yes). The silence in music is golden and creates a moment of expectation, contemplation or even surprise.The Excessive Producer :Yes, this is you if you like to stack 50 instruments all playing different lines and leads. This causes ear fatigue and throws the focus of the listener off. The ear can only focus on so many things at once, and if the listener is being pulled in multiple directions, your song will be more damaging than enjoyable.Have you ever been in a room or at a function where theres just too many people talking at once? This can be disorienting. When you have too much happening at one time in a musical production, it will also be disorienting. Here are some solutions:
- Have a main distinct hook or melody. Keep the melody going at more points throughout the song with other instruments in the background only being there to support this melody. They should NOT be fighting with the melody for attention.
- Limit yourself to writing only with a certain number of tracks. That will limit your crazy desire to stack 45 synths that adds no value in the bigger picture of things. (If youre the kind that spends huge amounts of money on plugins, this will help your wallet.) Limitation DOES produce creativity, and less is often more. The more instruments you have, the harder it is to arrange. SummaryA compelling musical arrangement comes fro allowing your creativity to flow and experimentation. It comes from knowing that there is no one size fits all arrangement that you can use every single song to become a super star producer overnight. It comes by taking ownership of your craft and not just copying and pasting loops the entire through your entire song. It comes by having the end listener in mind.