music composer
music composer music composition techniques cubase tutorials music essays reviews contact

writing melodies tips 1 to 3 counter-melodies & chorus/verse melodies tips 4 to 6
melodic intervals & leaps tips 7 to 9

Song Structures
basic song structure examples repeated verse and AABA
pop song structures verse/chorus & bridge
pre chorus song structures verse/prechorus/chorus bridge & coda structures

Music Arranging
orchestration & midi arranging tips 1 - 3
recording & arranging tips tips 4 - 6
more music arranging tips tips 7 - 10

Becoming a composer how to become a composer tips one to five
how to become a composer tips six through to ten
how to make a demo CD tips on making and marketing your showreel

Tuitionin composing music production schools reviews of some top music production colleges in the USA how to choose a music school factors to consider when choosing where to study music composition lessons a check-list for subjects to study within music composition


music arranging tips



part three - tips 7 - 10


7. Keeping the music together


Featured above is the "Riverdance" performance from the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin (1994). Notice here how the rhythmic footwork of the dancers fits perfectly with the rhythms latent within the melodies. All the percussion and bass elements work with these themes to form an impressive cohesive whole.

Listen carefully to any instruments that provide rhythm in your music. On the lower EQ end, on rock songs look out for the way that the bass guitar and bass drum work together (or in orchestral music, the way the bass instruments {such as the double bass or contrabassoon} work with the percussion section). These elements help to define the rhythmic groove. It's very important that they are locked together and not competing against each other with different rhythms.

Also listen to the way that mid and high end instruments work together. For example, if you are using a guitar and a piano at the same time, make sure that they are in a similar rhythmic groove. Either this or record one of them so that they play something very simple (e.g. one chord every beat or every other beat) whilst the other is playing a more intricate rhythm.


8. Keeping the music different

This is especially important in song arranging. Because songs follow a repetitive structure (e.g. verse1/chorus/verse 2/chorus etc.) it’s essential that we maintain interest by changing the approach to each verse. For example, verse 1 could be presented very simply by just guitar and vocal. When verse 2 comes round, the arrangement could be much fuller. Or alternatively you could write a counter-melody to the main verse melody. If I am taking this approach, I avoid using an instrument in the same register as the vocal line. E.g. go above it with high strings or woodwinds, or maybe below (say with a cello). I nearly always make the second chorus fuller than the first one. A useful trick here is to add harmonies to the vocal melody on the second time round. This helps to reinforce the hook of the song and keep it feeling fresh.


9. Drafting the ideas out

This is an important time saving tip. When I’m working on an arrangement on the computer, as soon as I have an idea I will record it down quite quickly, and not correct it for timing or pitch mistakes. Then, when I have the section finished (in this draft form), I’ll come back to it at a later point (say later in the day, or the following day). This gives me some distant from the material and I am then in a better position to figure out if the arrangement is working or not. If I’m happy with it, then I’ll fine tune (quantize etc.) and maybe do some re-recording to get the parts more accurate. If I’m planning to replace a synth with a real instrument, I usually like to have a few days space away from the arrangement before committing to the real thing.



10. Consider the energy level of the music

Always ask yourself what type of song (or work) you arranging in terms of it`s energy level. It might be a peaceful ballad (e.g. low energy level) or an earth shattering up tempo finale to a large orchestral work! (very high energy level), Whichever it is, make sure that the arrangement stays true to this original level. E.g. you probably wouldn’t want a large brass section in your gentle ballad.

Brass and percussion have long been recognised for their “wake up” qualities. The “Muzak” corporation are known for taking advantage of this with their “Stimulus Progression” music programming. Here, songs are given a “stimulus rating”, the most stimulating (up tempo, with brass and strings) being played at lethargic times of the day (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) in order to help boast productivity in the workplace. (For further reading on this see this excellent article entitled "Are You Being Brainwashed By Muzak?" by Debbie Yi - and this revealing original Muzak graph indicating the relationship between musical arrangement, tempo and it's stimulating effect on the brain).
So the instrumentation that we choose, and the amount of forces we employ (whether this be by “layering” in recording {see tip six} or by real musicians in a concert hall or stadium), can have a dramatic effect on the overall energy of the music.



Further Reading:-

tips on orchestration (arranging tips part 1)

Featuring five techniques I use when orchestrating, including doubling instruments to "thicken" the texture or increase the intensity of the musical phrase, and how to create smooth sounding string sections.

music arranging tips part 2

Tips 4 through to 6 on arrangement principles, featuring a tip on how to repeat themes already heard in a work, and a way to gain objectivity on your composition.

how to become a composer

A series of three pages full of tips on how to become a successful music composer. The first page lists music organisations worth joining and how to work well with a film director or producer.

cubase 6 review

An overview of this leading DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) from Steinberg. This page gives the low-down on the three incarnations of Cubase available (Cubase 6, Artist and Elements) and also has an explanation of some of the terminology your likely to encounter, such as the meaning of "64-bit technology" and "VSTi".



music arranging tips p.1 - p.2 - p.3


privacy policy

t & c