Have you ever wondered how to arrange a song? You have spent a while coming up with the perfect lyrics for your song and you have an idea of the musical notes to accompany it, but so what are the next steps? How do you take it to the next level so you can release it out into the world? What are the differences between composition and arranging? And what do you need to have in order to arrange a song? There some easy steps to do this, so keep reading to find out more.
There is a subtle difference between the two, but it must be made. Composition is the initial musical idea that you have – the source material if you will. Arranging will then take the shape of structuring a song based on the initial musical composition and enabling it to be releasable. You in essence want to extend the original work you created and make it work as a complete piece of work. You want the song to be playable on streaming sites, the radio and of course live, so really take your time arranging it to a high standard.
Arranging a song can involve instrumental and vocal components coming together to form one discernible track. Within this process mixing of a track – which could be done by yourself or a music producer – would be essential if you are releasing it on a larger commercial scale. Therefore, effects such as reverb, equalization etc., could smooth out and enhance the richness of the tone of the track.
When it comes to how to make an arrangement of a song, what is the general structure tracks usually follow? You will be able to recognise this now every time you arrange a song or listen to music.
Intro – this short part of the track needs to be unique and powerful enough to introduce us to the song.
Verse – this will tell the story and really needs your attention when arranging the track. Have you got catchy lyrics or melody that you can use again in the second verse? What are you trying to say, and build on?
Pre-Chorus – here is where you build up from the verse and enhance the chorus. It has to be said that all songs feature a pre-chorus but it can give the chorus more of a punch if included.
Chorus – the chorus of any song will be successful if the lyrics & vocal and instrumental parts all come together here. There needs to be energy and anthem-like lyrics that your audience can sing over and over again even after they have stopped listening to your music. This is where you really shine and take risks. Following on from this there can be a second verse.
Bridge – the bridge links the second and third chorus and it must change the pace of the song. It is there to create variety and to state that songs are not just about repetition – even though sometimes this helps your fans remember lyrics! So, change the key, or it has been done with a guitar solo.
Outro – this can be the musical section at the end of the song, and you can incorporate anything such a repetitive lyric, or it can be purely instrumental.
This concerns the particular layers of a song that will work together. In brief, you want to arrange a track that compliments what you have already created, so try and put these together and see what works. This is a creative part of the arranging process.
Have you got a clear idea of the genre and what structure do other tracks within this genre use as a guide? So are you asking how to arrange a pop song or one for a rock band? It can be more than 2 though, so find another reference track that you can refer back to, to see if you are heading in a similar situation. It must be said that you have to be original in your music, that is obvious, but even those at the top of their game use others as a reference when arranging music.
You need to ensure that if you play the song acoustically, or with just vocals, does it stand alone and does it still work? There can be all the effects in the world added to a song, but if it is not great to start with, then you need to go back to the drawing board. Think of the hook of the song, and is this clear? What is the chorus like and it is catchy enough? If you achieve this before you add any more further production/arranging, then you are in business. Try using different instruments and see what works.
Think about the length of the verses, chorus and bridge, do they all compliment each other? Is it worth listening to? Will this recorded version stand up as a liver version?
Songs can make us feel so many different emotions and are pure examples of self-expression in its truest form. So make sure that the track is as concise as possible. The better formed a song, the more popular it will be.
Don’t be afraid of silence and know that they will give momentum to the track. There are plenty of examples where you just hear the vocals without the instrumental support in the background and there is suspense before the big drop and it reconnects you to the music. They help to distinguish different sections of the score.
You want to know how to arrange a song for a band that will get the audience wanting more, and sing along with every lyric, then maybe add in some extra layers, repetition etc., so there is familiarity. Within this familiarity – in the verses for example – you can change the tempo or the type of instrument used and then you have variety.
Are you going to choose to use backing vocals on your track and if so, how often? As lead vocal, will they sing with you at every chorus and join you again at the bridge? If you focus on the music arrangement in terms of how a song feels, and chord progression, you will end up with a stellar piece of music production.
If you want to arrange a song for a guitar, it follows a very similar process, and since as guitar players, like pianists, you can easily play chords on it, playing up to 6 notes at a time. When it comes to guitar arranging, you need to learn how to play the following chords;
C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am
You would then choose 3 or 4 of the following guitar chords and experiment with a variety of combinations;
G – Dm – G – C
Em – Am – G – C
The aim is to see what works and blends nicely together. There is part music theory in this process, but you still have a lot of musical creativity as no one song sounds the same…most of the time.
Create a 4 bar chord progression, followed by the lyrics and a melody. Remember to just write and do not worry about the rubbish you may end up putting on the page. It’s ok to fail, just make the effort. Something will stick. Form your words into a phrase and sing it over the chord progression you chose. Add rhythmic subdivisions, and then you can add more phrases, which in turn leads to writing a chorus.
Focus on the rhythm of the track and what will complement the lead vocals, such as the drums and other instrumental components. What will be the effect of the drums on the track and how will they change in rhythm for the whole piece? They need to be recorded to perfection and it will be clear when this isn’t done. Does the track stand alone using acoustic drums?
I am aware that there is a lot of thought that needs to go into arranging a song, but remember you have the passion, the talent and skills to accomplish this. It is what you enjoy doing on a daily basis and you want to create music that your fans will love. Follow our steps to musical arrangement and you have it nailed! I’m sure we will be hearing your new single on one of the DSPs very soon.