In writing an arrangement for choir, the structure of the piece is one of the first choices you have to make. By this we mean the different roles the parts have in the music. You can create chordal parts, thus writing identical rhythms and lyrics in all parts. Another possibility is to write the melody in one of the parts and to create accompanying lines in the other parts.

Arranging a single song using these two basic structures is very instructing. In this way you can clearly hear the differences in the sound created. This blog describes such an arranging exercise. The song used is Fields of gold by Sting. The exercise is to arrange the notes twice. First in four parts for satb in a homophonous way. Next in five parts with the lead in Soprano 2 and homophonous accompaniment in the other parts. Here are Exercise 1 and Exercise 2 as pdf files.

I have worked out both exercises twice, in a rather straighforward version using triads and and in a version using more complex harmonies. Below are the pdf files of the arrangements:
     Homophonous – Straightforward Harmonies
     Homophonous – More Complex Harmonies
     Lead Plus Accompaniment – Straighforward Harmonies
     Lead Plus Accompaniment – More Complex Harmonies

Below we will discuss the four arrangements.

Homophonous – Straighforward Harmonies

In the homophonous arrangement with the easy harmonies, the chords are made complete in the upper three voices as much as possible. Therefore, the alto and tenor mostly move in parallel to the melody. In particular the following choices have been made:

  • In the first harmony, below the C the alto and tenor sing A and E respectively. In the second harmony however the lead is singing the ninth in the chord. That is why the alto and tenor move down to the fifth and the third of the chord.
  • Measure 8: the chord that is sounding is AM, but in the melody there is a note F. This might mean that the actual harmony is F   rather than AM. Therefore, in the tenor an F is written instead of an E.

Homophonouse – More complex harmonies

In the second homophonous arrangement, there are more passing chords.

  • Measure 2: when in the lead there is a G, in the tenor a B is written. Note that in this way, the third of the harmony is not sung. This seems to be a valid choice however, because in the original song, the ninth is sounding very loud.
  • Measure 3: in the chord F a major seventh is written in the alto.
  • Measuret 4: to make the transition from measure 3 to 4 interesting, an F is written in the bass.

Lead and accompaniment – Straighforward harmonies

In the version with the easy harmonies, triads are written in the accompaniment. These four parts have long notes on the sound ooh.

  • Measure 1 and 2: in the first two chords the third is on top. This voicing is powerful, because all voices are well-balanced in a natural way.
  • Measure 3: the harmony is the same as in the previous measure. Yet, another voicing is chosen, in order to make the accompaniment sound interesting.
  • Measure 7: the harmony G is not starting on beat three, but rather beat two and three. Othewise the notes would sound somewhat rigid.

Lead and accompaniment – More complex harmonies

In the version with more interesting harmonies, often a ninth is added to the chords. In most instances, this addition is resolved downwards to the root.

  • Measure 1: in the alto there is ninth, resolving to the root.
  • Measure 2: the movement of the alto in the previous measure, is imitated in the tenor, which is singing the major seventh and the six of the chord C.
  • Measure 8: instead of the chord D in root voicing, here is written the chord D9 with the note F# in the bass.