Arranging Exercise: Homophonous Versus Lead and Accompaniment

In writing an arrangement, a basic choice is what the structure of the piece will be. By this, we mean what role the different parts play in the piece. You can write all parts homophonously. Or you can let one of the parts sing the lead and have the other parts sing accompanying lines.

Much can be learned from writing a single song using these two structures. This helps you to clearly see the effect of the techniques on the sound of the piece. In this blog there is an arranging exercise for that. The song we are using is Fields of gold by Sting. The exercise is to arrange the notes twice. First, in four parts, satb homophonous. Second, in five parts, in which the melody is sung by soprano 2 and the other four part sing homophonou accompaniment.

Endings of Musical Phrases in Arrangements

Musicians often are rather indiligent in notating the endings of musical sentences. They seem to leave the exact length of the long notes up to the singer or instrumentalist.

Here is an example. The start of Yesterday by The Beatles is often notated as follows:
The last syllable of the word “yesterday” is simply written up until the end of the bar. However, it feels quite unnatural to sing it word that long.

Switching Parts

For singers, it is nice to be able to use their full vocal range. A singer who may only sing low notes, tends to develop a very dark sound. And reversedly, a singer who has to sing high notes all the time, tends to lose warmth. When the voices within a choir vary in color, blending gets less and intonation gets harder. Apart from that, it is much more challenging and accomplishing for singers if they can use their full range.

The Layout of Arrangements

Now and then students from the conservatory ask me what settings I’m useing for the layout of my scores. In the past twenty years I slowly developed my view on that. I’m happy to explain which choices I make.

Four-Four Time

vier-vierdenThe time signature used most often in pop and jazz is four-four time. But in writing music, musicians often choose the note values in a bad way, so the backbeat isn’t right. According to drummers, the backbeat consists of the accents on the second and fourth beat of a four-four time. If you notate a piece of music, you should choose your notes in such a way that the second and fourth beat coincide with the backbeat.

Arranging for Women

vrouwenkoorThere are a lot of choirs with only female singers. Writing for such choirs is challenging. How do you go about writing for women’s voices? Is it possible to take an arrangement for men and simply sing it an octave higher? And if you do, does it sound the same as the men’s version? Or do other rules apply to arranging for female voices?

Advantages of Homophonic Arrangements

schoolHomophonic arrangements are worthwhile for a choir. In such scores, all choir members sing the same lyrics at the same time. In this way, there is a strong connection between the singers and the choir will have a strong unified performance on stage. Below are the advantages of homophonic pieces.

Music Paper for Arranging

muziekpapier-2Most arrangers that I know, use music notation software like Sibelius or Finale, to make scores look nice. But most of the writing we tend to do at the piano. (At least, I hope so, because arranging behind the computer is a bad habbit.) Thus, writing for choir starts on paper.

If you’re writing for choir regularly, it’s handy to have music paper on which the voicing is printed on forehand. For that purpose, I created music paper for the different voicings.

Lay-out of Vocal Scores

makeitpretty2As an arranger, I try to make my scores look as beautiful as possible. I really like a good layout. My arrangements are made with the music notation software Finale. But I definitely do not use its standard layout, because for me that layout looks rather bad.

In my view, the music publisher using the best layout in vocal scores is the Oxford University Press. Here is an example from the book In the mood:

Parenthesis in Chord Symbols

ParenthesisSome musicians tend to write all extensions after the first extension between parenthesis. Thus, they would write G7(>9) instead of G7>9, and D7(<9<5) instead of D7<9<5. This way of notating can be seen in The New Real Book. But apart from that publisher, not a lot of books use this method. Here is een example of Take the A Train: