Arranging Exercise: Sharp or Flat

pijlenWhenever you write notes that are not in the scale, you have to choose whether to use a sharp or a flat. In most instances only one of them is correct, if you take into account the harmonies. In this exercise, you will be choosing between these two.

The exercise is like this. Each time there are given two alternative notations of a short chord progression. Both versions sound the same. Point out the correct version, the left or right one:

Arranging Exercise: Additions

In earlier arranging exercises the chords were given and the idea was to write the chords like that. But in reality you often want to change the chords, to make the sound richer or jazzier. As an arranger you have a lot of possibilites in the additions in the harmonies.

In this exercise you will decide youself what additions you want to write in the harmonies. The basic chords are given, but there are no sevenths, ninths and the like. The song, ‘What a wonderful world’, sounds good if the harmonies are kind of jazzy, so these chords beg for additions! The melody is given as well, your task is to fill the staffs in an homophonic way, for SATB:

Notating Chord Symbols

signaalThe language of chord symbols is not fixed. The way chords are notated differs between books and between musicians. Some people notate a minor chord with M, others with MI or even with MIN. In some books a flat ninth is written as <9 and in other as -9, et cetera.

The fact that there are differences in notation doesn’t really matter. It’s a natural thing. A language is alive and is always changing. But, on the other hand, it would be a good thing to have some kind of standard. This would make it easier to learn the language of chord symbols and it would speed up chord reading.

Arpeggios in Minor

stapel2Here is a warm-up exercise for six voice groups, making arpeggios in minor. The choir members together will be stacking thirds: the root, the third, the fifth, the seventh, the none and finally the eleven. To make the exercise challenging for the men’s voices as well, the chord is repeated from top to bottom.

You might do this exercise with just one chord. But if you really want to have an exciting exercise, you might repeat the chord on scale degrees I-IV-I:

Modal Warm-Up Exercise

bolHere is a warm-up exercise with tonal harmonies. The exercise is meant to perform in four parts, in which the exercise is both sung in parallel fifths and in canon. The melody is like this:

Font for Chord Symbols

chordWriting chord symbols might be done with regular letters and signs, like the ones on your keyboard. But it won’t look very good. For a flat you will have to use a b, a triangle for a major seventh doesn’t exist and you won’t be able to write extensions in superscript. Creating beautiful chords is quite a job, both in a text editor and in a music notation program.

I’ve created a font which makes it easy to create beautiful chords. You may create the chords just by typing ergular characters that are on your keyboard, and you can put the chords above lyrics. Or you might use the font in your music notation program. Here is an example of how it will look:

Warm-Up with Mediants

kaartenhuisIn this warm-up exercise the choir members will be singing arpeggios, which will be shifting in mediants. The chords are subsequently Bb, Dm, F, Gm, Eb, Cm en Bb.

First sing the following melody:

Singing Arpeggios

bremerWith my choirs I tend to do a lot of arpeggio exercises in the warming-up, lately. They are kind of hard to sing, but very good for listening and blending. Here is an example of such an exercise. The arpeggio is sung from bottom-up first and then repeated from top to bottom:


newReharmonisation means changing the chords of a song, for example when you are making an arrangement. It is quite common in jazz and far less common in pop music. A lot of reharmonisation techniques will result in a jazzy sound.

In reharmonizing you have an enormous range of possibilities. If you have limited experience in this field, you might be overwhelmed by that. Therefore, I have made a list of techniques you might use to find new chords. The techniques go from rather easy to increasingly complex.

The Difficulty of Arrangements

tredenBefore buying an arrangement for your choir, you want to know whether it is suited for the level of your group. On my website, the level of the arrangements is indicated on a scale from I (easy) to V (very hard). The same kind of scale is used by a number of well-known arrangers from the States.

How does this scale work? What does an arrangement of a certain level look like, and what does a choir have to possess to sing it? Let’s start at the extremes of the scale, at level I and V.