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Just finished another song - an uptune for the Westminster Chorus... and I realized again how I always seem to come back to the same "tricks" and techniques when navigating through a new arrangement. The ups and downs are there no matter what, and it never gets any simpler. However, it has become smoother over the years - primarily because much of my process stems from some good habits I come back to each time. Much of it is now instinctive with every new chart; however, being the OCD-type person I am (I don't separate my food, but I smoosh it all together in organized piles like Richard Dreyfuss), I have started compiling my own bag (quite a big and dusty bag) of tricks and reminders to follow during the arranging process. I certainly don't remember them all for every chart, and I don't need them for each new song, but I've found myself using these over and over again... so much that I felt I should write them all down - in case some day my memory fails and I forget who I am... at least then I'd still be able to piece together a chart of Sweet Adeline!
So, considering the cool arranging resources already available ("BHS Arranging Manual", "A Cappella Arranging" co-authored by Deke Sharon and Dillon Bell, to name a couple), I don't want to clutter that library of good stuff with any official declarations that "this is how it must be done". I'm just sharing my stuff for you however you want to use it. Arranging is a fun process! Whether arranging vocal or instrumental music (or arranging the furniture in your room) it can become an obsession! Everyone has their own creative process driving each new piece of music. We all borrow from each other, and influence each other. Maybe you're reading this for kicks - and you don't care about all this arranging stuff. Or, maybe you are secretly hoping to feel normal...and take comfort in the fact that there are other people out there just like you (secretly writing melodies and rhythm on napkins at parties, etc)....people who know what it's like to be in the trench of artistic design in an arrangement... obsessive...extreme...crazy.... letting your food go cold while spending hours and hours deliberating over one measure. Yeh, you know that feeling! And if you don't, then I guess all this does seem weird to you.
So, if interested, add these to your bag o' tricks....or use them as a source of boring late night reading. I don't care what you do with it.... just realize there are people like us out there! We exist...the arrangers, the extremists... the creators... some of the most obsessive artists you'll ever meet, but glad to admit it!
By the way - disclaimer: Though my OCD-ness applies to most of my life, the stuff I'm sharing is currently in no particular order - it's all just random as I have written them down over the years. Feel free to be annoyed all you want - just don't take it out on your dog or kids... (cats okay).
Now...taking a dip in the bag today, I pull out this one:
INVERTING UP THE SECOND OR THIRD TIME
If that's greek to you, turn back now. Simply put, when you have stated a musical phrase, and your chords are all nice and tight and generally low the first time around, you can take that baritone and tenor part and invert them up the next time or two. Start low, invert up, invert up. Not to mean you should make it crazy high and un-singable (guilty! been there, done that), but just find reasonable ways to build excitement through the chords inverting up as you head through the chart. Same can work inverting down... but that also can lose energy and cause a reaction you may not want from the audience (if thinking about the culminating performance - as you SHOULD). I'll use examples from my own stuff as it's readily available (shameful, I know)...so here you go.
In my chart of "You're Sixteen, You're Beautiful, and You're Mine", each time the lyrics state "YSYBAYM" the arrangement does just this... starts low, inverts up, and inverts up again (I did some other stuff too, like added a swipe, etc, but that's for another dip in the bag). The inversions help build interest (IMO) and help the song. That's all - more to come later. See below, and/or watch/listen here:
The Kentucky Vocal Union just returned from Las Vegas where they competed in the 2014 International Barbershop Chorus Competition - placing 6th in the world with a score of 92.2% - their highest score to date in international competition. If you missed the KVU's contest set, Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror and Thriller, you can hear them on their newest CD Now Is The Time which you can purchase here or click the CD cover to the right. The CD features several of my arrangements - many of which have learning tracks available.
Scroll down to the videos below to see the MJ set from their show in Phoenix the week before international.
If you had a chance to take advantage of my promotion/subscription last year, I hope you'll consider what I offer again this year! Click HERE for more information.