Arranging 1

Instructors running ensembles have two basic choices when it comes to finding suitable music – buying or writing arrangements. My personal preference is to write them, for the following reasons:

  • Economy – this saves departments (i.e. the public purse) a fortune
  • The levels of difficulty can be more finely tuned*
  • The range of styles can be wider than many publishing houses offer – in many cases it can be difficult to source music outside the Western European tradition**
  • My own technical advice, articulation choices etc. can be written at source and not pencilled later onto dozens of individual parts
  • Rehearsal marks can be placed at all significant junctions in the music – allowing pupils who have lost the place to re-enter as soon as possible***
  • Alterations can be made to the arrangement – even after rehearsal have begun (either to simplify or to extend)
  • TAB can be offered in addition to traditional notation
  • The page layout of parts can be altered to save awkward page turns and reprographic expense
  • I will have an audio file on my laptop for use in lessons
  • Play-along
    midi files can be offered to pupils at a variety of speeds for home practice****
  • Keen pupils can be offered parts other than their own – for extra experience at very little expense – this way their understanding of the piece will increase significantly*****
  • The melody part can be extracted and added to the bank of solo repertoire
  • Pupils who show sudden promise can be offered an upgrade to avoid boredom – within the confines of retaining the balance of parts in the group as a whole
  • Arrangements can be passed onto colleagues i.e. electronically and they print their own parts as required
  • Storage and retrieval of arrangements is electronic – saving space and also the planet

* Few published arrangements have parts sufficiently graded for ensembles containing pupils from S1 to S6

** The guitar ensemble, although very common in Lothians’ schools, is a relatively unusual outfit and it can be difficult to find suitable music

*** I tend to use numbers as opposed to letters. This is because warnings will be announced while everyone is playing. The letters B, C, D, E, P, T & V all rhyme – as do A, J & K – and this can cause confusion. Let’s not even start on M & N.

**** audio CD versions can also be produced although this is a little more costly (midi files are free)

***** very occasionally a pupil will ask for a copy of the score to see how the parts all fit together. This may be of some help in their own arranging tasks in SQA music courses. It may also help them to understand the term litigation if I discover they have sold it as their own 🙂