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An arrangement is the adaptation of a previously written musical composition for presentation. It may differ from the original form by reharmonization, paraphrasing or development of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic structure. Orchestration differs in that it is only adapting music for an orchestra, concert band, or other musical ensemble while arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings...Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety".
Arrangements and transcriptions of classical and serious music go back to the early history of this genre. In particular music written for the piano frequently underwent this treatment. The suite of ten piano pieces Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, has been arranged over twenty times, perhaps the most famous and notable being that of Maurice Ravel.
Arrangers in pop music recordings often add parts for orchestral or band instruments involving new material such that the arrangers may reasonably be considered co-composers, although for copyright and royalty purposes usually are not. Rhythm section parts are usually improvised or otherwise invented by the performers themselves using chord symbols or a lead sheet as a guide. (Rhythm section instruments usually include guitars, bass guitars, string basses, piano and other keyboard instruments, and drums.)
An existing pop song can be re-recorded with a different arrangement to the original. As well as different instruments, the tempo, time signature and key signature may be altered, sometimes drastically so. The end result is a song that retains familiar phrases and lyrics, but offers something new. This practice was particularly popular in the late 1960s. Well known examples of this include Joe Cocker's version of The Beatles' With a Little Help from My Friends, and Ike And Tina Turner's version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary. The American group Vanilla Fudge and British group Yes based their early careers on radical re-arrangements of contemporary hits. Another and later example would be Bonnie Pointer's disco and Motown-themed versions of "Heaven Must Have Sent You."
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In jazz an unscored collaborative arrangement is called a "head arrangement" (Randel 2002, p. 294; it is in the head of the musician(s)). Big bands such as those of Duke Ellington (at the very beginning of his career), Bennie Moten, and Count Basie performed head arrangements (ibid).
Arrangements for small jazz combos are usually informal, minimal, and uncredited. This was particularly so for combos in the bebop era. In general, the larger the ensemble, the greater the need for a formal arrangement, although the early Count Basie big band was famous for its head arrangements, so called because they were worked out by the players themselves, memorized immediately and never written down. Most arrangements for large ensembles, big bands, in the swing era, were written down, however, and credited to a specific arranger, as were later arrangements for the Count Basie big band by Sammy Nestico and Neal Hefti. Don Redman made significant innovations in the pattern of arrangement in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in the 1920s. He introduced the pattern of arranging melodies in the body of arrangements and arranging section performances of the big band. Benny Carter became Fletcher's main arranger in the early 30's, moving on become as famous for his arranging expertise as his musicianship. Billy Strayhorn was an arranger of great renown in the Duke Ellington orchestra beginning in 1938.
Jelly Roll Morton is considered the earliest jazz arranger, writing down the parts when he was touring about 1912–1915 so that pick-up bands could play his compositions. Big band arrangements are informally called charts. In the swing era they were usually either arrangements of popular songs or they were entirely new compositions. Duke Ellington's and Billy Strayhorn's arrangements for the Duke Ellington big band were usually new compositions, and some of Eddie Sauter's arrangements for the Benny Goodman band and Artie Shaw's arrangements for his own band were new compositions as well. It became more common to arrange sketchy jazz combo compositions for big band after the bop era.
After 1950, the big bands declined in number. However, several bands continued and arrangers provided renowned arrangements. Gil Evans wrote a number of large-ensemble arrangements in the late fifties and early sixties intended for recording sessions only. Other arrangers of note include Vic Schoen, Pete Rugolo, Oliver Nelson, Johnny Richards, Billy May, Thad Jones, Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer, Steve Sample, Sr, Lou Marini, Nelson Riddle, Ralph Burns, Billy Byers, Gordon Jenkins, Ray Conniff, Henry Mancini, and Ray Reach.
In the 21st century, the Big Band arrangement has made a modest comeback. Gordon Goodwin, Roy Hargrove, and Christian McBride have all rolled out New Big Bands with both original compositions and new arrangements of standard tunes.
The string section is a body of instruments composed of various stringed instruments. By the 19th century orchestral music in Europe had standardized the string section into the following homogeneous instrumental groups: first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. The string section in a multi-sectioned orchestra is referred sometimes to as the “string choir.”
The harp is also a stringed instrument, but is not a member of or homogeneous with the violin family and is not considered part of the string choir. Samuel Adler classifies the harp as a plucked string instrument in the same category as the guitar (acoustic or electric), mandolin, banjo, or zither. Like the harp these instruments do not belong to the violin family and are not homogeneous with the string choir. In modern arranging these instruments are considered part of the rhythm section. The electric string bass and upright string bass—depending on the circumstance—can be treated by the arranger as either string section or rhythm section instruments.
A group of instruments in which each member plays a unique part—rather than playing in unison with other like instruments—is referred to as a chamber ensemble. A chamber ensemble made up entirely of strings of the violin family is referred to by its size. A string trio consists of three players, a string quartet four, a string quintet five, and so on.
A string section can be utilized on its own (this is referred to as a string orchestra) or in conjunction with any of the other instrumental sections. More than one string orchestra can be utilized.
A standard string section (vln., vln 2., vla., vcl, cb.) with each section playing unison allows the arranger to create a five-part texture. Often an arranger will divide each violin section in half or thirds to achieve a denser texture. It is possible to carry this division to its logical extreme in which each member of the string section plays his or her own unique part.
Artistic, budgetary and logistical concerns will determine the size and instrumentation of a string section. The Broadway musical West Side Story, in 1957, was booked into the Winter Garden theater; composer Leonard Bernstein disliked the playing of "house" viola players he would have to use there, and so he chose to leave them out of the show's instrumentation; a benefit was the creation of more space in the pit for an expanded percussion section.
George Martin, producer and arranger for The Beatles, warns arrangers about the intonation issues when only two like instruments play in unison. "After a string quartet," Martin explains, "I do not think there is a satisfactory sound for strings until one has at least three players on each line...as a rule two stringed instruments together create a slight "beat" which does not give a smooth sound."
While any combination and number of string instruments is possible in a section, a traditional string section sound is achieved with a violin-heavy balance of instruments.
|"Arranged By Nelson Riddle"||Nelson Riddle||12 players||8||2||2||0|
|"Arranged By Nelson Riddle"||Nelson Riddle||15 players||9||3||3||0|
|"Arranged By Nelson Riddle"||Nelson Riddle||16 players||10||3||3||0|
|"Arranged By Nelson Riddle"||Nelson Riddle||20 players||12||4||4||0|
|"Arranged By Nelson Riddle"||Nelson Riddle||30 players||18||6||6||0|
|"The Contemporary Arranger"||Don Sebesky||9 players||7||0||2||0|
|"The Contemporary Arranger"||Don Sebesky||12 players||8||2||2||0|
|"The Contemporary Arranger"||Don Sebesky||16 players||12||0||4||0|
|"The Contemporary Arranger"||Don Sebesky||20 players||12||4||4||0|
|Inside the score: A detailed analysis of 8 classic jazz ensemble charts by Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer||Rayburn Wright|
|Sounds and Scores : A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestration||Henry Mancini|
|The Contemporary Arranger||Don Sebesky|
|The Study Of Orchestration||Samuel Adler|
|Arranged by Nelson Riddle||Nelson Riddle|
|Instrumental Jazz Arranging: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide||Mike Tomaro|
|Modern Jazz Voicings: Arranging for Small and Medium Ensemble||Ted Pease, Ken Pullig|
|Arranging for Large Jazz Ensemble||Ted Pease, Dick Lowell|
|Arranging concepts complete: the ultimate arranging course for today's music||Dick Grove|
|The complete arranger||Sammy Nestico|