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For other uses, see Arrangement (disambiguation).

In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work.<ref name="RCJE">Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 20. ISBN 0-141-00646-3. </ref> It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging differs from orchestration as the latter process is limited to the assignment of notes to instruments for performance by an orchestra, concert band, or other musical ensemble. 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".<ref name="corozine3">(Corozine 2002, p. 3)</ref>

Classical music

Arrangement and transcriptions of classical and serious music go back to the early history of this genre. In particular, music written for the piano has frequently undergone this treatment.<ref>Arrangement, Encyclopædia Britannica online</ref> The suite of ten piano pieces Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky, has been arranged over twenty times, notably by Maurice Ravel.<ref>Partial list of orchestral arrangements to Pictures at an Exhibition</ref>

Due to his lack of expertise in orchestration, the American composer George Gershwin had his Rhapsody in Blue orchestrated and arranged by Ferde Grofé.<ref>Greenberg, Rodney: George Gershwin, page 66. Phaidon Press, 1998. Template:Catalog lookup linkScript error: No such module "check isxn"..</ref>

Popular music

Popular music recordings often include parts for brass, string, and other instruments which were added by arrangers and not composed by the original songwriters. Popular music arrangements may also be considered to include new releases of existing songs with a new musical treatment. These changes can include alterations to tempo, meter, key, instrumentation, and other musical elements.

Well-known examples include Joe Cocker's version of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends," Cream's Crossroads, 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.<ref>Vanilla Fudge covers (classic bands website)</ref><ref>Close To the Edge – The Story of Yes, Chris Welch, Omnibus Press, 1999/2003/2008 pages 33-34</ref> Bonnie Pointer performed disco and Motown-themed versions of "Heaven Must Have Sent You."<ref>Bonnie Pointer bio (IMDB website)</ref> Remixes, such as in dance music, can also be considered arrangements.<ref>The Remix Manual: The Art and Science of Dance Music Remixing with Logic, Simon Langford (Elsevier, 2011, Template:Catalog lookup linkScript error: No such module "check isxn".) page 47</ref>

Though arrangers may contribute substantially to finished musical products, for copyright and royalty purposes, they usually hold no legal claim to their work.<ref>The Law of Music Arrangement Safford and Baker law firm website</ref>


Arrangements for small jazz combos are usually informal, minimal, and uncredited. Larger ensembles have generally had greater requirements for notated arrangements, though the early Count Basie big band is known for its many head arrangements, so called because they were worked out by the players themselves, memorized (in the player's head), and never written down.<ref name="randel294">Randel 2002, p. 294</ref> Most arrangements for big bands, however, were written down and credited to a specific arranger, as with arrangements by Sammy Nestico and Neal Hefti for Count Basie's later big bands.<ref>Swing music history and the big bands (Jazz in America website)</ref>

Don Redman made innovations in jazz arranging as a part of Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in the 1920s. Redman's arrangements introduced a more intricate melodic presentation and soli performances for various sections of the big band.<ref name="fletcher">"JAZZ A Film By Ken Burns: Selected Artist Biography - Fletcher Henderson". PBS. 1934-09-25. Retrieved 2013-10-18. </ref> Benny Carter became Henderson's primary arranger in the early 1930s, becoming known for his arranging abilities in addition to his previous recognition as a performer.<ref name="fletcher" /> Beginning in 1938, Billy Strayhorn became an arranger of great renown for the Duke Ellington orchestra. Jelly Roll Morton is sometimes considered the earliest jazz arranger. While he toured around the years 1912 to 1915, he wrote down parts to enable "pick-up" bands to perform 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.<ref>Giddins, Gary & Scott DeVeaux (2009). Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, Template:Catalog lookup linkScript error: No such module "check isxn".</ref> 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.<ref name="Bailey">Bailey, C. Michael (11 April 2008). "Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop". All About Jazz. Retrieved 23 February 2013. </ref>

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 1950s and early 1960s 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, Lou Marini, Nelson Riddle, Ralph Burns, Billy Byers, Gordon Jenkins, Ray Conniff, Henry Mancini, Ray Reach, Vince Mendoza, and Claus Ogerman.

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.<ref>"Carrington and Correa Among Jazz Winners" – LATimes Blog, Feb. 2012</ref>

For instrumental groups


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 (the same instrument as the first violins, but typically playing an accompaniment or harmony part to the first violins, and often at a lower pitch), violas, cellos, and double basses. The string section in a multi-sectioned orchestra is referred sometimes to as the "string choir."<ref>Adler, Samuel (2002). The Study Of Orchestration. New York: W.W. Norton. p. 111. </ref>

The harp is also a stringed instrument, but is not a member of nor 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.<ref>Adler, Samuel (2002). The Study Of Orchestration. New York: W.W. Norton. p. 89. </ref> 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 bass and upright string bass—depending on the circumstance—can be treated by the arranger as either string section or rhythm section instruments.<ref>Sebesky, Don (1975). The Contemporary Arranger. New York: Alfred Pub. p. 117. </ref>

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.<ref>"Oxford Music Online". Retrieved 22 July 2011. </ref> 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.

In most circumstances the string section is treated by the arranger as one homogeneous unit and its members are required to play preconceived material rather than improvise.

A string section can be utilized on its own (this is referred to as a string orchestra)<ref>"string orchestra". Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved October 21, 2012. </ref> 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.

Size of the string section

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.<ref>Burton, Humphrey. "Leonard Bernstein by Humphrey Burton, Chapter 26". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2011. </ref>

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 a rule two stringed instruments together create a slight "beat" which does not give a smooth sound."<ref>Martin, George (1983). Making Music: the Guide to Writing, Performing & Recording. New York: W. Morrow. p. 82. </ref>

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.

Suggested string section sizes
Reference Author Section size Violins Violas Celli Basses
"Arranged By Nelson Riddle"<ref>Riddle, Nelson (1985). Arranged By Nelson Riddle. Secaucus, NJ: Warner Brothers Publications Inc. p. 124. </ref> Nelson Riddle 12 players 8 2 2 0
15 players 9 3 3 0
16 players 10 3 3 0
20 players 12 4 4 0
30 players 18 6 6 0
"The Contemporary Arranger"<ref>Sebesky, Don (1975). The Contemporary Arranger. New York: Alfred Pub. pp. 127–129. </ref> Don Sebesky 9 players 7 0 2 0
12 players 8 2 2 0
16 players 12 0 4 0
20 players 12 4 4 0

Further reading

Name Author
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
Arranging Songs: How to Put the Parts Together Rikky Rooksby

See also


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  • Corozine, Vince (2002). Arranging Music for the Real World: Classical and Commercial Aspects. Pacific, MO: Mel Bay. ISBN 0-7866-4961-5. OCLC 50470629. 
  • Kers, Robert de (1944). Harmonie et orchestration pour orchestra de danse. Bruxelles: Éditions musicales C. Bens. vii, 126 p.
  • Kidd, Jim (1987). Unsung Heroes, the Jazz Arrangers, from Don Redman to Sy Oliver: [text with recorded examples for a presentation] Prepared on the Occasion of the 16th Annual Canadian Collectors' Congress, 25 April 1987, Toronto, Ont. Toronto: Canadian Collectors' Congress. Photo-reproduced text ([6] leaves) with audiocassette of recorded illustrative musical examples.
  • Randel, Don Michael (2002). The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Template:Catalog lookup linkScript error: No such module "check isxn"..
  • Harry Boyd (2015). "Swag"