Arrangement Day Reflections

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Arrangers deep in discussionArrangers deep in discussionWell, I’ve been collating the notes taken during the morning’s breakout sessions at last Sunday’s arrangers’ day (attached at the bottom of this post), and mulling on a number of miscellaneous other things that struck me during the day. Thanks to Katherine, David and Anne for taking the notes, by the way – it’s made a nice reminder for those who were there to participate, and something useful to share with those who couldn’t make it.

The following miscellany draws mostly on the afternoon’s workshop singing through people’s work-in-progess:

  • How tempting it is to introduce quite intensive bursts of harmonic interest at phrase ends in the form of swipes – and how much pressure that puts on the singers’ breath management. Echoes give more opportunity to do something complex because they provide a breathing opportunity.
  • Swipes that move from open to closed voicing or vice versa are easier to perform with clarity at the end of the breath than those in which the voices stay the same distance apart.
  • If you work at the piano a lot, you can find yourself with voicings that work particularly well on the piano, which may or may not lie so well on voices. This is more support for the advice to shuffle between different media and techniques during the arranging process.
  • While barbershop doesn’t have the kind of theoretical injunctions against cross-relations of classical harmony, they do make life harder for singers trying to tune chords, especially when the chromatically altered note appears in its diatonic form in other parts both before and afterwards. Cross relations that are essentially blue notes are easier to tune though.
  • How immediately audible it is when a voicing works well! This is I guess a combination of the theoretical rules being derived from experience of what works, and the singers finding it easier to connect with the music when it behaves in ways their experience leads them to expect.
  • Notwithstanding some anxieties expressed about finding songs, in a room full of 35 arrangers I didn’t hear anyone say ‘Oh, I’m working on that one too!’ once. There are a lot of songs in the universe.
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Arr day discussion summary.pdf17.49 KB

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