Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How Do You Choose an Arrangement to Suit YOUR Singers?

This is an area where I can feel quite inadequate.  I am NOT an arranger or even a writer of music.  I do know what sounds good and am usually a very good judge of what works for the choir I am working with.  If you are a talented writer, you can arrange music to your liking.  If not, maybe I can share a bit of my experience and maybe you will share some of yours back.

clipped images,cropped images,cropped pictures,entertainment,icons,leisure,media,music,music notes,music scores,musical notes,PNG,scores,sheet music,transparent background1. You have to like appreciate the song - When I taught young people, I disallowed the use of the word "like" in the classroom.  The only time they could use "like" was if they were intending to lay down cash to purchase same.  Like is so subjective.  I must admit that at times I start with a negative attitude but if I let my ears lead, I often end up really hearing something special in a piece. As you listen, hear the phrases, dynamics and possibilities.  Listen to it on YouTube. You will certainly find pieces you WON'T choose.  As a singer, your leader will appreciate your input.  So everyone, put your ears on and find something to appreciate.

2. You have to have enough singers.  I remember listening to a huge choir sing a song my smaller choir had struggled with.  I wondered how they sang it so well.  A very experienced musician said, "If you make enough noise and have enough people in each part, no one will ever hear you sing a wrong note.  It will be drowned out and become part of the whole.
If however, you have a smaller group, then every note is heard so be careful that you have enough voices to sing them.  We are a group of less than 20 and we are NOT going to sing in 8 parts.  We sing SATB or SAB occasionally splitting for a short time for a descant or obligato.

3. Get your singers(musical director) on board.  Sometimes it isn't so much the notes of the music but the overall effect that will sell it.  We have worked on some arrangements that are tricky in timing.  It takes some doing to get the parts just right.  But the choir and director are willing to do just that because they know that the result is going to be worth it.  Sell the result by listening to good recordings of that arrangement and everyone will be willing to make it happen.

4. If it doesn't work, let it die!  The piece is well known; it has the right part structure; everyone can reach all the notes without struggle.  Yes, all the elements are in place.  BUT it just isn't coming together.  STOP.  Put it away.  Maybe forever or maybe just for a while.  We have gone back to a piece that seemed impossible and there it is surprising us all.  Some we just let die.

5. So how do I find the music?  Borrow something from another choir that you enjoyed listening to.  Try a couple suggested by others. In this day of social media, you can ask choirs of your type all over the world for help.  Keep trying something a little different.  Most will work, some won't.  So learn and move on. Just keep singing.

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