Friday, October 9, 2015

Song Arrangement

Song arrangement, in its purest form is making things exciting, engaging, and emotional. Music in
itself demands, at times, an emotional response. While there are several tools we can utilize to add this much needed element to our art, arrangement is the most effective ingredient of a song to keep it

Our mix can only go so far with our mixing skills and mixing ninja tricks. Though plug ins, mic
placement, effects ITB and outboard, etc. can provide a great foundation for emotional real estate,
arrangement is the icing on the cake. A great song can be hindered or helped by this one element.

There are at least 8 identifiable arrangement strategies that are used in music. I will explain briefly what each strategy consists of and try to give some examples of how they're
used. They are as follows:

• Minimal
• Reproducible
• Maximal
• Steady-state
• Cumulative/Subtractive
• Stepped
• Dynamic Contrast
• Unplugged/Plugged


A minimal arrangement is one in which there are very few instruments and/or they are played in a
minimal style without to much complexity. This arrangement strategy makes good use of silence and
uses the vocals to feed emotion.


This arrangement strategy is one that is recorded with a live sound in a studio or is actually recorded
live. It is one that can be reproduced in a live setting without losing its studio versions fingerprint.


This is the proverbial “Wall of Sound”. Anything goes in creating this wall as well. All instruments in, 40 vocal parts, you get the point.


This is where the song is pretty toned down. It may have a loop that plays through the whole song, a
sound effect or something, but it generally stays in the box. This style focuses on the lyrics more.


This arrangement style allows the song to grow and expand as it progresses, and at times may take
away elements to create interest and emotion. It usually ends in a climactic moment.


A stepped arrangement is one is which the song uses two or three identifiable sections that are
contrasted by their dynamic level and instrumentation. The song alternates between these, stepping up to one and down to another at times. It also has varying keys and tempos at times.

Dynamic Contrast

The intention of this arrangement strategy is to create ear shock, usually by a sudden loud snare hit or
instrument. This can be achieved as well by volume changes and intensity.


Some times a song that is done acoustically will be redone in an electrical fashion and vice versa. There used to be a trend for awhile that almost every artist had to do an unplugged version of some of their songs. It can fill another slot on that album and let new listeners hear something old, as well as old listeners hear something different. This can be really cool if you're predominantly a rocker, and then you put an acoustic song on your album. Keep them guessing and they'll stay interested.

Check out the video below for an example of nearly all of these elements in one song.