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Author Topic: Build a cool a arranging style  (Read 343 times)
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davdud101
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« on: Dec 05, 2017, 10:11AM »

Experienced arrangers...
What do you guys do to build a cool arranging style? I love arrangements of folks like Michael P Mossman, Nestico (obviously) and some of the folks around here (like Rob in his recent post) show what kinds of cool things can be done in arrangements.
But what are some steps that can be taken to arranging in cooler more unique styles? I noticed particularly with Michael P Mossman that he's got a number of things he typically uses in his arrangements... particularly certain chordal and melodic, unison sections, shout choruses and stuff.

I know the 'sound' of it and ideally  I could transcribe stuff that my favorite arrangers have done, but what do I do to carve out MY style and find things that I like to write? It's been a bit tough because I tend to write things that feel a bit cheesy, or aren't very complete, etc.

Tips? Tricks? Ideas? Thoughts? Lay in, fellas!  Good!
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 05, 2017, 11:16AM »

Listen to good writers. All of them. I noticed you didn't mention Gil Evans and Duke Ellington, two of the "coolest" composer/arrangers in the art. It is my opinion that a lack of familiarity with either of these writers is detrimental to the development of a personal voice in this music.

You want to carve out your own style? You need to listen to the ones who created this style. All of them.

You need to transcribe and/or analyze the scores of the masters. Grab some good Jazz History books (Like Goia - stay away from $100 textbooks with nothing useful, and frankly anything that questions the importance of Armstrong or Ellington is **** and should be tossed in the can) and track down the essential recordings of important figures. Large and small group - do not see large ensemble writing as different from small group writing, it's not.

Finally, you need to write. Write what's in your head. Attempt to write like the masters. I went through phases of everything I wrote sounding like Ellington, everything sounding like Gil, everything sounding like Wayne Shorter... imitation is how you learn the language.

Language. You're learning a language. There are no shortcuts. Speak enough and your voice stops sounding like your parents and starts sounding like your own.
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Graham Martin
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 05, 2017, 02:52PM »

I do not consider myself an experienced arranger because, although I have studied judiciously, my arranging time was always too short compared with the time and effort I had to put into playing. I do not think you will get a more complete reply than Zac has just given you. There are no "tricks" or shortcuts. You just have to do it. Then do it some more!  Clever

Nelson Riddle puts it best for me when he says, "Your flexibility and dexterity with chords will determine how speedily and effectively you can arrange a given composition".

Even at my low level of arranging, one thing I found essential was to develop your composing side and have the whole arrangement in your mind before you start to put it on paper. That should not be too difficult for a jazz player. It is essential for developing that style of your own in phrasing the melody, counter-melodies, fills, etc., and harmonizing everything for the given instrumentation.

Remember that the introduction is very important in setting up the feel of an arrangement, whether this be original or based on a phrase of the melody.

But don't try too hard to get your own style or arranging. Always remember that the composer's original melody and the lyrics (where they exist) are important. Again, Nelson Riddle puts this the best for me when he says: "As an arranger, your task is to set forth another person's composition in the most attractive and effective manner possible within the combination of the instruments available". Good!
 
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 05, 2017, 04:34PM »

Nelson Riddle puts it best for me when he says, "Your flexibility and dexterity with chords will determine how speedily and effectively you can arrange a given composition".
 

I love Riddle's work. When I was younger I thought it cheesy and too pop-ish for my tastes. After a few years of rat pack stuff paying my bills I grew to appreciate his writing and dove deep into a few of his things. Riddle was a true master of the art.

This quote is great. Gil talks about voice leading a lot - which is kind of what I think of when I think of "flexibility and dexterity with chords" - in jazz, voice leading, counterpoint and the melody are interwoven in myriad ways and this starts with understanding how harmony (whether original or newly re-harmonized) doesn't just accompany a melody, it often serves as a secondary or tertiary melodic device.
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 05, 2017, 06:02PM »

Throw together two elements in an arrangement that seem like they don't belong together and make it work. There's a lot of iconic music that does just that and expands upon it - for example, Dvorak's masterpiece New World Symphony which combines classic symphonic forms with American spiritual music and a noisy American city-scape.
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« Reply #5 on: Dec 08, 2017, 04:40AM »

Hey Davdud,

I think we're both a bit on the same page from our discussions.

I wonder if even Nestico thinks, "how can I make my arrangements sound different?" :)

Same as we can pick a jazz player, arrangers are no different. We have our style, but unfortunately some are better than ours. Not to say lets not improve and try and branch out. I think slowly branch out. Do what you do, but try and just change small things.
Also, rather than do multiple arrangements (who has the time), maybe just do a chorus or two to experiment. I know you have the resources to record your gear.

I'm not sure if I've posted this tune of mine before, but I had a bit of a study on Jim McNeely to get the crazy section in the middle.  Can hear it here :
http://pigletmusic.com/product/da-big-bad-bop/

I've just done a couple of arrangements for a great profile CD. In the swing tune I actually was flicking back and forth between a Count Basie recording just to have his texture influencing what I was writing in one section. I'm not sure how to add the link. You can hear the iTunes sample if you look up "Sally Cameron". I arranged "Snowfall" and "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" if you (or anyone else) don't mind looking it up. Very proud to have been included with Australia's top arrangers on that one, with the top singer Sally Cameron.

But sorry, I've made it about me! :) Love your energy. Post another one of your arrangements!

Rob

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Doug Elliott
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« Reply #6 on: Dec 08, 2017, 06:28AM »

That's some really great stuff, Rob.  Nice Christmas album.
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« Reply #7 on: Dec 08, 2017, 03:50PM »

That's some really great stuff, Rob.  Nice Christmas album.

Really appreciate that thanks Doug. Were most of the Air Men of Note's arrangements in house?

On the back of this topic, I was listening to a bit of the Christmas CD this am. There's a couple by a guy called Joe Twist. "Let It Snow" in particular. Bloody hell it's good! I was hit with some serious arranging envy.

Rob

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