Deke's 10 Steps in Arranging A Cappella

Origin From : The VoiceBox
Author : Derrick KAM
Date : 2015/08/28

Based off the book “A Cappella Arranging” which he co-wrote with Dylan Bell (Freeplay Duo), Deke shared 10 steps to an arranging at this year’s Vocal Asia Festival 2015 in Shanghai to a great enthusiastic batch of participants.

This is just a summarized post with the notes taken briefly shared during the 90 minutes.

One should recognise that the process of writing an arrangement is a decision-making process, what goes into the mix, when does it go and why are decisions that many arrangers ask themselves.

Deke shared that the 10 steps are to help you not get stuck, rather than be a do-it-this-way guide as an arrangement is a roadmap – different people will interpret it differently.

1. Choose the song
Consider the solo, mood, and the song. To keep in mind also to consider the group you are arranging for, unless it is meant to be a commercially-available arrangement, these things determine a lot of factors while writing the arrangement.

2. Listen
Deke challenged the participant to think about the value of listening. What do we listen for? The parts? Harmonies? What is perceived in your head might not be what is doable; and so it is important to keep your ears (and minds) open by listening to a variety of covers, A cappella or not – the motif/idea might just appear in a trombone cover of Rolling in The Deep.

3. Look & Listen to other Arrangements
A Cappella is BIG, stop restricting yourself.

4. Settle the Form
Listen and Identify the form and segments – it makes work easy. A power arrangement isn’t necessary one that must exhaust its singers.

5. Prepare your Materials
Fail to Prepare = preparing to fail.

6. Write the Melody
Most important line, duh.

7. Write the Bass
The Bass line serves various functions, mostly as the tonic/root of the chord and as a rhythmic element in your arrangement.

8. Then, write the Backgrounds
The instruments and people are important – start fleshing it out, but remember that music isn’t beautiful because it is complex. Deke’s tip: start simple.

9.Final Touches
Expressions are like the salt and pepper to a fresh arrangement, so instead of just writing and then looking horizontally, always look vertically at your score – is each chord and moment working?One of the things you should strive is to make the singers want to sing the music, instead of just singing notes
10. Learn
The group has to learn the music – watch how they learn it. How do they take to it – is it too difficult? Why then?It is important for the arranger to know how the group is digesting the arrangement to facilitate editing, if needed.



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