Arranging for Dummies (Part 3)

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Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you need to.

Last time, I introduced the hook that I am using to tie this arrangement together. You might ask how I describe this hook and I am not sure that I know how to answer that question. I would probably say that it is a gentle melodic hook that is designed to feel relaxed and sort of free. You may say something else and I am not going to tell you that you are wrong. Regardless, here it is.

Now, let’s take a look at how this is incorporated through the piece. I could basically paste the whole arrangement here because it is very tightly interwoven but I will just show a few more significant examples.

Here is an example where I am going back to the hook between phrases:

Let me give you a very basic rule of arranging that I remember one of my mentors (John Innes) telling me fifteen years ago. Don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that you can’t take your time with a melodic line. Just because the end of this particular phrase is only two beats in a hymn book does not mean I cannot make it five beats in this arrangement and that is what I did. The extra three beats hint back toward the theme.

Moving on, here are the next few lines and I am doing something here that I like to do a lot. Again, I am not saying this is for you or the only way. This is my jazz/improvisational background showing a bit and it is my own personal style. I am going to start mixing the hook up with the melody. Play through this and you will understand.

Now, let me give you one more example. This is almost the end of the piece and I am repeating the second half of the verse. Note that I play melody for a while and then start bringing the hook back in. Then, rather than playing the last chord of the verse, I use the hook to get out.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a good rule follower and this piece shows that. I would not say it is breaking rules; I would just say that I am taking “liberties” that others might find excessive (and that is OK). I am choosing to pretty drastically change the melody and rhythm (by adding bars, etc). In the end of the day, I am very purposefully choosing to create a situation where listeners don’t just hear a few verses of “Just As I Am” but rather a stylized piece that incorporates “Just As I Am.”

What I just said is a rabbit trail. The main point here is to look for ways to incorporate your hook throughout the piece even if you don’t go quite this far.

By the way, if you want to hear the result, here it is. (Click on this link if you don’t see a video below:



4 thoughts on “Arranging for Dummies (Part 3)

  1. Vicky Fowler says:

    Id like to say that I truly enjoy your music. You are such an inspiration. Ive printed lots of your sheet music and asm practicing….alot! I hasve played the piano for over 20 years and I will tell you that I never was able to add fill ins or runs but your music is certainly helping me so much. However, i am having trouble with runs while playing fast gospwel music…Keep in the Firing Lune, I’ll Fly Away….any suggestions yiu could/would give me would greatly be appreciated . Thank you so much for sharing your glorious music weith us. May God continue to Bless you!
    Thank you
    Vicky Fowler

    • Greg Howlett says:

      The very easiest way to do those runs is to use pentatonic for that key (1, 2, 3, 5, 6 degrees) and assemble runs using those notes. They almost write themselves and will give you that sound you are looking for. You can also use b3 sparingly to get a more authentic sound.

  2. Liberty B says:

    About your rabbit trail…. one of my music teachers told me that as long as you know the rules, you can break them sometimes. But that you (I) still should know the rules. : )

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