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What is Music Arrangement?

Arrangement, in music, traditionally, any adaptation of a composition to fit a medium other than that for which it was originally written, while at the same time retaining the general character of the original. The word was frequently used interchangeably with transcription, although the latter carried the connotation of elaboration of the original, as in the virtuosic piano transcriptions of J.S. Bach’s organ works by Franz Liszt, the Italian composer-pianist Ferruccio Busoni, and others. In later times the definitions were almost reversed, with arrangement connoting musical liberty in elaboration or simplification. In popular music and jazz, the word is often used synonymously with “score.”

When performers approach a piece of music, they must decide how they’re going to interpret it. The notes may be there on the page, but a lot artistically has to happen for those notes to come into life.  A music arranger is often an integral part of this artistic process.

A music arranger can work with a single musician or a full orchestra plus choir and conductor. Obviously, the more parts involved in performing a composition, the more complex the job of the music arranger. However, in every case, the music arranger is there to specify the exact requirements of how and when each note of the piece will be played by each performer.

The music arranger answers such questions as what instruments will be used, what tempos to be used and when they change, how the melody gets harmonized, where the embellishments and flourishes should be made and where they shouldn’t. These are just some of the musical and artistic choices the music arranger makes.