10 great arrangement questions

So, when your’e preparing for being involved in worship at Ivy, there’s a basic process – practice, rehearsal, run-through, deliver.  Often, rehearsal and run-through happen at the same time if you don’t have a mid week rehearsal.  But PRACTICE is what you do in preparation for the rehearsal. If you’re in rehearsal and asking about chords, riffs, lyrics, kick patterns… any of that stuff, it probably means you’ve not practiced.  And we’ve all done it. 

I have found that being able to articulate your part is a massively important to go beyond just playing the chords and fully engaging in playing as a band.  Being able to ask the right questions can be a genuine shortcut in your preparation.  This is in no way exhaustive, but hopefully a helpful starting place. There are three areas you can look at to help in our preparation and give each song character – GROOVE, MOTIF & DYNAMICS. 

The Groove.

The groove is like the frame of the song – everything hangs on it, whether its a straight ‘four to the floor’ track like ‘Every Giant’ or something thats swung like ‘Jesus, we love you’. Having a consistent kick pattern is vital and will help the bass lock in, inform the guitarist about strumming patterns and help keep coherence whether you’re in an intimate moment or going full tilt.  It’s also good to note that even if you just have something like a cajon, having a kick pattern as a frame will help drive the song where it needs to go.  

The Motif.

The motif is like the character of the song.  You will find very similar chord progressions in many songs, but the thing that makes the song recognisable will be the motif – so don’t ignore it!  More often than not, you’ll be able to find a youtube tuition video to help you learn it quickly rather than having to work it out from scratch.  Learning this stuff has helped me push out beyond my own musical boundaries.  You will often find secondary motifs that help colour a particular section of a song – so listen out for those too.  We don’t always have a melody instrument, but vocal motifs can be so effective and add loads of energy into a song! 

The Dynamics.

The dynamics of a song are a huge part of how you tell the story of the song.  Whether the song you’re singing is intimate, declarative, celebratory, intercessory, the musicality should be telling the story as much as the lyrics. There are so many helpful devices for developing your dynamics vocabulary – here’s a few.

Understanding how you build a song is really important.  You can us ‘the wall of sound’ – not necessarily a technical term but if you can imagine holding down a simple groove that everyone locks into, that’s your wall of sound.  Something else you can try is layering motifs.  Songs like ‘This is living’ have a couple of motifs.  Motif 1 & 2 are in the intro, motif 1 in the verse, 2 in the pre-chorus, then both layer together in the chorus.  You’ll find this a lot in classical music.  Folk music uses texturing a lot; shuffling brush work, open strumming, staccato banjos, fizzy accordions and raucous gang vocals – everything layers together giving you the feel of the whole room. Finally, range.  There may be times when you’re part of a quite small band. a really simple way to create dynamics is to be very deliberate about what you add in and when.  Moving down from the mid point of the guitar or keys into the bass, then moving upward, adding in melody, harmonies and counter melody.  Rather than feeling like you’re limited when you have a smaller band, using them well, being as deliberate about when you don’t play as much as when you do can make all the difference. 

There’s a load more we could look at here – but this post is probably long enough!  Have a go, be creative, make a beautiful space where people can encounter God and find their way back to Him. 

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