I had written awhile back, and raised the question - "can an original composition be an arrangement.” I don't think I was clear. I found this article that may help someone understand my question: https://hyperbitsmusic.com/the-art-of-arranging-a-song/ In this article the writer gives us the art of arrangement. I think what I was asking is: can you arrange your composition ? I often see or hear people say that these songs are "arrangements." First read the article before you comment it's not very long. Also I was referring to style as well, like using your keyboard to arrange your song or someone else’s song in a different style or genre.

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    Do you have a specific question, or are you trying to reconcile the article's very broad sense of "arrangement" with the much narrower, standard musical definition of the word? Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 15:52

5 Answers 5


I'm afraid the article you linked is a source of confusion. It uses the word "arrangement," almost perversely, in ways other than its primary meaning in a musical context. Yes, the word "arrange" can mean "to bring together and order the parts of something in an attractive way," and that's exactly what's meant when talking about "flower arrangement." The author kicks off by using flower arrangement as a metaphor, and then uses the word "arrangement" to talk about practices that would normally fall under other musical words. Thinking about the structure of a song and "arranging" its structure is part of composition. Distributing the sounds in register and space by EQing and panning is part of production (or mastering, etc).

Yes, in that sense these actions can be spoken of as "arranging" things, but you run the risk of confusion if you use that word (as the author has confused you). If you talk about "arranging a song," without additional clarification about your use of the word, most hearers will understand that to mean "taking a pre-existing song and adapting it for different instruments or voices."

If your question means, "Can I follow the recommendations in that article," sure. Yes, it's important to think aesthetically about your structure and how the component parts come together. Yes, it's important to distribute and "arrange" the sounds when EQing and panning. But to avoid confusion, I would use more specific words than "arrangement."

If your question means what most would take it to mean, "Can I take my own original song and adapt it for other instruments and voices": One thing that I don't see addressed (much anyway) in the answers to your previous question is: Sure, with one assumption. To talk about "arranging a song," using the standard musical meaning of the word, means that it's first been composed. Yes, you can arrange your own song for other instruments if you've already written it. You don't have to have published it, or recorded it, or I suppose even written it down, but it has to have "existed" if only in your mind, for one instrumentation, for you to be able to "arrange" it for another.

But if you've been inspired by the article to think about the "arrangement" of musical elements in your original composition, I'd start using different words. Maybe "I want to structure my song attractively" or "I want to distribute the tracks thoughtfully in 3D space."


If you're using the terms 'compose' and 'arrange' in their usual senses, the answer is inherent in their meanings. You can certainly make an arrangement of something you've composed. But composition comes first. Without it, there's nothing TO arrange!

The article you linked to has its own private definition of 'arrange'. "What is arrangement? On one hand, it’s obvious. Arrangement is the flow of a song from start to finish. It has sections: like an intro, verse, buildup, chorus, breakdown, drop, and outro." Well, no, that ISN'T what 'arrange' normally means. There may be useful advice in the article, but its terminology is misleading. Don't be misled by it!


Different people use slightly different definitions of composition and arrangement, but what it boils down to is this:

  • a composition is the result of composing, i.e. imagining and creating a piece of music
  • an arrangement is the result of taking an existing composition and transforming it.

But the lines and definitions aren't always so clear while in the process of delivering a song from start to finish.

So to answer this question: If you create a composition and later on decide to rearrange it e.g. for other instruments then yes, that is an "arrangement". If you recompose it more drastically, i.e. changing and/or adding harmonies and melodies and maybe entire parts and sections then a "recomposition" might be a better word. Again, no clear boundaries.

I deliberately use the vague "later on", because it might be either during the process of creating the song or years after having released the song. E.g. when still in the process of creating the song, you might have different versions of the same song. You'd might call those "arrangements". Or you invite an other musician to help you out and the result of that could be a new "arrangement" of the song.

If it's after the release, it's more clear. E.g. an arrangement of a hit song for symphonic orchestra. Still the same song. In large part still the same structure, but recreated with an orchestral ensemble.

And to answer your previous question: So basically, when you read "strings arranged by" in an original composition it means that when creating the song or piece the original composer did compose the harmony and/or melody even for the strings part, but got someone else to work it out in full specifically for strings.

  • String (and brass) arrangements for pop/rocks songs are almost always entirely the work of the arranger. An artist might have a general idea of what kind of arrangement they want, but only rarely will they suggest particular melodic lines (other than the ones that are already in the song). The harmonic structure of the arrangement is dictated by the harmonies of the rhythm track.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 16:07

The word "arrangement" has more than one definition in a general, non-musical context. The linked article uses "arrangement" in several different ways that go beyond the standard musical definition: structural, instrumental, and spatial.

So, your actual question is...

Can an original composition be an arrangement?

By the article's description: yes.

But, now with the article as the frame of reference, that is so broad a statement it means very little.

An original composition could be an arrangement of structural sections, involving by necessity the choice of instrumentation, and potentially, if the music is recorded, an arrangement of at least the levels of each instrument (if it's mono, you can't pan.)

Any composition will match those criteria by necessity. All music has structure even if it's a single structural unit. John Cage's 4'33" is an "arrangement" by that description, it meets the first two of the three categories: structure and instrumentation.


I'll repeat part of the answer I gave in "can an original composition be an arrangement" since this seems like a narrower version of that question.

You can change aspects of one of your previous original compositions and create a new original composition that's also an arrangement, so I'd say you can arrange your composition. One example is Franz Liszt's Transcendental Etudes, which are slightly easier arrangements of an earlier set of extremely difficult etudes Liszt composed...which are themselves expanded reworkings of an even earlier set of etudes Liszt also composed. (Liszt has a habit of rearranging his earlier works.)

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