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What is the first step in arranging a jazz or pop song into piano? I find composing classical is a little easier, but I would like to try jazz and pop. I'm a little bit confused because I don't know where to start. One of the songs I would like to try is Hello by Adele.

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    Just to acknowledge: Many people will have their own work processes; some might start be more analytical and some more "feely"; some arrangements might stick closer to the original and others interpret it more freely. In my opinion that doesn't make this question worthy of closing as "opinion-based"; it could be answered focusing on what's common to all arranging. Jul 5 at 16:20

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There is a simple, direct answer to the question as stated initially: "What is the first step in arranging a jazz or pop song into piano?"

Listen.

For me, that means listening to get to know the whole song (all instruments and vocal lines) and to identify what's essential. Since a piano arrangement is constrained by the technical limits of two hands, one must usually omit some of the original instrumentation.

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You've picked an interesting example - Hello by Adele.

It's a good example of a common type of current pop song. A very simple basic musical structure. Just four chords, repeated over and over, with some slight variations. Apart from a pervasive four-note descending scale there's no real melody, the vocal style might be best described as 'emotional riffing over the chords'.

The song starts with bare piano chords (which I guess you'd have no problem transcribing?) Tension builds, drums and pads are added, but there's no additional musical content, nothing you could really add to a piano part, except 'play louder!' You COULD transcribe Adele's vocal filigree note-for-note, I'm not sure it would be particularly useful.

There are several piano/vocal versions of 'Hello' available online.

This one attempts to include the vocal line in the piano part.

www.sheetmusicdirect.com

This one offers, in my opinion, a more useful piano part.

https://www.musicnotes.com

But, anyway, there's two approaches to making a piano part for the song. Personally, I don't think this song requires or deserves any more than something like this, preceded by a couple of written-out bars to show the rhythm.

And be careful. That basic piano pattern that you hear in he first part of the song underpins the whole song. If you lose it in an attempt to add more intensity, the song collapses.

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  • I just listened to "Hello" for [probably] the first time-- maybe I heard it someplace public when it was new. I disagree that there's "no additional musical content, nothing you could really add to a piano part". My first inclination would be to change the rhythm where the drums come in on the recording (~2:38). Maybe pick up the bass drum with the root notes and the tom with the chords on the left hand?
    – Theodore
    Jul 5 at 21:20
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    Yes. In any case, it's hard to find a piano equivalent or near-equivalent of emotional not-so-melodic voice riffing. Quite a few other great pop/rock songs also don't really admit sensible translation to piano... as I've discovered. :) In particular, possibly until you try transcribing something for piano, you'll not realize how strongly attached your concept of the song was to the actual instrumentation/voicing ... (until you realize that you can't do it on piano). Jul 6 at 2:14

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