What is the implied meaning of "Original Arrangement" in the context of, say, a YouTube video – would the reader think that this is

  • (1) the arrangement of the piece of music when it was first released/performed by the original performer/composer, or

  • (2) a new arrangement of the piece, which has been arranged by the person who posted the video?

If the implication is (1), then what is the appropriate name for (2)?

Edited To Add

A term which is commonly used in popular but not classical music is "cover" or "cover version", which ties in with definition (2) above.

  • This seems to be a a contradiction in itself. Either it is the original (including instrumentation as writtten by composer) or an arrangement. Combining the words could therefore mean anything. Note, that there is one additional scenario: the composer modifies a piece of his/her own e.g. for a different solo instrument.
    – guidot
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 11:34
  • 2
    The composer’s choice of song form and instrumentation is also an arrangement.
    – b3ko
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 12:47
  • @b3ko you wouldn't normally call a composer's original an arrangement, you would rather call it a composition, and then if you arrange it in another way you would usually apply the term "arrangement". At least that is a common way of using the term "arrangement". Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 22:08
  • @LarsPeterSchultz In certain contexts (e.g. big-band jazz) it's not unusual to use the term 'arrangement' for a piece as originally composed. Or the composer might be purely a songwriter who produces a lead sheet and has someone else 'arrange' the piece.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 20:19
  • @PiedPiper Well, since the term "arrangement" refers to something you arrange you could strictly speaking call anything you arrange for an arrangement. So I suppose you could call a composition an arrangement. If that has become a tradition within certain contexts who am I to argue about that. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 20:25

3 Answers 3


I would wager the actual distribution between meanings 1 & 2 is probably 50/50.

People failing to differentiate between
It's as the author intended, therefore 'original' &
It's brand new & made by me & no-one else… & therefore 'original'.

A better term would simply be "new", but that doesn't have the 'advertising-speak' of original.


This is an interesting question but may not be worth the time to track down. I did a google search on the term after reading this question and found contradictory uses of the term. On the one hand several academic sites refer to case (1) as the "original work" not an arrangement. And they also refer to an arrangement as a variant of the original work by application of new or alternate harmonization, changes in tempo, style, rhythm, etc. So it would seem that we are discussing "original work" (which by the way has an arrangement) rather than some sort of arrangement of the work after the fact. On the other hand I find several examples of statements like "after much efforts we finally tracked down the original arrangement of Misty..." or some other tune. I think in this case they are referring to the arrangement developed by the composer or the first recording of the song. Sometimes composers do not do their own arranging. They may work out a tune on the piano and hand it off to a partner to arrange for orchestra or band.

Based on my search I can add a third option to the mix, just to make it clearer? Some may refer to an original arrangement of a piece by a particular artist or genre. As an example (potentially a funny one to some) consider the orchestral arrangements of Metallica's work. This is not the "original work" and it is a "first occurrence of such an arrangement", e.g. original. Decades after the fact several variants of this arrangement may have been written and produced based on the creative decisions of different conductors etc. Now "original arrangement" does not refer to Metallica's recorded albums. I might refer to this as the "original arrangement for orchestra" as someone may produce an arrangement for big band, or a Latin percussion group.

And there may be a fourth case. That of the original composer creating a NEW arrangement of their own tunes. Miles did it. Many people do it. So then what is this? Still a new, original arrangement of an original piece by the composer (not the original composer as that would be redundant, unless it's Stairway to Heaven (possibly)).

When someone makes their own arrangement of a piece I think it makes sense to call that an "original arrangement". So if I saw that in a description I would think that I am about to hear a version of something created by the people who posted the video. You cannot stop people form using terms out of common context and quite frankly "original" can apply to both cases.

In my opinion original work should be used for composer's first arrangement and original arrangement to refer to new arrangements of the piece by other artists. It may be useful to use other adjectives such as first arrangement, composer's arrangement, etc.

  • What would we call an arrangement of a multi-composer composition done by only one of its composers? I run into this fairly often in video game music.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 16:32
  • "Sometimes composers do not do their own arranging": this is usually the case in musical theater. Regardless, it would be fairly unexceptional to use the term "original arrangement" for the arrangement from the first production of a show (revivals often use new orchestrations). But I would find it slightly odd to differentiate Mozart's orchestration of Messiah from Handel's by calling Handel's the original arrangement. "Original orchestration" might be better.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 19:19
  • @phoog I would simply call Messiah Handel's work or Handels's composition and not use the term "original" neither the term "arrangement" nor the term "orchestration". It is self evident that Handel's own work is original so the term "original" is not needed and I don't need those other words either. The way he created Messiah is his work so why add any other word to it? Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 19:28
  • Any composer can rearrange their own music. The term original arrangement is not without merit
    – user50691
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 19:31
  • @LarsPeterSchultz to differentiate it from Mozart's version. For example: "I like that recording of Messiah, but where are the trombones?" "There aren't any; that's the original orchestration."
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 21:06

Wow lots of complex answers!

My take from personal experience is the answer is (1)

The appropriate name for (2) is simply “arrangement”



original arrangement by Duke Ellington

arrangement by: John Doe

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