Sometimes I'll see on discogs.com a song will say string arrangements by so and so... and it's an original song by them.

  • Can original compositions be arrangements?
  • What makes an arrangement?
  • Can it be like making the song you composed in a certain style of music or genre than your first draft?

Cambridge dictionary defines arrangement as:

a piece of music that has had changes made to it [so] that it can be played in a different way, especially by different instruments

If the piece of music can be played in a different way, isn't that also considered an original piece?

  • @PiedPiper No it doesn't. – Leo35 May 23 at 20:31
  • arrangement : "3. a composition adapted for performance with different instruments or voices than those originally specified. 'Mozart's symphonies in arrangements for cello and piano'" – Google – Mazura May 24 at 2:50

A "composition" is traditionally thought of as being the most essential musical idea of the song, mostly its melody. Arranging is the act of deliberately modifying or adjusting or adopting a composition. You tweak or refine some aspects of a composition. When you go and realize a song with several instruments, for example a string section, it involves many decisions about what notes and how exactly to play ... and these decisions may or may not be trivial. AFAIK it's up to the composer to decide whether or not the arranging work was substantial enough to warrant crediting the arranger for the work. For example harmony progressions can add significant dimensions to a melody. If your melody is just a few notes of a pentatonic scale, it can be harmonically quite colorless and odorless and bland, and to make it feel like anything you have to make up some harmonic movement. Is that an arrangement? If the composer or "composer" refuses to acknowledge it as an arrangement, tough luck.

Arranging credits have to do with how royalty money is split between people, so they might be used just as a way to get a certain split. Then again, what's printed on the record cover might not necessarily be the same as what's actually written in official information records. "You can call yourself an arranger on the record cover, but I won't give you a penny."

If you see "string arrangement by ..." or "horn arrangement by ..." on a record, it might mean that the band couldn't do those arrangements by themselves and they hired a string or horn specialist to do it.

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I suppose it depends on how far you stretch the definition of 'arrangement'.

If I were to write a brand new song & sing it to you without any accompaniment, that could qualify as having been 'arranged for solo voice'.

Let's take the simple yet rather beautiful Yesterday, technically by The Beatles, but really written & performed by Paul McCartney… with string arrangement by George Martin

The 'song' as such is by Paul, arranged for solo voice & acoustic guitar.
When he first took it to the studio, that's all it was. By the time they left, however, it included 2 unison voices in some parts, & a simple yet very effective string quartet arrangement.

If someone were [gods forbid] to make a heavy metal version of that song, it would be still the same song, but arranged for heavily distorted guitars, bass, drums & probably a shrieking vocal ;)

It is widely known that George Martin - often called the fifth Beatle - was responsible for taking some of the simpler ideas & arranging far grander surroundings for them.
He never received official credit for any of this, though he is, of course, credited as Producer.

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  • Definitions of words don't change depending on how far you stretch them, +1 – Mazura May 24 at 2:53

An original piece could be anything. Words, music and chord chart up to a full blown symphony.

What happens after will be the arrangement. It could have extra instrumental parts added, could be re-arranged with parts in different orders, changes of key, extra bridges, etc.

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You can change aspects of one of your previous original compositions and create a new original composition that's also an arrangement. 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.)

Video game themes arrangement-wise can do anything from quote each other to be extensions of each other to be pitch-shifted versions of each other (and probably more). I can come up with tens of examples of same-series video game theme rearrangements (one example is the sheer number of times the Kirby series has remixed King Dedede's theme).

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I think the word original composition and composer would be too triumph to describe the pathetic effort of any pop song producer today. Song writer seems more adequate to me. The setting of a song for an orchestra or a band can be called an arrangement, not more than this.

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No. Arrangement is arrangement, original composition is original composition.

You can use same methods and techniques, but in arrangement you have a pre existing material per se. But you can queue and quote other pieces in an original composition by the way.

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