Composition & Arrangement

So – you’ve a rough outline of your song with maybe some guitar, piano or whatever your instrument of choice has been. Maybe you’ve just got the words on a piece of paper or computer screen. Now what?

If you’re not musically-minded, there are actually a lot of people who will put music to your words – called ‘an arrangement’. Unless you have written a poem or an acappella piece where music is not required, an Arranger will take your lyrics and add whatever type of music to it that you so desire.

Luckily for me, my music began with me teaching myself keyboards while dabbling with acoustic guitar from around the age of 14. This proved a great foundation for my songwriting today, as I can also compose the majority of music for what I write.

An arrangement for me is all about ‘mood’.What does the music conjure up? What emotions are you trying to express through your lyrics? Is it happy or sad, fast or slow? I would say to anyone to have a good idea of how you want your song to sound and stick to it as much as possible when adding the music.

Coming from a keyboard background I love atmospherics and string accompaniments – depending on the song of course. Recently I finished an instrumental piece entitled ‘Hollow Moon’ where piano and strings were the main instruments. While working on this project, I learnt the valuable lesson that the music has to work twice as hard to convey the ‘feeling’ I was trying to get across, due to there being no lyrics to explain what the song is about. At this point I’m not even sure what the song is about myself yet, but I’ve had some interesting ideas from friends & family who have had an early listen. Thumbs up so far I’m pleased to say.

Hollow Moon front cover.

It surprises many people today when they find out that I don’t read music. I tried several times to rectify this by going to piano lessons when I was younger, but I always heard the tutor play the piece first, then put my own slant on it when the time came for me to have a go. I ignored the funny little symbols on the lines in front of me and just tried to copy what I had heard her playing. Needless to say, the teacher’s patience didn’t last long.

Working in the studio today I have literally an entire orchestra at my disposal. One of the many beauties with using a computer to record is that you can change any aspect of a song without damaging it – or non-destructive editing as it’s known. These are things we just couldn’t do years ago without paying a fortune to a top-line studio for similar results. Look at any video on Youtube and you’ll see the level of stuff people are now producing in their own home studios – technology is moving at light speed it would seem.

The World is a Small Place indeed.

Speaking of technology and advancements, the internet has brought a lot of musicians closer together. Like many, my studio is connected to the internet when it needs to be. Only recently I was sent a song and asked to add a simple string arrangement to it. The song file was loaded into the studio, strings were added, and it was sent back to the studio it came from miles away – often in a different country! These sorts of things still fascinate me today as I remember driving miles with a tape cassette and spending hours getting an instrument added and receiving another tape to drive all the way back home again. Yes, I would say the internet has it’s advantages – not to mention social media to let people know and hear your music.


One of the new synths recently added into the studio. The Zebra 2.6

One of the new synths recently added into the studio. The Zebra 2.6

When I say that my studio TightRope is still growing, it’s the truth. Every month I’m making new contacts and adding new instruments and software to hopefully enhance anything I do in the future. All I’ll need to do then is read up on how best to utilize it – and so – the labour of love continues.