1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
For software I use Sibelius for notation and LogicPro for recording. For hardware I keep it pretty simple —just my MacBook Pro laptop, a mic, studio monitors, and a keyboard controller. I do most of my recording and arranging in my office and composing/songwriting on my Yamaha C3 in my living room.
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
If I’m arranging, I like to close my eyes and picture how a song might be staged as I’m listening. I almost never direct lift a chart—it usually needs the ’show choir treatment’ (boosting the intensity throughout), so I’ll improvise countermelodies in my head for each section and voice memo ideas that I like…I usually do this a week or so in advance of starting. If I’m writing an original song, my inspiration comes from current events, personal experiences, and reading interesting novels! I usually brainstorm with a pencil and a lyric notebook that I take with me everywhere, and my creative ‘hotspots’ are behind the wheel while driving or in the shower!
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
Tortilla chips and hummus and Cherry Buble.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
It’s OK to turn down a project if I personally don’t like the song. Life’s too short! Also—I wish I would have known how much more creatively fulfilling (and profitable in the long term) it is to write original music—I would have started doing that MUCH sooner!
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
I switched to Sibelius in 2018, so I feel like I haven’t gotten to know too many tricks yet. I use “re-input pitches” more than any other tool, especially when scoring for horns. The Vocalign plug-in for LogicPro has been the biggest time-saver for me as far as track production goes! Life changing!
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
My medley of “Feel the Love/Make Me Lose Control” is one of my all-time favorite arrangements. https://www.showchoirstock.com/catalog/arrangement/591
“Toward The Light” is one of my favorite original songs. https://www.showchoirstock.com/catalog/arrangement/656
7. How can people get ahold of you?
You can find my catalog of stock arrangements at ShowChoirStock.com as well as jwpepper.com, and I’m happy to accept new commissions anytime! Email is my preferred method of communication.