Garrett Breeze

Easy Edits To Make In Show Choir Arrangements

No matter how great your arrangements are, there will inevitably come a time during the school year where things start to plateau, or even worse, start to get stale.  Knowing how to make useful changes and edits to the music is the key to getting through this and kicking your rehearsals back into gear.  Here are eight of the most common things I tinker with when I work with groups (or even when I’m editing my own charts).

 

Add Dynamic Contrast

Make sure that each song in your show has at least one or two OBVIOUS dynamic changes.  Frankly, I’m shocked how many groups I judge in competition that simply do not change volume at all.  If that’s a struggle for your group, start by adding just one moment per song, really nail it, and then add more from there until you reach the point you feel like you’re actually making music.

 

The key here is to make them OBVIOUS changes.  Sometimes things don’t translate as well as we think when we get on stage.  And make sure the dynamic makes sense with the visual.  If the choreo has you dancing full out with huge movements, but you’re singing piano it’s not going to seem authentic.

 

Get Rid of Overlap in Transitions

I’m talking about the transition between a dance break into singing or out of singing into dance break.  I see it all the time.  Usually when one group or the other has pickup notes.  Figure it out.  Lose some notes in the horns, add an extra measure.  I don’t care.  But make space to finish one thing before you go on to the next.

 

Add Band Hits to Important Visual Moments

The arranger almost always writes the chart before they see the choreography, so one of the first things I do when I work with a group is take a step back and see if there are any important dance moves that would benefit from an extra accent from the band.  It’s kind of like how foley artists add sound effects to movies.  Punches don’t sound that loud in real life, but they seem to hit so much harder on screen because of the added sounds.  **Just please make it stylistically and musically appropriate for the song.  If you hit the same China cymbal every time there’s a dance move it gets old real fast**

 

Fill Dead Space Between Vocal Lines

The band needs to take responsibility for any moment where there’s not singing—dance break or not.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, maybe it’s a hit from the brass, or a drum fill, or a guitar moment, but make sure you’re filling every gap so that the audience always has something to draw their ears in.

 

Voice Things Up into Dance Breaks

I’m not talking about the voicing so much as I am the direction of the line.  If the melody goes low at the end of a phrase but you’re trying to build into a dance break that’s always going to be a struggle.  A quick alteration to make that line move up instead of down will make all the difference in the world.

 

Make Pickup Notes Longer

I’m a big believer that if you start the phrase strong, you’re going to end it strong.  Quick pickup notes can easily feel frantic or difficult to start together and sometimes changing a 16th note to an 8th note or an 8th note to a quarter note will magically fix everything.  Even if your group is executing well it might just move by too fast for the acoustics of the room, so giving yourself a little more time to resonate can make a big difference.

 

Add Extra Beats to Create Moments

This is one of my favorites.  If you’re holding an awesome chord for example, why not make it a 5/4 bar instead of a 4/4 bar so you can hold it a little longer?  Or maybe sticking a 2/4 bar in a dance break helps them to set up their next move.  Little things like that go a long way in making moments pop.

 

Add Band Hits to Important Visual Moments

The arranger almost always writes the chart before they see the choreography, so it’s always a good idea to take a step back and see if there are any important dance moves that would benefit from an extra accent from the band.  It’s kind of like how foley artists add sound effects to movies.  Punches don’t sound that loud in real life, but they seem to hit so much harder on screen because of the added sounds. 

**Just please make it stylistically and musically appropriate for the song.  If you hit the same China cymbal every time there’s a dance move it gets old real fast**

 

Make a cut!

And last but not least…don’t be afraid to trim the fat!  If a section repeats and you can’t tell me why you’re doing it a second time you probably don’t need it.  Even small cuts of two or four bars can help things flow tremendously.

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Garrett Breeze

COMPOSER, ARRANGER

Garrett Breeze is a composer, arranger, and orchestrator whose credits include film, television, video games, Broadway stars, major classical artists, and many of the top school music programs in the U.S.

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