Alan Alder is an assistant professor of teaching in the School of Music at Ball State University, where he servers as Producer/Director of the world-renowned Ball State University Singers, Indiana’s Official Goodwill Ambassadors, and teaches Music History. Under Dr. Alder’s direction, the University Singers won the gold medal at the 2012 World Choir Games. The group also won the top prize at the Xinghai International Choral Championships in Guangzhou China, making them the most awarded collegiate entertainment group in competition history. Alder published The Show Choir Handbook in 2016, and Essentials in Music Appreciation in 2017.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
I have two… my home office and my office at work… I am a Mac user, and I use Finale for my arranging work. In both spaces I connect my MacBook Air to a 36 inch monitor so everything is large enough for me to see things easily. In my home office I use a Motif 8 for when I need a piano, or for playing parts in, etc. In my work office I have the same set up, but I utilize a small midi controller instead of a large keyboard.
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
In terms of inspiration, I’m ALWAYS listening to as much music as possible – new stuff, old stuff, and everything in between. Some projects call for making an arrangement as close to the original as possible, while others may need to have a new spin, so I’m always thinking about ways in which I can endeavor to bring something new. I find that I’m drawn to more dramatic songs, or those that have a particular message. However, I’m not one to go entirely in for the darker pieces… one of those can go a long way in the scheme of an entire show. This may be strange, but when I’m contemplating an arrangement, I can almost always see the end of it in my head before I can see the beginning – I guess it is sort of “reverse engineering” it from the inside out, etc… If I know where I want to end up, I can usually figure out how to get there rather quickly.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
My go to beverage is either coffee or Lipton Diet Citrus tea – one of those two things is almost always on my desk or in my hand – even in a rehearsal or meeting! I’m not really a “snacker.”
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
Hmmm… that’s a hard one, because it’s really the process of arranging that has taught me almost all that I know. I’ve learned more about voices and instruments by DOING it, than anything else. The one thing I could say is that I wish I would have had more knowledge concerning tech and how much easier and efficient it can make things in the process.
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
Assigning articulations to multiple lines all at once – I used to do them one at a time, line by line. I’m still learning shortcuts, and being so close to becoming a senior citizen I am sometimes challenged by such things that seem as if they are magic!
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
I think my favorite arrangement of mine would be “Peace of Mind;” I did it for my high school group when I taught at that level, and I’ve used it with my college group, and they love it. I’ve also had several other choirs around the country purchase it from me for use in their competitions shows, etc.
7. How can people get ahold of you?
I’m at Ball State University – my email address is: email@example.com, office phone: (765)285-3599; cell: (765)278-2822