Brian McCallister is a freelance musician living in Chicago, IL and has extensive experience as an arranger, recording artist, choral clinician, show band director, vocal jazz director, and audio engineer. His voice can be heard on choral demos for Hal Leonard and Shawnee Press. As an arranger, Brian’s gospel writing has been featured in the Illinois Music Educators Association Conference, his show choir arrangements have been sung by over 40 choirs. He has a degree in Jazz Studies from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
I work in a small recording studio in my home. I track vocals through a Rupert Neve Shelford Channel using a Mojave tube microphone. I really love the warm, natural saturation in that preamp. It also has a super clear high end and a full-textured compressor. My audio interface is a UAD Apollo x8p. I run guitars direct through that interface and mic a full drum set using the 8 mic pres. I usually start with an outline in Logic where I will record and play some ideas and harmony over a cut track of the original song(s). I then transfer those ideas into Sibelius to transcribe and arrange the rest of the tune.
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
When writing a full show, I like to picture how it will open and close in my head. I make splice-tracks of the show to get a road map of the entire flow and I then listen to the tunes a few times to make sure I understand the lyrics. Once there, I can start layering ideas into a Logic session and eventually put it all on paper. I find the Logic session helps me to not over-write and the ideas are more attainable because I am creating them in real time rather than punching them out note-by-note. If it is a one-off, I make sure there doesn’t need to be a transition from the last tune, I make sure it isn’t in the same key as the tune before, and I find my favorite part of the original tune. I will likely expand whatever motif, phrase, or section that speaks to me to create a vocal, or band moment respective to the group performing it. I then edit the sheet music to make sure it is a solid read and everything is functional!
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
I could be a Vitamix sponsor with how many smoothies I make on a weekly basis… I will also reheat the same cup of coffee 7 times before it’s gone.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
Horn partials, positions, and fingerings. The arranging and composition classes and lessons were extremely comprehensive, but I never took any methods or technique classes on horns. I am now learning trumpet and trombone and it has changed some of my approach to horn writing! Also, double stops on string instruments. I would love to have a better grasp of those…
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
The number pad literally saves hours… Filter plug-ins in Sibelius are incredibly useful and time-saving as well!
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
This is so tough… I truly don’t have a favorite. Maybe one day I will. I really like an arrangement I wrote of Richard Page’s “Even the Pain.” The chart is based off of the Yellowjackets recording from their album, Club Nocturne. It was written for Glenwood Titan Fever in 2021. One of my all-time favorite charts as a singer is a big band chart based on Mark Murphy’s recording of “Alone Together” from his album, Midnight Mood. It is an up-swing chart with a few solis and a slamming shout section. The chart features a vocalist throughout. Both can be found on my soundcloud featuring recordings of many of my charts. https://soundcloud.com/brian-mccallister-2/even-the-pain?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing
7. How can people get ahold of you?
firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook Messenger, or call at (847) 637-6151