Jake Hammer is middle school band director in Columbus, Wisconsin who arranges for Columbus High School and DeForest Area High School in Wisconsin. He has a degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
I have a MacBook Pro with a Sibelius Ultimate subscription along with a small Korg keyboard I sometimes use for input. Because it’s my laptop, I’ll work wherever I can that doesn’t have many distractions. Much of the time, I’ll use headphones to try and tune external sounds out.
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
I usually listen to song choices several times in a row for repeated themes and any other patterns that could be useful as well as sections of the song that might have to be cut. I also like finding covers of tunes on Spotify to here what others have tried.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
I tend to get hyper focused when arranging, so I at least keep water nearby. Usually my wife has to remind me to eat or will just bring me something.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
It took me a couple years to realize that I arranged with too much musical texture. Too much going on in the show band combo detracts from the singing, and too many splits in vocal lines can turn messy quick. It can mess with diction, intonation, and the overall sound production of a group, not to mention that it is far more demanding on the singers.
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
In Sibelius, I use the “r” function a lot. It allows you to repeat your input from a single note to any selection of music and then manipulate it from there.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
One of my favorites is Creep by Radiohead. It was a difficult one to do as I wanted it to be a little different than others out there.
7. How can people get ahold of you?
The website I’m working on isn’t ready yet, so most of my clients reach out to me via email at email@example.com.