Vocalist/Actor Mandy Williams sent us a recording of her singing her composition, looking for an arrangement and theatrical demo recording with pit band orchestration.
Transcription and Harmonic Scheme
After transcribing the melody and lyric into Finale, the next step for us was deriving a harmonic scheme. The song’s possible harmonic structure was suggested by 2 factors – the changing mood of the lyric, and its melodic contour, containing intervals with functional implications.
After sketching in some chord changes over the lead sheet, or adding hints of a bass line in spots, we were ready to start writing the arrangement.
The Arranging Phase
Her brief asked for a Broadway style, with pit band instrumentation for the track.
Rhythm Section Role
Writing the bass line came first. In most of our work, it defines the style and groove – it’s the backbone and foundation of the chart. Next was writing 2 bars of drums, with the bass drum matching the bass rhythm – then pasting it out to the end of the chart, with divergences to be handled as we get there. The groove goes through a few changes during the course of the arrangement, and the drums will play fills and hits with the band.
The rest of the rhythm section provides harmonic support, rhythmic and melodic counterpoint, completing the definition of the style and groove.
Horn Sections’ Role
Performing multiple functions, the horns can
- Reinforce hits in the rhythm section
- Play countermelodies
- Play responses in the gaps in the vocal line
- Play “pads” adding color to the harmonic background, often with rhythmic interest
- Reinforce the vocal line or harmonize it
- Provide ongoing melodic commentary (obligato)
- Provide lead-ins to set up the next section of the tune
- Provide a lead voice on instrumental sections (if present)
Countermelodies are most effective when their targets are on a different chord (color) tone than the vocal, when they differ in rhythmic density, and when they’re more active when the vocal is less active and vise-versa.
Finale playback file from the Score
The Music Production Phase
On approval of the arrangement, we saved our Aria Player bank configuration in the player, then exported the midi from Finale.
Finale into Pro Tools
In Pro Tools, we
- Imported the midi into tracks to capture the tempo map
- Set up the instrument tracks (as “multlis,” 16 different instruments per player instance)
- Routed the audio from the player back into the session via aux inputs for mix control over every channel
- Created a rough mix
- Exported individual instrument tracks (“stems”)
- Loaded the stems and pdfs into a Dropbox for the artist to use recording on her end
After some time, Mandy sent her vocal stem back to us, and we completed the mix, bringing out the counterpoint and commentary by the sections, humanizing the rhythm section, etc. The recording below is all samples with the exception of Mandy’s vocal.