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Thread: Piano Arrangement Help?
06-21-2009, 11:48 AM #1
Piano Arrangement Help?
After having listened to Kiamet's beautiful piano collection arrangement of The Skycity of Bhujerba; it made me realize that with my knowledge at this point I could never arrange something for piano of that caliber. So for anyone, especially the pianists here at Squaresound, is there anyone who could offer tips on creating an excellent piano arrangement? I await your helpful responces, thanks!
06-21-2009, 05:04 PM #2
The problem is that many people that arrange stick to the strictest form of arranging, without writing any parts, or by just adapting the piece to the piano. Many people try and keep the melody and lower instrumental parts unchanged in the arrangement, or write very uncreative parts consisting of plain chords, lack of polyphony and other typical facets of composition. That is to say, many people just lack the ability to compose creatively. The best way to learn to arrange for piano is to first write for it, and listen to classical, or even jazz piano music. I frown generally upon contemporary piano music as it is either strange atonal music or boring pop music.
Really, my point is just that you should spend more time with the instrument itself and less with the music you're trying to arrange. Only once you've mastered the instrument can you achieve a truly creative sound. I'd start by listening to some of Beethoven's piano sonatas or Chopin's nocturnes. Both are very different in several ways, and should give you a general idea of what can be done with the piano that you might not have known before. Afterwards, just try sketching out a few short tunes with more inventive left and right hand parts: think of them as a single instrument, and not one hand for a melody and the other for harmony.
EDIT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQn4Qfy_Bek - Beethoven's Rondo a Capriccio is a very good example of what I mean. It makes full use of a lot of piano techniques and other compositional techniques within a very short amount of time; I think you may be able to draw a bit of inspiration from it.
Last edited by Nicol Armarfi; 06-21-2009 at 05:07 PM.Blobbery.
06-21-2009, 09:24 PM #3
You need to know your instrument. Nicol already covered a lot of the best points above though.
Also one thing that I do when I arrange (which isn't very often, but I try to make a good arrangement) is I study and analyze the better arrangements out there, like Shiro Hamaguchi's, Hamauzu's, or the arrangements from FFX-2 PC since they are very good as well.
06-25-2009, 09:56 AM #4Square Music Fan
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- Apr 2009
- NORTH AMERICA
For me, i sing along.
it goes with the creativity spoken of earlier.
The song I am arranging, i put it on almost a billion times, and just sing along.
whatever works, i write down!
I think this option works for me since i am influenced by jazz.
Impromptu fills and solo's.
i tend to syncopate everything for a cool new sound !!
06-26-2009, 05:58 AM #5Square Music Fan
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- Jun 2009
Nicol's point about spending more time with the instrument and less with the music is very good advice. There's a balance that needs to be struck between absorbing music, creating music, and just playing.
"Knowing your instrument" means being able to hear, internally, what you are about to play. This is partly an aural skill, but it's also visual. Chords and intervals all have specific shapes or 'contours' to them that you become more and more familiar with. For example a fifth interval has a distinct, strong sound, but it can also be identified by the way it is played with the thumb and the fifth, giving it a symmetrical look and feel.
"The Skycity of Bhujerba" is probably the most complex thing I've written for piano, and there was a lot of work and frustration in getting to that point. When you start an arrangement of a piece, it's easy to give up, because the original music has the most dominance over your creativity. Your own musical style and ideas can't seem to get through, and like Nicol said, you restrict yourself. You have preconceived notions of what makes the song 'the song' - for example in "Bhujerba" the first thing I tried working around was the bouncy chords of the original arrangement:
YouTube - Final Fantasy XII Music - The Skycity of Bhujerba
Then when I cut out that aspect of the song and focused on the sweeping melody, it suddenly made sense to slow the song right down and let it flow into both hands. The "trick" to it for me, was to not listen to the original song for a while. I just memorized the melody, (by ear rather than sheet music, so it wasn't exact) and then as the weeks went by, I managed to "absorb" that melody into my own musical "idea bank", and suddenly I was able to play around with it a lot more freely.
Another roadblock was the pressure to make it sound like "a Piano Collections song". But again, this dissipated once I took a break from listening to Hamauzu and Hamaguchi.
With music, the brain remembers what it likes, so the original Bhujerba melody became my own melody, infused with all the other music floating around in my brain, with small differences from the original.
My compositions start with me recording ideas into Cubase. However, a big trap you can fall into is writing on the keyboard too much - it feels like you're making a lot of ideas, but it's important to start writing on paper. Don't worry about writing the work if it's unfinished - the point is it gives you a closer look at your arrangement, and the mental exercise squeezes out great little ideas you may never have thought of.
Sometimes you write a great section that doesn't fit into the rest of the arrangement, no matter how hard you try. Don't get too hung up on having to cut things out - otherwise you'll drive yourself mad re-writing the whole song just to include one new section. There'll be a place for it somewhere, maybe in a different piece. DISCLAIMER: I don't follow this advice as much as I should. The "Bhujerba" you've listened to is the 5th iteration
Oh and Hikaru is right about the singing. It's the quickest way to 'solidify' an idea in your head especially if there's no instrument nearby! I often play chords and experiment with melodies with my voice.
Anyway I hope that helps you out. Keep listening, absorbing, playing and writing. Creativity develops at an uneven pace, but it never stops. Remember that even when you simply hear something new that inspires you, it's developing. And creative moments usually follow, and they are sweet indeed!
07-04-2009, 08:31 AM #6
Nicol brought a very true and interesting point to the table. My weakness is not in actualy playing technique, but in musical theory. Therefore, I sometimes feel like I have inadequate knowledge for bringing the arrangement to the level that I want it to be. I can literally "hear" it in my head, and I know how I want it to sound, but actually writing that down is the problem. Where I'm going with this is, while learning the instrument and everything is crucial, don't forget to learn theory as well!
I have a lot of influences coming from a lot of different places. Recently, I have been very fascinated by the style of Impromptus, Fantasies, Rhapsodies, and Improvitories. They are composed in a free-form style that I find very interesting. Most of my recent arrangements go along with this style (although none of the arrangements are finished.)
I love to improv on the piano. I enjoy taking a simple piano book and reading the melody and harmonies, but adding to them; changing them and creating something new. By the time I've finished playing, the song is still recognizable, but what I played sounds nothing like what is written on the page in front of me.If you have any problems, questions, suggestions, or just wanna chat, drop me a PM!
07-05-2009, 10:32 PM #7