When writing an arrangement, you want there to be an arc to it. You are inviting folks to go on a little musical journey and you want to bring them along; keep them interested and deliver the goods; journey, destination, arrival. The intro should be enticing and draw people into the song. The verse should be more intimate than the chorus.
Some arranging tips.
1. Put everything into the intro and then drop everything out that you can drop out and still keep the groove. That way as you develop the arrangement, you can bring these instruments back and they are somewhat familiar even though their part is new.
When you surprise someone with a new instrument that has never been heard in the arrangement before in the solo for instance, it can be a little jarring. It’s sort of like writing a mystery and having the killer be a character that you never introduced before you announce he’s the killer.
2. Successful recordings seem to use a lot of repetition, but one thing that they all seem to do is to change something every eight bars or so. That way it’s almost, but not quite the same. Keeps things interesting
3. If you can get away with it, don’t do any background vocals on the first chorus. That way you present the melody of the chorus as the theme and then later as you flesh out the chorus with harmonies and instruments these become the variations. It’s tried and true, this theme and variations thing.
The second chorus, you can double the lead vocal and add a harmony, then for the last chorus (frequently a double chorus) you can add even more harmonies.
You do want the chorus to soar, to make people feel that some implied destination has been delivered, so do what you have to do to make the chorus the first destination. You’ve arrived.
4. Putting a short solo into the arrangement is often a good way to change the texture and give the listener a break from the vocals, but unless you are a jam band, don’t make the solo too long or you will lose the momentum of the arrangement.
5. If there are certain lines in the verses that you or the artist feels are important, you can highlight those lines by doing a light vocal or instrumental harmony to them. This will give the verses a little texture change and make them more different than each other. I know that the lyrics make the verses different, but believe it or not, folks seem to hear the lyrics last. Weird, but true.
6. Another interesting thing that you can introduce is a counter melody. This counter melody can be instrumental or vocal. You can use the same words of the chorus and write a melody that works against the chorus, or you can write words that further develop the theme so that more information can be delivered to the listener and they will more easily be able to hear and digest it if they’ve already heard the chorus by itself (one vocal) and with harmonies. Now you’re giving them something else mixed in with the already familiar.
Remember you want to make the arrangement so enticing and inviting that folks want to stay to the end to hear what happens next. And then they want to hear it again.
That’s an arrangement.
Try these ideas in your next arrangement, make them work and then remember, every rule can and will be successfully broken. These are not chains to bind you. This is not a roadmap that must be followed implicitly. These are simply suggestions of places you can go along the way and things that you can do before and when you get there.
Once you master these techniques, you can and will choose what you want to use and disregard the rest.