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A musical arranger is the set up of the instrumentation or the vocal part of a composition for the performance or sound recording. He creates a musical arrangement (= processing) if the composer does not want to do it himself and / or does not have the necessary know-how. Thus arrangers become important co-creators of a composition .

Share of works

The proportion of works not arranged and orchestrated by the composer himself is estimated to be well over 50 percent. Even Leonard Bernstein had his West Side Story arranged by Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal . The arrangement of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is by Ferde Grofé .

The arranger is often free to change, reharmonize and even add new parts as long as he does not change the character of the work. Occasionally, this creates your own processing , again protected by copyright . The exact definitions of a processing in the copyright sense can be found at GEMA .


The arranger is usually a well-trained instrumentalist himself and has extensive knowledge of the individual musical instruments , their good sounding and playable areas, knowledge of musical styles and forms of composition and is often also the composer of his own works . Often the arranger also takes over the direction of his arrangement, i. H. the arranger conducts the orchestra or the band himself and works out with the musicians the interpretation of the arrangement desired by the composer or producer .

Basics of creating arrangements

The basis for creating an arrangement in the classical sense is reading and writing notes, knowledge of harmony theory , composition, interpretation and phrasing . According to the old tradition, some arrangers work closely with a notist / copyist who, after working out the overall arrangement (in score form), writes out the individual instrumental parts from the score and notes them out individually according to the respective transposition of the instrument. Most arrangers now work with computers and a modern music notation program that can be used to print out both the score and the individual parts.

In modern music production , the arranger is usually composer, musician and producer in one person, as the music productions are often produced in the own recording studio on the computer and the transitions here are fluid. The “writing” of notes has hardly any significance here either. Rather, the arranger defines which instrument is played at which point in time with which sound . In everyday life in the recording studio, the arranger, if he is not the producer himself, works closely with the commissioning producer or artist / composer and implements their musical and aesthetic wishes.

In modern film music , the arranger is often composer and keyboard player rolled into one. He presents his compositions and arrangements to the director in so-called “ MIDI arrangements” . As a result, composers and arrangers of this genre usually have the latest sampling technology (large orchestral libraries are mentioned here) in their recording studios.

There are also specialists among the group of arrangers who work out arrangements for musical sub-areas, e.g. B. Vocal arrangers, string arrangers, brass or wind arrangers etc.

For a few years now, the musical arrangers have become more and more important for the producers, as with the help of new technology (including computers and keyboards ) they have reduced the former Broadway orchestras of 25–35 musicians to a max. 15 musicians. In film music, the orchestral arrangements are mostly pre-produced in MIDI arrangements and then played in by the orchestra.

In addition, a completely new style of arrangement (especially shaped by William David Brohn ) has become popular, in which the entire orchestra no longer constantly plays at different volumes, but only a few instruments together, which are amplified electronically.

Well-known arrangers

Arrangers of large dramatic works (mostly musicals)

Arrangers for orchestra and big band