4 Unorthodox Arranging Ideas For Your Songs

Tommaso Zillio

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song arrangement ideas

Do you want to do something special for your song? Would you like to give it one unforgettable element that will make it stand out from all the other songs? Does it seems that everything has been done already? Well, it's true, but some old ideas can become new again as we'll see below.

One of the problems that modern pop writers face is to differentiate themselves from the countless other pop writers out there. You can do this at more than one level: for instance you can have a very precise, specific, and recognizable style in your songs. But you can also decide to compose a special song that will stand out "just because it's different"

Easier said than done, of course.

One way to make your song different is to create a special arrangement for it. With "arrangement" we refer to the setting of a piece of music, that is not the melody or the harmony or the lyrics, but the instrumentation and the ideas used in it. Many pop artists hire a person (the "producer") whose role is precisely to oversee the arrangement of the songs in an album - and this tells you how important this can be for the success of a pop album!

But you don't have to hire a producer to come up with interesting ideas. Below we'll see some unusual arrangement elements that have been used by past writers and composer that make their pieces stand out - maybe these will help you sparkle up some ideas of your own. Enjoy the ride.

Play Your Instrument The Wrong Way

Ok, there is a correct way to play your instrument, and then there is what everybody else is doing. In this case I am talking about playing an instrument purposefully wrong.

Check out the beginning of "God" by Tori Amos, where the guitar player makes these horrible noises (or maybe they handed the guitar to the drummer, I don't know...). I think it's a brilliant effect, but the friend who made me listen to it thought it was horrible. This means, at the very least, that these noises transmit some emotions. And for a songwriter is better to be disliked than ignored.

There are many ways to "misuse" instruments: string instruments can touch the strings with the wood on the bow rather than the hairs, woodwinds can be overblown, pianos can be burned - no, I'm not joking, check out "piano burning" by John Cage. Let your imagination run free.

(I disclaim any and every responsibility from burning pianos... if you choose to do it it's between you and Mr. Cage)

Metonymical Noises

You know in the intro of Pink Floyd's "Money" you can hear the sound of a cash register? (in reality it's Roger Waters shaking a bowl full of coins) This is a metonymical noise, that is, the noise made by something that we are talking about in the song.

In simpler words, the song is about money, so why not feature the sound of money and make it a rhythmical instrument too?

This is a pretty clever thing to do. Now, it is quite common for many artists today to put in their song any kind of noise as long as it sounds cool. But to make this trick work properly, you want to make sure that the noise is actually related to what the song is all about.

(BTW, no, I did not mean "metaphorical" noises. There is a difference between metaphor and metonymy and in a future article we are going to see it as it is quite important for an artist to know and use both of them)

Ditch the Instruments

An interesting example of this technique comes from the song "Me and a Gun" by Tori Amos (Ok, I am a Tori fan, ok?) She sings the whole song with the voice only and no instruments. That renders greatly the feeling of nakedness and vulnerability that the song is all about.

It goes without saying that you can use this for the whole song or only a part of it.

Use A Cannon

Yes, I mean an actual piece of artillery. Eccentric? This was done by Tchaikovsky in his 1812 Overture... a battery of 21 cannons to be precise. To be fair, he didn't really like that piece, as it was commissioned to him for a patriotic occasion (not really Tchaikovsky's passion). But he was asked to make it bombastic, and boy, he delivered.

In the same piece Tchaikovsky also notates that in the finale all the churches in town to strike all their bells (that must be a logistic nightmare...). I'm not even sure that it was ever executed properly.

Point is: sometimes you just need a big explosion. So make it BIG.

So What Now?

I would suggest you keep exploring this website to get other cool ideas to boost your creativity and learn how to make it easy for you to write songs. I would start from reading these songwriting articles