How would I learn about writing and arranging without going to college?

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Libersolis, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Is it possible to learn this stuff on my own? I have a great interest in it, but have no desire to go back to college at this point..nor the money :)
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Listen to a ****load of music. Collect what moves you, toss what leaves you cold. Imitate the stuff that moves you as much as you can. Keep doing this until what you are writing in imitation of what moves you begins to move you. Then rinse and repeat again and again until you're too old to do it anymore. :)

    Or, if you want to go halfway toward the "established educational" way of doing things, get yourself a composition/arranging teacher to study with privately.
  3. I would agree with the above. If you want to do it without classes get scores of your favorite composers and look at their compositional/orchestration techniques and styles; find out what makes them tick and find out what sounds/harmonies you want. You can also do the above, but that is much more difficult, unless your ear is very good.
  4. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Studying scores.

    One thing that has helped me was to construct scores from players parts. I would borrow all the books from musicals I was playing for, copy a few of the songs and then copy the parts into a score. Very valueable. I was also lucky enough to be left in charge of a large number of big band charts... did the same thing.

    But listening is the best. And today (all of the stuff I did in the last paragraph was done in the 60's) we have some many really fine computer programs that will let you have a general idea of the sound of your arrangement. The high end scoring programs (things like Sibelius and Finale) will play parts for you. That's a tremendous help.

    The last thing I would add is that most (maybe all) really fine arrangers got their stuff together by doing it... not from any college class. Get yourself a good writing program for computer, find a group of musicians that will read your music or better yet, will benefit from your skills. Church music groups and community groups are a great start. Or... buy a lot of beer and call everyone you know and have a reading party.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Trombone player I worked with did the Dick Grove correspondence course, seemd to be pretty happy with it. He was with Slide Hampton's World of Trombones for awhile, did the arrangements for this singer's record on MaxJazz called DEM BONES and is now living in NC and doing arrangements for a big band that he leads.

    I should also add that he listens to an a**load of music too. The Grove courses were helpful in getting some basics about voicing and instrumentation down.
  6. One of the hardest parts is learning how to transpose for the different instruments (for me at least). After that, just follow your ear, there are many good books, alblums, and people to learn from. The college course is very helpful in some ways, we had readings where the teacher got students who were not in our class to read our arrangments, but like everything else in music it's no substitute for actually doing it.
  7. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    There use to be a book out by someone called Russell Garcia called "Composing and Arranging."

    At the time it was the Bible for big band arranging.

    I don't know if it's still available.
  8. there is a great small group arranging book for 2, 3, and 4 horns by Bill Dobbins. I used it in a course in my undergrad and still refer to it quite often.
  9. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    For jazz, there's some good books by William Russo (played with the Kenton band, founded the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, etc.). Learning how to write classical harmony and counterpoint is absolutely helpful too - lots of books on that. Studying scores and listening to the recordings is infinitely helpful.
  10. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    It's called "The Professional Arranger Composer" Book I supposedely according to the back cover there is a Book II as well. It's by Russell Garcia and is a great value at $16.95. Highly recommended.
  11. Anonymous75966


    Jun 29, 2004
    I'd say do a lot of listening and transcribing. If you want to bring up your writing, composing, and general ear training chops, transcribing stuff from records is just about the best way to learn non-classical music. It's like playing your instrument, without the, uh, instrument.

    Find a good orchestration / arranging book, definitely.

    The one I mostly use is 'Instrumentation and Orchestration' by Alfred Blatter. It's got a classical focus but contains really comprehensive information on just about every possible orchestral, jazz, and band instrument - ranges, fingerings, trombone slide positions, et cetera. I bought it when I started music school way back when and I still use it as a reference for every composition project or arranging gig that I do. It's also got exercises in it, although I've never paid much attention to them. Not a really cheap book as I recall and my edition's pretty dated, so the electronic music info is a bit laughable. Even so.

    FWIW I've had the displeasure to work with people who've come out of music school evidently not knowing SFA about orchestration - I've played in graduate-level composition recitals or on professional gigs where the music was full of dumb mistakes. i.e., 'Ahem ... the violin can't double-stop G and B below middle C.' (Y'all think about that one.)

    You can learn this stuff on your own, sure. Just like playing, it gets easier with practice.