How to do a Funky Music Arrangement

We Pianologists have been doing countless recording projects over the years. Here we would like to let you have a glimpse of what we do, and how we do an arrangement of a song, step by step.
Most of our clients actually don’t have any background in any music instruments, but still share our passion for music. Sometimes they will come up with a melody in their head, and hope to turn it into a song with full arrangement. What we will ask them to do is to make a very rough recording of that melody and send it to us. Here is an example of a short clip of what our client would send us, with just the melody.

[audio:http://pianologist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/vocal.mp3]

As mentioned earlier, the recording doesn’t need to be perfect, all we need here is a rough guide of how it goes.
On hearing this clip, I straightaway know that this tune is meant to have a funky type of feeling in it. But before we move on, our first step would be to get the key, and the chords to go along with the melody here. So what I did here was to create a piano riff as the backbone of our arrangement. Here is a sample of what I did.

[audio:http://pianologist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/addpiano.mp3]

There are plenty of piano riffs that would sound real cool, but the important point to keep in mind is that we want a riff that could bring out the melody, and compliment it. Notice how my syncopations tend to stay out of the way of the melody?
The next thing I noticed was the emptiness in the last few bars, to fill it up, I added a piano fill in, which is actually developed from the main melody. We don’t want to go too far or too complicated, just something simple but nice. Here’s what I came up with.

[audio:http://pianologist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/addpianofill.mp3]

After the piano fill in, I moved on to adding the bass part. A funky bass groove would be cool, but would also be intefering with the melody. So what I did was to try and find a bass groove that stays out of the way of the melody, and blend tightly with our earlier piano riff. This is what I came up with.

[audio:http://pianologist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/addbass.mp3]

Notice how the bass try to syncopate tightly with the piano??
The snare drums for this song is simple, falling on the second and fourth beat of each bar. To add some strength in it, I layered the snare with some clapping sound. Here’s what I get.

[audio:http://pianologist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/addkicksnare.mp3]

The kick drum basically tries to blend tightly with the bass part. Notice how the bass and the kick tend to go together in the first three bass notes of the first and third bar??

The hihat is a very tricky part in music arrangement. The basic rhythm here is a funky groove, where I lay out a combination of eight notes and some sixteen notes. Tweaking the velocity of each hihat hit is crucial to humanize the whole sound of it. Failure in doing that will result in a drum loop that doesn’t sound real at all. So here’s the clip with the hihat added.

[audio:http://pianologist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/addhihat.mp3]

This is just a very simple arrangement for a very short clip, which took just a few minutes to complete. However, if you notice, most of the instrument sound used in this clip still lack the quality sound of professional recording. That brings us to the the next step, selecting sound samples for each instruments, which is another story for another day…….. hehhe… so remember to stay tune. and don’t forget to have fun , and enjoy………..

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