AskDefine | Define arrangement

Dictionary Definition



1 the thing arranged or agreed to; "they made arrangements to meet in Chicago" [syn: agreement]
2 an orderly grouping (of things or persons) considered as a unit; the result of arranging; "a flower arrangement"
3 an organized structure for arranging or classifying; "he changed the arrangement of the topics"; "the facts were familiar but it was in the organization of them that he was original"; "he tried to understand their system of classification" [syn: organization, organisation, system]
4 the spatial property of the way in which something is placed; "the arrangement of the furniture"; "the placement of the chairs" [syn: placement]
5 a piece of music that has been adapted for performance by a particular set of voices or instruments [syn: musical arrangement]
6 the act of arranging and adapting a piece of music [syn: arranging, transcription]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Arrangement



  • /ʌˈreɪnʤmənt/
  • /V"reIndZm@nt/


  1. The act of arranging.
  2. The manner of being arranged.
  3. A collection of things that have been arranged.
  4. (plural) Preparations for some undertaking.
  5. An agreement.
  6. An adaptation of a piece of music for other instruments, or in another style.

Related terms


The act of arranging
The manner of being arranged
A collection of things that have been arranged
(plural) Preparations for some undertaking
An agreement
(music) An adaptation of a piece of music for other instruments, or in another style

Extensive Definition

In music, an arrangement refers either to a rewriting of a piece of existing music with additional new material or to a fleshing-out of a compositional sketch, such as a lead sheet. If a musical adaptation does not include new material, it is more accurately termed a transcription.
The American Federation of Musicians defines arranging as "the art of preparing and adapting an already written composition for presentation in other than its original form. An arrangement may include reharmonization, paraphrasing, and/or development of a composition, so that it fully represents the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic structure" (Corozine 2002, p.3). Orchestration differs in that it is only adapting music for an orchestra or musical ensemble while arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings...Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety" (ibid).
A satisfactory musical arrangement will most likely (ibid, p.4):
  • Provide "contrast between high and low sounds"
  • Avoid heavily doubled parts with an emphasis on solo sections
  • Be "sufficiently transparent to allow the musical lines to be clearly heard" and
  • Not have all the instruments playing throughout.
(ibid, p.4)

Classical music

Arrangements and transcriptions of classical and serious music go back to the early history of this genre. In particular music written for the piano frequently underwent this treatment. The suite of ten piano pieces by Modest Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, has been arranged over twenty times, perhaps the most famous and notable being that of Maurice Ravel. Due to a poor grasp of the ability to do so himself, the American composer George Gershwin had his Rhapsody in Blue orchestrated and arranged by Ferde Grofé.

Popular music

Arrangers in pop music recordings often add parts for orchestral or band instruments involving new material such that the arrangers may reasonably be considered co-composers, although for copyright and royalty purposes usually are not. Rhythm section parts are usually improvised or otherwise invented by the performers themselves using chord symbols or a lead sheet as a guide. (Rhythm section instruments include guitars, bass guitars, string basses, piano and other keyboard instruments, and drums.)
An existing pop song can be re-recorded with a different arrangement to the original. As well as different instruments, the tempo, time signature and key signature may be altered, sometimes drastically so. The end result is a song that retains familiar phrases and lyrics, but offers something new. This practice was particularly popular in the late 1960s. Well known examples of this include Joe Cocker's version of The Beatles' With a Little Help from My Friends, and Ike And Tina Turner's version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary. The American group Vanilla Fudge and British group Yes based their early careers on radical re-arrangements of contemporary hits.
Some remixes, particularly in dance music, can also be considered re-arrangements in this style.


In jazz an unscored collaborative arrangement is called a "head arrangement" (Randel 2002, p.294; it is in the head of the musician(s)). Big bands such as those of Duke Ellington, Bennie Moten, and Count Basie performed head arrangements (ibid).
Arrangements for small jazz combos are usually informal, minimal, and uncredited. This was particularly so for combos in the bebop era. In general, the larger the ensemble, the greater the need for a formal arrangement, although the early Count Basie big band was famous for its head arrangements, so called because they were worked out by the players themselves, memorized immediately and never written down. Most arrangements for large ensembles, big bands, in the swing era, were written down, however, and credited to a specific arranger, as were later arrangements for the Count Basie big band by Sammy Nestico and Neal Hefti. Don Redman made significant innovations in the pattern of arrangement in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in the 1920s. He introduced the pattern of arranging melodies in the body of arrangements and arranging section performances of the big band. Billy Strayhorn was an arranger of great renown in the Duke Ellington orchestra beginning in 1938.
Jelly Roll Morton is considered the earliest jazz arranger, writing down the parts when he was touring about 1912-1915 so that pick-up bands could play his compositions. Big band arrangements are informally called charts. In the swing era they were usually either arrangements of popular songs or they were entirely new compositions. Duke Ellington's and Billy Strayhorn's arrangements for the Duke Ellington big band were usually new compositions, and some of Eddie Sauter's arrangements for the Benny Goodman band and Artie Shaw's arrangements for his own band were new compositions as well. It became more common to arrange sketchy jazz combo compositions for big band after the bop era.
After 1950, the big band trend declined in number. However, several bands continued and arrangers provided renowned arrangements. Gil Evans wrote a number of large-ensemble arrangements in the late fifties and early sixties intended for recording sessions only. Other arrangers of note included Pete Rugolo, Oliver Nelson and Johnny Richards.

Further reading

  • Inside the score: A detailed analysis of 8 classic jazz ensemble charts by Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer by Rayburn Wright
  • Sounds and Scores : A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestration by Henry Mancini
  • Arranged by Nelson Riddle by Nelson Riddle


  • Corozine, Vince (2002). Arranging Music for the Real World: Classical and Commercial Aspects. ISBN 0-7866-4961-5.
  • Randel, Don Michael (2002). The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
arrangement in Bulgarian: Аранжимент
arrangement in German: Arrangement
arrangement in Estonian: Arranžeering
arrangement in Spanish: Arreglo (música)
arrangement in French: Arrangement (musique)
arrangement in Galician: Arranxo
arrangement in Italian: Arrangiamento
arrangement in Hebrew: עיבוד מוזיקלי
arrangement in Georgian: არანჟირება
arrangement in Dutch: Arrangement
arrangement in Japanese: 編曲
arrangement in Polish: Aranżacja
arrangement in Portuguese: Arranjo (música)
arrangement in Russian: Аранжировщик
arrangement in Slovenian: Aranžer
arrangement in Finnish: Sovitus (musiikki)
arrangement in Swedish: Arrangering
arrangement in Ukrainian: Аранжування

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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