I have received many comments and questions on my videos asking how I go about arranging music and creating covers, so I’ve decided to address these questions in detail here in this blog post.
Getting Familiar With The Song
The first part to arranging a cover is of course, to familiarise yourself with the song. Listen to the song frequently just to ingrain the melody and harmonies into your head. With that, it would make it alot easier when you start arranging it later on. Even if you know beforehand that you’re absolutely familiar and sure of the song, I would recommend that you listen to it again in the perspective of a musician analysing a piece, and pay attention to all the details in the song.
Melody, Harmony and Accompaniment Parts
In most of my covers, I would make it a point to play both the melody and accompaniment parts simultaneously. For me, I would listen out for the most iconic parts of the accompanying instruments and harmonies, and try to replicate it as best as possible onto the ukulele while retaining the melody and ensuring that the accompanying parts do not outshine the melody. The melody is the most important and significant part of the song, so having other accompanying parts drowning out the main melody would not sound good.
Here’s an example of my attempt of “Dance Monkey” by Tones & I, where I try my best to keep the accompaniment parts and melody parts clearly separated, without the melody being outshined by the accompaniment.
Retaining the Original Artist’s Feel
It is alright to add your own style to the arrangement, but it is equally as important to respect the artist’s original intention for the song. So in my arrangements, I usually like to play the melody in such a way that it is replicating the style of the original singer (whether its the addition of embellishments or the extra dynamics/emphasis on certain notes which the singer does). In that way, your listener will be able to imagine and hear the original artist’s voice behind your arrangement.
Here is an example of my attempt at “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, where I add in slides/pull-offs/hammer-ons to make the melody flow in a more seamless way, instead of playing it note by note. This helps to make the melody sound as if someone is singing it, rather than playing it.
It is very common for songs nowadays to have sections or choruses repeating throughout the song. So when you are coming up with a cover, it is essential to ensure that there is a clear contrast between the sections which are being repeated in order to keep your listener engaged with new ideas being introduced into the song. Although the melody does stay the same, you can change things up a little. For example, you could harmonise in thirds, and then harmonise in sixes when it repeats, or you could add percussive chucks, or play fuller chords etc.
Here is an example of my attempt at “Remember Me” from the movie, Coco. Even though the melody stays exactly the same throughout the whole song, I try to slip in different variations and harmonies which makes each section different from one another. Have a listen 🙂
And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process! It may be difficult at first (it surely was for me!), but I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Just keep extending your repertoire to expand your music vocabulary, as it would be useful to you in your future arrangements. On a side note, I have released the tabs and scores to all my originals for sale here, so be sure to check them out!
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