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this article is part of a series on writing horn charts
The Vocal is the Focal (-point)
When you are arranging a chart that has a vocal lead, everything you write must serve the vocal. Despite trends of the past 20 years in popularmusic, it's nice when lyrics are heard and are comprehensible.
Take a look at the score & mp3 below. This is a nice, warm swinging ballad called Summer in the Wintertime by Pennsylvania bluesman John JT Thompson. It's JT's tune - I wrote the horn arrangement.
As you're listening and reading, notice:
. m.8 figures align with Rhodes keyboard. The tbn pitches are same as vox.
. m.9-10 horn figure answers m.8 vocal.
. 1st ending is recycled from Intro.
. 2nd ending horn lines give forward, rising motion into the bridge, providing good support for vocalist in his upper range.
. Horn figures in m.16 + 20 align with the vocal melody.
. Instrumental chorus (beginning m.31) and subsequent tenor solo both paraphrase the melody. Coincidence?
. Mid-register Flugelhorn as lead voice gives warmth to sound of horn section
. Close-position voicings have nice density and ring to them. Having the saxes in their juicy mid-ranges helps with this sound.
Remember this stuff when you're arranging:
. Know the pitches of the vocal melodyand avoid writing horn parts that clash with it.
. Know the movement and phrasing of the vocals.
. Know the lyrics — maybe they'll suggest a texture or a melody.
. Write horn parts that support—not distract from—the vocals.
. Do not write lines that will make the vocalist's lines awkward to execute in tandem.
. During longer vocal rests, use your figures to move to the next vocal phrase.
. It isn't necessary to provide motion during every vocal rest, but it's often a good place to do so.
Simple Tips of the Trade:
. Always have the vocal melody written out on your working score/sketch (see mine above).
. Be prepared to revise your horn parts if they don't work quite right in a real life rehearsal/performance.