AskDefine | Define arrange

Dictionary Definition



1 put into a proper or systematic order; "arrange the books on the shelves in chronological order" [syn: set up] [ant: disarrange]
2 make arrangements for; "Can you arrange a meeting with the President?" [syn: fix up]
3 plan, organize, and carry out (an event) [syn: stage, bring about]
4 set (printed matter) into a specific format; "Format this letter so it can be printed out" [syn: format]
5 arrange attractively; "dress my hair for the wedding" [syn: dress, set, do, coif, coiffe, coiffure]
6 adapt for performance in a different way; "set this poem to music" [syn: set]
7 arrange thoughts, ideas, temporal events, etc.; "arrange my schedule"; "set up one's life"; "I put these memories with those of bygone times" [syn: set up, put, order]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To set up, to organize, especially in a positive manner.
  2. To put in order, to organize.

Usage notes

Derived terms




  1. Form of First-person singular present subjunctive, arranger
  2. Form of Third-person singular present subjunctive, arranger
  3. Form of Second-person singular imperative, arranger

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.
arrange in Bulgarian: Аранжимент
arrange in German: Arrangement
arrange in Estonian: Arranžeering
arrange in Spanish: Arreglo (música)
arrange in French: Arrangement (musique)
arrange in Galician: Arranxo
arrange in Italian: Arrangiamento
arrange in Hebrew: עיבוד מוזיקלי
arrange in Georgian: არანჟირება
arrange in Dutch: Arrangement
arrange in Japanese: 編曲
arrange in Polish: Aranżacja
arrange in Portuguese: Arranjo (música)
arrange in Russian: Аранжировщик
arrange in Slovenian: Aranžer
arrange in Finnish: Sovitus (musiikki)
arrange in Swedish: Arrangering
arrange in Ukrainian: Аранжування

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accommodate, adapt, adjust, align, alphabetize, analyze, array, assort, blend, blueprint, break down, bring about, bring to terms, calculate, cast, catalog, categorize, chart, choreograph, class, classify, clear for action, clear the decks, close, close with, codify, compose, concert, conclude, contrive, cool off, cure, cut out, decide, deploy, design, determine, devise, digest, dispose, divide, dope out, dress, figure, file, fix, fix up, forecast, form, frame, get ready, grade, group, harmonize, hierarchize, index, instrument, instrumentate, integrate, intend, lay out, lay plans, line up, list, make a projection, make an adaptation, make arrangements, make peace, make preparations, make ready, make up, manipulate, map out, marshal, melodize, methodize, mobilize, musicalize, normalize, orchestrate, order, organize, pacify, pigeonhole, place, plan, plan ahead, position, prearrange, predetermine, prep, prepare, pretreat, process, program, project, provide, put in order, put in shape, put to music, put to rights, quiet, range, rank, rate, rationalize, ready, ready up, reduce to order, regularize, regulate, right, routinize, schedule, schematize, scheme, score, set, set in order, set out, set to music, set to rights, set up, settle, settle preliminaries, settle with, shape, sort, sort out, standardize, straighten out, structure, subdivide, symphonize, synthesize, systematize, tabulate, tan, tranquilize, transcribe, transpose, treat, trim, try out, type, unify, unsnarl, whip into shape, work out, work up, write
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