the Second Story

Working on Arrangements


I was working on stuff for the new Emmaus Way project… a follow up to Rite 7, and was thinking about how I’ve refined my work on arrangements over the years.  I’ve been recording since my college days, and in those 20-plus years, I’ve kind of found a rhythm of working on things that I’ve needed to arrange when I haven’t had a band or other players handy.  When I started recording multiple parts myself, I felt like I needed to come up with the most ripping parts for everything before I could began; and I would be really frustrated.  I am almost never the guy with the ripping parts.

But, I ran across and interview with Brian Eno where he mentioned that he would rather make a record with good musicians, who were barely able to play the instruments they were recording with–rather than their instrument of greatest skill, because they were more prone to play the simplest thing they could play that also worked on the song.

It got me thinking, and I realized, while listening to a lot of arrangements of the folk/rock/pop music that I liked, that this was a window into how these great records were arranged.  And many times the simplest arrangements were the most brilliant– it was only later that I learned how hard it can be to create a brilliant arrangement with the most simple parts : )

I’m certainly not discounting a great performance or solo, but for the bulk of what’s in a song, the meat and potatoes really is more what you need, and ‘simpler’ stays out of the way of other parts more easily.  Your ear can only take in so much at one time, and a solid, simple part  gives the spotlight a chance to make it’s way around the arrangement, and it makes mixing a whole lot easier.

So today, I worked on bass, guitar, dobro, mando, violin and vocals; and every time I started to feel bad about not having some killer idea, I tried to remember Mr. Eno and his very helpful advice.