Arranging for Co-Ed Groups 0 : The colors!

Communication is the basis of a healthy relationship

Communication is the basis of a healthy relationship

If you’re lucky enough to scrabble together a handful of boys and girls to hold productive rehearsals amidst incredible sexual tension, creating unique and engaging arrangements are going to be a piece of cake. Co-ed groups not only have the advantages of a ready pool of datable singers, but the vocal range and palette of effects are astronomical. You get the best of both worlds- girls who can sing crazy high and guys who can sing crazy low. What’s not to love about that?

Before you get carried away on a cloud of dreams, the cost of having so many possibilities is that…you have so many more things to worry about. This guide is here to help elucidate the headaches of co-ed groups (such as range concerns and balancing) as well as the perks (composite parts and really cute choreography). However, if you think about it, just mesh together the assets of an all-male group and an all-female group and add a little soap opera drama.

However, here are some general points to keep in mind when you do your co-ed arrangements:

  • Think of them as instruments.

I’m not suggesting you objectify people into something that needs a particular humidity, but if you can appreciate someone’s voice for the particular role it can fill, piecing together an arrangement will be more doable and cleaner. You have the incredible arsenal of tricks and effects for boys AND girls, and it can be tempting to make a bonkers arrangement that utilizes them to their utmost ability…sorta like a college admissions essay. If you’re going to be doing more than one arrangement for a co-ed group, trying to write the world every time will drain you (as the arranger) and make your arrangements clunky and forced (thus draining your singers and audiences). Assume you’ll get another commission, and know that you can put in a crazy idea another time. There is much to be said of making elegant arrangements.

  • Don’t think of them as instruments.

Singers ARE people too, regardless of how goofy they look. Thinking of your singers as people is something that applies for any group, but can be a fatal blow if forgotten for a co-ed group. Because of voice specialization, for example, there’s the mortal flaw of “The Alto Note” where your poor alto girls are strumming on the same note forever and ever. Then, they fall asleep and miss the choreography cues. Singers who are having fun with interesting parts will perform better (avoiding the dangerous AUTOPILOT), but also interesting parts make better textures and is more fun for the audience.

  • And they aren’t robots.

    Sometimes on high notes, a tenor does look like this.

    Sometimes on high notes, a tenor does look like this.

Don’t make the parts THAT complicated. Tenors need to breathe; they’re not like frogs and breathe through their skin.

  • Have fun when teaching parts.

While I’ve never had the problem of hitting a high F when teaching parts to sopranos, be wary of who may be teaching whom. No matter how amazing a girl may be at teaching parts, it’s just plainly easier to learn something that’s being shown to you in that range. While this is nothing like the mortal flaw of “The Alto Note,” it may be an unexpected difficulty. Perhaps recruit a musically savvy person to help teach if you’re no Franki Valli or Sarastro.

  • Take risks!

Of course you should be taking risks if you want to be a good arranger and not hate your life, but there’s a fun little perk about arranging for co-ed…even if your singers blow, your group’s sex appeal can hit roughly twice the audience demographic of a single sex group. The afterparties can be pretty sweet, too.

Now, to the real information!

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This bit:
“trying to write the world every time will drain you (as the arranger) and make your arrangements clunky and forced (thus draining your singers and audiences). Assume you’ll get another commission, and know that you can put in a crazy idea another time”

needs to be said to *every* arranger just starting out. I think it’s partly because arranging is a slow process when you’re new at it that people put in way too much stuff. It’s easy to forget that in real time the effects will sound 10 seconds apart, rather than the 2 hours between them the arranger experienced while working on the chart.

#1 
Written By liz garnett on January 13th, 2009 @ 7:29 am

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