Arranging Walkthrough 3: “Happy Birthday”

STEP FIVE- BASS

The bass is the coolest part, because everyone knows that the bass player is just so hip. Same goes for bass singers. However, bass parts are usually pretty simple, since they have to provide some grounding to the ensemble.

We’ll give the bass part some fun voice leading, though, as well as some rhythmic development. The root of the chord (the bottom note) should be in the bass part most of the time, but hey, it’s my arrangement and I can cry if I want to. Here’s what I came up with:

Turn up the subwoofer on this one.

Turn up the subwoofer on this one.

The opening rhythm is imitated, the gesture of a leap and a step in the same direction is preserved, the second half of the phrase deviates from the first half…all fancy talk for, “Here’s a bassline!” For your own arrangements, put what sounds good. Technically, the C on the downbeat of the fourth measure is a no-no (it’s a 2nd inversion root chord, which is unstable and sounds a little weird) but I like the gesture of the phrase and hell, it’s my arrangement, and I’ll cry if I want to.

In terms of the range, it’s a little low but I believe my alto could hit an E below the staff. The middle voice can rest nicely in between the melody and bass without pushing the top voice into a dog-whistle register.

Here’s how the two parts sound together:

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STEP SIX- THE MIDDLE AND TOP VOICES

I’m going to have the middle voice work with the bass voice and copy some rhythms and gestures, but let it have it’s own identity. I also want something speedy in the second-to-last measure, called the penultimate measure (great Scrabble word). Here’s what I came up with:

Snug as a bug in a rug.

Snug as a bug in a rug.

Here’s how it sounds, with three parts together:

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Not bad, eh? I like smooth voice leading because it sounds pretty and it’s easier to sing, but some leaps give it energy and make it exciting. Don’t ask me how leaps=energy or smoothness=pretty: the many metaphors in music analysis cannot really explain how music makes you feel one thing or another, but theorists will always keep pumping out the language…shmeh.

Now the top voice, the icing on top. It’s going to have long and sustained notes, and I’d prefer if it was below an E or D- I’m jonesin’ for a tighter sound, rather than a spread-out sound. How about this:

Buttercream.

Buttercream.

Smooth lines, and I keep below my waterline of a D by hitting only a C. Sweet. And now, with all the parts:

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It’s time to proofread the parts, do some tune-ups, and put in syllables.

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