4 Unusual Ways To Arrange A Tune

Author: Ed Cupler


Tommaso Zillio - professional guitarist and guitar teacherHave you completely run out of ideas for new ways to arrange a tune? Sounds like you got to start thinking outside of the box. There is so much more to music than simple melodies and rhythms. If you allow yourself to, you can start hearing musical ideas in unusual places.

There are a lot of people writing pop music out there these days, and one of the main problems they are faced with is trying to set themselves apart from everyone else. To do this, you could either choose to develop your own personal, recognizable sound within the music you release. Or you could choose to write something out of the ordinary that will be memorable for how different it is from your other stuff.

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Making your music stand out can be accomplished by more than just the lyrics or the melodies that you write. You can also work on the arrangement of the tune, which refers to the instrumentation or the structure of the tune. Often times, a pop musician will hire a producer to solely work on the arrangements of their tunes (which just goes to show how critical arrangements are to a good product!).

That being said, spending money on a fancy shmancy producer isn’t the only way to rework your songs. Instead, read through the ideas listed below and see if you can add any of it to your own music to help it stand out!

Play Your Instrument Incorrectly

When you picture someone playing the guitar you probably see a person nicely strumming away at their instrument – or shredding a solo. But thats not the only way it can be played.

You can hear an example of someone using their guitar in a unique way during the opening bit of “God” by Tori Amos. These creepy guitar noises can be somewhat polarizing. The person who showed it to me couldn’t stand it, while I on the other hand thought it was great. No matter what the opinion, the point is that it definitely got people talking. It’s better to be talked about than not noticed at all.

There are lots of effects you can get out of instruments when you think outside the box. Guitar strings can be bowed with a violin bow, the buttons on brass instruments can be tapped for a percussive sound, and pianos can be lit on fire. Seriously. Check out John Cages composition “Piano Burning” (that is, if your heart can handle hearing such a beautiful instrument get burned to a crisp)

Using “Non-Musical” Sounds

I put “non-musical” in quotes because really any sound can be musical if you use it right. For instance, have you ever thought about starting off a tune with 10 seconds of cash register noises? I know Pink Floyd did in their tune Money, and id say that worked out for them pretty well.

How do you know when noises are just noises or if it could really work in your tune? Well a good rule to go by is asking yourself, does it make sense with the theme of your song? For instance, you probably wouldn’t want to put loud rumbling train noises in the beginning of a soft love ballad (unless it was perhaps a twisted one).

Start thinking beyond your regular choice of musical instruments for sounds that could add a bit more intrigue in your music.

Forget About Using Instruments

Why use instruments at all when we are all born with the handiest instrument of all. Your voice. You can find a cool example of this in Tori Amos’s tune “Me and a Gun”, in which the solo voice works perfectly with the vulnerability of the song (obviously I’m a bit of a Tori fan).

This technique can be used for either a bit of a song or the entire thing. It can also potentially open you up to writing melodies you aren’t capable of playing on an instrument.

Try Cannons

Am I talking about the military projectile weapon? Yes. Yes I am. See it in work for yourself in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture which uses actual cannon shot sounds to commemorate Russia’s victory in the war (see what I’m talking about with making the random sounds you use fit the song?).

At the end of that piece, Tchaikovsky took it upon himself to try and get all the local churches to hit their bells in unison. Im not sure if it ever actually worked out, but you got to admire his ambition.

Moral of the story is don’t be afraid to think big with your music.

Think Of More Crazy Ideas

Now that I potentially have you thinking about music differently, what are some other crazy things we could try in our own music? If you have any ideas, or even if you heard something cool in another piece, let us hear about it in the comments!

About the Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher. Visit Tommaso’s site to know more about how to write music. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for more videos.

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