Making “Let’s Go to the Movies”: Musical Arrangements

It’s tempting to suggest that the musical arrangements for Let’s Go to the Movies started immediately and flew off the page once a song list was in hand. The reality, however, is that there is a lot of overlap between selecting songs and writing the arrangements – you start working on a piece, think that perhaps a different song might work better in the overall flow of the album, start working on that second piece, realize that maybe both could be used, start working on the two songs while considering ideas for a third, etc.

And for me, arrangements never just “fly off the page”.

Let's Go to the Movies!

All of the arrangements I developed for this album were composed in MuseScore, a free (and very powerful) open-source music scoring program made available from Muse Group. This software lets you lay out orchestrations of virtually any size, from small combos to full symphonic orchestra. And an integrated playback engine renders the music on the page by simply pressing “play”.

For me, the arranging process generally starts with determining a general concept for the piece – should it be a rich collection of strings (Mona Lisa), or is the piece more appropriate to a small jazz combo (As Time Goes By)? If the original arrangement is iconic, how do you retain that feel but still make it unique (Rainbow Connection)? After that, it’s a patient process of working through the piece measure by measure, chord by chord, to start building up the arrangement. Should the instrumental solo be on flute, or played by trumpet? Does the piece stay in one key, or should it modulate for the last section? And on and on.

For professionals, this process takes time. For me, it takes a lot of time.

Fortunately, for two of the selections on the album I was able to leverage orchestrations that were composed by a professional. Jonathan Allentoff kindly provided arrangements for both Moon River and Go the Distance, pieces I have performed with him in the past. While this lifted the burden of developing my own arrangements for these pieces, what it really did was ensure that at least two of the arrangements for the album would be of high quality.

While developing these arrangements was easily the most time-consuming portion of the project, in its own way it’s also one of the most rewarding. I was very happy with how these arrangements came out, and hope that you enjoy them as well when listening to this album.

With the arrangements in hand, it was time to head into the recording studio (which strangely looks very similar to a room in my home.)

Let’s Go to the Movies releases September 1, 2023 on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and all major streaming platforms.

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