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Sinatra Arrangements

Sinatra Arrangements

A while back, I heard this solo piano backing track through a great stereo system at a gig and it caught my attention. When I asked the singer about it he said “you did it”.
That really is embarrassing. I’d never heard the track in a live environment and I thought I was listening to a real piano. It was actually a virtual piano and I’ll let you into a few secrets about why this sounded so authentic.

1. Transcription:

I’d transcribed the original performance note for note, from the original Frank Sinatra performance:

sinatra arrangements

2. Phrasing:

I also recorded the new piano part in sync with the original so that the singer could phrase very naturally, having rehearsed the original Sinatra version. This is quite a complex thing to do, technically and musically and does require some experience to make it work.

3. Performance:

We’ll take it for granted that now we have the notes written down, we can play them properly, sensitively without having to program them in.

4. Mixing:

When most people use a virtual piano, they tend to just export to audio and maybe use some compression, EQ, and reverb. I like to treat a virtual piano just like real grand piano recorded with several microphone positions. I export several stereo tracks, adding different amounts of reverb and send them all to a group channel. I can then mix this much denser, more complicated sound which gives the piano more of a realistic timbre.
Yes, all this takes far more time than most people like to spend.

For more information on written arrangements or recorded arrangements visit smartassmusic arranging or music production

Posted in: arranging, Audio, General, Music

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Brass Arranging for Michael Gray

We had a fun job this week, to provide the brass arrangement for top producer Michael Gray.
“You Got Me Twisted” is a great crossover Dance track, with -as you woud expect-superb production values.
He needed a riff from a Michael Jackson track transcribed, transposed and arranged for trumpet.
We altered the original to fit the rhythmic style and it was a pretty simple job musically, but when you arrange for studio sessions there’s always different things to consider than arranging for live music.

One thing that I always like to do is to notate the “drop in” times on the part. This is the time from the start in minutes and seconds at each prominant section of the arrangement. This makes it easier for the arranger and producer to know exactly where each section is-  musically and from a recording point of view.
Ok, we didn’t actually need it this time but it’s always best to cover every base rather than waste time/money on a session.

When you arrange for recording musicians you can also add more parts than you could live so we had 3 trumpet parts which we then recorded using different mikes. Essentially the part only need a single trumpet but we used 2 on the top octave and doubled the part an octave below to thicken the sound. The producer now has a minimum of 6 tracks to mix as he likes.

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Piano Scales PDF Download

piano scales download
I’d like to start a series of piano/jazz/harmony/arranging tutorials so I thought it would be best to start off with the basics.
You can printout the PDF below which is all major scale for practise at the piano. Here I’ve organised them in groups of fingering rather than keys. There are 3 groups and it’s easier to learn a particular finger pattern and apply it to the group rather than learn each scale separately.

Download piano major scales pdf

Posted in: Music, Piano Technique, Tutorials

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What’s Going on?

I’m exporting loads of audio at the moment on the other computer, so this gives me a chance to let you have an idea of what exactly goes on here!
We had a last minute job come in last week, which was to write the horn arrangements (trumpets and saxes) for a new track by the “Sugababes“. I was lucky to get 2 of my favourite players to record for me-Scott Garland (Jamiroquai, Barry Manilow, Spice Girls) on saxes and Graham Russell (Shirley Bassey, Jamiroquai, Paul McCartney) on trumpet. They did a superb job-especially as the track was tuned up a quarter tone! The track’s not released for quite a while but I think it’s going to be a definite number 1 in the UK (………….that bit isn’t down to us :-))

We’re finishing off a Christmas Gospel album for Marnell Tanner at the moment so I’m preparing everything to go into the studio for the backing vocals session. I’m rather excited because we have 6 session singers who have all done, TV and film sessions so we should be in a for a good couple of days.
We’re recording at Derek Nash’s “Clown’s Pocket” studios and Marnell has come over from the US to record his vocals and supervise mixing. Derek is a great engineer who worked for the BBC for 20years but he’s also a top session saxophonist so he can hear exactly what’s going on musically and read the score! Coincidentally, I have a jazz gig with him this week – fun!

PS as I’ve got no time to write for the library right now-if you have any superb quality music that you’d like to submit, please do HERE

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