Music Arrangements For Cruise Ships

music arrangements for cruise shipsCruise ship singers and entertainers can often find it difficult to know what makes a good quality arrangement and it may take a great deal of experience and money to learn how to avoid mistakes.

Here’s a few tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of  long rehearsals, wasted money and nervous performances!

Firstly I should point out that personally, I’ve written arrangements for many professional cruise ship vocalists as well as the main shows (and TV show, orchestras and Pop acts) but aside from that I am also a freelance pianist and I get to see a wide variety of musical arrangements and talk to vocalists who regularly play guest spots on cruise ships.
My first 2 jobs out of college were in the cabaret band on cruise ships and I’ve even been a passenger and spoken to other bands and artists.

Tip1. Not all Musicians Are Created Equal.

Your arrangements should sound fantastic played by fantastic musicians but also sound good from bad musicians. I spoke to a singer recently at a gig in London and after the first set he was thanking the band for the way the charts sounded. He told me how he’d recently come back from a cruise ship guest spot and had to give up using the band, it sounded so bad. He moved from the theatre to the lounge and had to use backing tracks instead.
It takes a lot of experience in order to write arrangements that take this into account. You may be a seasoned pro’ with beautiful charts and your regular session guys have no problem playing the intricacies that you’re used to hearing but if the band are not up to the same standard then you may have to pull numbers from your carefully worked out set, even after long, extended rehearsals.

Tip2. Make It Easy To Read!

This may seem like stating the obvious but I come across this issue so often.
Music which is quite simple to play but which is written in such a way as to make it difficult. Even if you don’t read music, does it look neat, clear and can be seen at 3-4 feet away? Even if the answer to these questions is “Yes” there’s detail which can still make the arrangement difficult. An example may be a chord symbol written as “Fb7(#11)” – although this may be technically correct sometimes, a commercial musician will ALWAYS prefer to see “E7(#11) , I guarantee it. Good arrangements are written to be read first time with no rehearsal as opposed to get marks in a college exam.
Something which constantly irritates me is that people write music with 5 or 6 bars to each line, especially with Jazz or pop music. Rhythm sections tend to think in groups of 4 or 8 because that’s how the musical phrases sound. If your arrangements have 4 bars (measures) per line, a rhythm section doesn’t need to think much but if your charts have 5 bars (or 6 or 7….I’ve seen them all), your chances of the bass, drums, pianist or guitarist getting lost have just increased by a massive amount.

Tip3. Bands Come In Different Shapes And Sizes

Cruise ship bands not only differ in their level of competence but also the amount of musicians and instruments within the group.  This can be a real headache for the arranger as well as the vocalist. The band that I started my career with was  a 7 piece, with piano, bass, drums, guitar and sax (doubling clarinet) trumpet and trombone. This is a good size band that can cover most music really well but it’s not that common any more.
I tend to ensure that arrangements can be played well by a trio (piano, bass, drums) and include all the necessary cues of the horn parts. That way it’s all covered.

Tip4. Choose Your Key Carefully

OK, we know the show is all about YOU…..and your voice sounds perfect in B major on this song. By all means use your B major arrangements for bands that you know but for bands that you don’t know or if you have little or no rehearsal, take it from me – Bb major of C major will make everybody’s life a great deal easier!

Tip5. It’s Not All About Style, But……

With musicians, style IS important. A great Jazz player may know 1000s of tunes in any key but may not be able to read simple notation or if you put a page of chord symbols in front of a classical trained pianist and you tend to get silence! Your arrangements (especially for piano) should have enough information on them so that a Classical player can read some notes and so the Jazz player can read some chords.

If you are a singer and have any questions regarding arrangements please do feel free to contact me and ask anything you like, no obligations.

When all your arrangements are in order, the band should look like this:
(My cruise ship band from 20 years ago ….and that’s me in the centre )

cruise ship band

Good luck,

James Treweek
Pianist, arranger, composer

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Featured User – “Made In The Shade” video production

made in the shade video productionOur new Featured User is “Made in The Shade” video production.

“CARL FOSPERO Carl started his television career at WGBH Boston in the late 1980s and went on to become a broadcast news producer in New York for NBC, CBS, Reuters and ITV. In 2002 he started Made in the Shade Ltd and began a productive career in the UK as a writer, director, producer and editor for many corporate clients including, Virgin, Virgin Galactic, SONY, Ford, 3M, Canon, BMW, BT and AkzoNobel. He lives in London with his wife, Helen and two children.”

Promote your businessWe’re happy to promote trusted users of
You can manage your profile via your account and we promote you on our homepage, Facebook, Twitter and this Blog.
Only trusted users are made publicly visibly…meaning the free promotion is 100% spam free, high quality content.

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Easily Sharing Tracks with Clients – New Site Features

Our new site contains many new useful features, one of which allows you to easily share music listing with clients.
Click track image (1) which will open the track’s unique page.

easily share tracks

Within this page, you now have access to multiple sharing tools (3) as well as the track’s unique URL (4).
Here you can email the track with a single click (it will open up your mail program), tweet the track’s url, “like” the track on Facebook or open up the sharing widget, with many more options – my personal favourite.
And that’s it!

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Our First Featured User – Promote Your Business

featured userWith the launch of our new site comes our very first featured user. This month it’s “The Cultivated Word“,  a boutique creative services agency specializing in animated video production, among other things.
Users of can create their own profile from within their account and choose a profile to be featured on our homepage.
We also approve (or deny) profiles from being made public so that the content is only high quality with no spam links.

Having a Profile means that we can provide your business with a little boost. You can add video, images, weblinks and text. Each of these  links are seen by Google as well as all the other search engines.

Our featured user is given prominance on our homepage and we do not take paid advertising, so you won’t be hidden amongst a pile of adverts.

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Children’s Music Composition

kids-musicWe  managed to combine hard work with a lot of fun recently, composing  children’s music for a client who is offering a  new concept in kid’s dance classes.
We were given only the lyrics to work from and we had  to compose original  kid’s pop-music which was fun, catchy and rhythmically correct for the children to dance to.
Check out these rough mixes :-):

Cars and Trains :
Farmyard Dance :
Seaside Dance:
Goodbye Dance:

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Big Band on a Budget

Big Band Swing has been back in favor recently and you just can’t beat that sound. Gone are all the production effects, loops and synthezisers used in today’s music and the quality rests solely upon good arranging and good playing. We’ve had a lot of fun arranging Big Band music for a dance show, which will be touring the USA and Canada.

This particular 16 piece band actually consisted of 5 musicians, multi-tracking their parts and joined via the internet!
Our job has been to write the arrangements and make sure that they sound stylistically authentic and are easy to read.
These excerpts are completely unmixed but you can clearly hear the quality of the playing and hopefully, the writing too 🙂

Big Band 1 (unmixed) :
Big Band 2 (unmixed) :
Show Band (unmixed) 1:
Show Band (unmixed) 2:

If you’ve ever sat down to work out the notes of your favourite tune then you’ll have some idea of the daunting task of transcribing and arranging individual notes for 5 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones and rhythm section. When it all comes together and you hear that sound, there’s nothing to beat it.
So if you need a Big Band sound but don’t have a Big Band budget…all is not lost 🙂

Posted in: arranging, General, Music

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Daily Free Downloads

Every day you can now download a different, completely free, full length royalty free music track for your non-profit projects.
Simply login or register and visit this page for your free download:

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Orchestral Soundtracks by Yuri Sazonoff

orchestral musicWe’re introducing film composer Yuri Sazonoff this month with  a  stunning collection of  orchestral pieces – recorded with a live orchestra in Moscow.
Both the playing and the writing are simply wonderful.

These tracks are available to download either as a collection (including various edits) or as individual edits.
Orchestral Soundtracks 1 includes:

Passion of Love – A beautiful,  romantic, 8 minute  uplifting orchestral score. Beautiful string writing.

Vengeance – An exciting Hollywood style action score suitable for  battle scenes and action sequences.

Requiem – A stunning romantic, melancholic piece similar to Barber’s Adagio for strings. (No separate edits available).

9th Sense –  Mysterious, romantic, uplifting, sensual, soundtrack similar to Danny Elfmann.

Olympic Glory – Strong, slow theme. Sophisticated, rich, warm, beautiful, Hollywood style theme.

Olympic Spirit – A triumphant, uplifting, winning style orchestral soundtrack . Exciting and moving.

Each of these tracks (excluding “Requiem”)  have multiple edits available to download.

If this collection was purchased as individual edits it would cost over $400  but you can download this entire package for under $95 🙂

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