Orchestrators, Arrangers and Copyists/Publishers

By Mike Vaccaro
(from Mike's Musings #13, our newsletter)

In our previous broadcast, dedicated to those who we work with and who help us do our jobs in music, we talked about Composers. To continue, in this broadcast, we will talk about Arrangers, Orchestrators, and Copyists/Publishers.

Orchestrators and Arrangers

Make no mistake about it. Arrangers and Orchestrators, at times, are also called upon to be Composers, in that when they receive a score, there's no telling how finished it will actually be. They may recieve anything from a sketch to a nearly finished product.

To me, the one significant difference between an orchestrator and arranger is that an orchestrator usually works in the visual media (film, TV etc.), and an arranger generally works in the recording and live arenas, (CDs and live shows - most usually for a singer or a band, or an “act”).

These days orchestrators usually know exactly what instruments they are writing for. They have a budget and a designated instrumentation. This rarely changes.

With dwindling budgets in performance venues, arrangers know that at some point their music might be cut down by a certain number of instruments to reach those budgets.

Many times a conductor, administrator, agent, on anyone else in the chain, could decide to cut the orchestra down from 21 to 18, or 15, or 10, or even 6, for example.

Those who cut down orchestras must realize that an arranger can only go so far in planning to have an arrangement work with people cut from an orchestra without writing a new arrangement. The other option is to have the altered arrangement sound weak, to the detriment of everyone except the producer who is saving the money and putting it in their pocket.

Take a five note chord and take 2 notes out. Now listen to how it sounds. You like?

Think of hearing an orchestration on the big screen. A full length picture. Ratatouille, Star Wars, Room With a View, Psycho, Africa, and many other classics of movie music.

Think of the thrill of hearing a horn arrangement for Aretha Franklin, Tower of Power, or your string arrangement for Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Natalie Cole or any number or the great singers that still use a band and string sections.

This is a gift from our friends the orchestrators and arrangers. Great Music!

Copyists / Publishers

Copyists can receive a “score” in any condition these days. From completely finished and written out, to an mp3 file that needs to be deciphered. These are the people who save us time and money with product that has very few, if any, mistakes. Copying mistakes take us time to correct. Time is at a premium every time musicians get together in this busy world.

Publishers get music that is generally ready to print, or can choose to publish the copyists work as originally generated. They too, have the responsibility of providing music with no mistakes or each performer who plays their music must find and fix that mistake. They have a very high average. My only problem with publishers over the years, is that, to save every ounce of paper, they will usually not make a page turn at a long rest., lest they waste paper. This leaves the performer to have to photocopy the piece or cut it up so page turns can be made more easily.

“I have never know a musician that regretted being one.
Whatever deceptions life has in store for you, music is not going to let you down.”
~Virgil Thompson