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  • Writer's pictureDavid Winkler

Arrangement Adaptations

Do you always perform an entire arrangement "as is"?

Those who have sat under my baton know that sometimes I will hold up a piece of printed music and say, "This is NOT the music ... this is just what we use to make the music." Usually this statement is made as a prelude to some type of change in the music I'm going to tell them about, so at that point, everyone begins searching for a pencil :-)

There's nothing sacred about the music on a page. Unless you're playing a performance of classical music where the goal is to follow the composer's intentions exactly, it's totally acceptable to adapt a piece of music to fit your needs. More than once someone has contacted me and said something like, "I hope you don't mind, but I took your arrangement and made such-and-such a change to it." My response has always been, "No problem ... glad you were able to use it in a way that met your needs." And sometimes my answer has been, "That's great ... I wish I had thought of that!" Often in performances I've conducted, the need was for an instrumental opener of only two, or at the most three, minutes in length. In such cases, often we would skip part of the beginning, stop somewhere before the end, or cut out a middle section to pare down the length of the arrangement.

For instance, my arrangement of "Glory to God Forever," part of the Allegis Orchestral Series, takes almost four minutes to play. But in a recent performance, I had our players do measures 1-16 and then skip to measure 37 through the end, cutting the piece down to just under three minutes. Frequently I hear an arrangement that I really like, but there's one part that doesn't seem quite right "in my humble opinion." I'm thinking, for example, of a very nice arrangement of a worship song that has a big chorus towards the end and then an extended soft section to finish it, which to me sounded anticlimactic. When I conducted the piece, I had the orchestra repeat the last big chorus and then skip to the final measure, still ending the piece softly, but not dragging it out so long. Sometimes cuts don't work because of key changes or other musical elements. But with a little creativity, very often you can take a piece of music and adapt it to fit your situation.I would love to hear your comments on these ideas. Please write me at

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