david santistevan


10 Tips For Great Arranging

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Ever been in a worship team situation where all you hear is a mess of noise? Each musician in the band seems to be the captain of their own planet, ignoring the rotation of all the others. This is all too common for musicians to show off what they can do instead of submitting to what a song really needs. Since I’ve already addressed the need for both preparation and spontaneity, I want to focus on one very important aspect of preparation; and that is the arranged song.

Here are some things that I think through as I arrange songs:

  1. Assess what instruments I have to work with
  2. Appoint deliberate entrances & exits for each instrument
  3. Allow the song to breathe – rarely should every instrument be ‘full-out’ at the same time
  4. Make sure BGV’s are BGV’s
  5. Experiment with the bass ‘dropping out’ occasionally (Btw, visit my friend Rob’s site for insight)
  6. Utilize piano for lead lines instead of electric guitar occasionally
  7. Familiarize yourself with loops & software instruments (I use the brilliant stuff from these guys)
  8. Set each instrument part in its proper frequency range
  9. Teach your musicians to gradually add as they go
  10. Experiment with fresh sounds – this could include loops, but also a detuned guitar, mandolin, harmonica, synths, percussion, etc. Anything you’re not used to.

Though not revolutionary, if you apply these tips your worship team will sound better, have more fun, and create more powerful music. The power of music is really all about what you don’t play.

Arrangers, what did I miss? What do you do to create great arrangements?


November 16, 2010 - Posted by | Music, Worship


  1. We have pretty standard band setup (2 guitars, bass, drums, keys (sometimes hammond or trumpet) and use the arrangements at http://www.praisecharts.com. The lead sheets are really helpful because they include basic cues for when each instrument enters/exits and rhythm cues based on the recording.

    I really like your idea of using piano for lead lines instead of electric guitar. (probably ‘cos I’m a pianist :-P)

    P.S. I ran a workshop with my team this year about building up a song/adding dynamics by starting with just one instrument and gradually adding. We analysed the song Prodigal by Michael Gungor which starts with just one single note on the piano (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOm6e3rzfzY&feature=related). After that we borrowed Michael Gungor’s techniques and practised I Could Sing of Your Love Forever in the same style. It worked really well!

    Comment by sweetasnzgirl | November 18, 2010 | Reply

    • Great stuff. Cool to hear what God is doing in another nation. Were you born and raised in NZ?

      Comment by dsantistevan | November 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. Yes – I’m a born and bred ‘Kiwi’ (aka New Zealander). Awesome country and God is doing great things here. Pity it’s so far away from everything else though!

    Comment by sweetasnzgirl | November 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] Tuesday 10 Tips for Great Arranging […]

    Pingback by The Weekly Wrap-Up « david santistevan | November 21, 2010 | Reply

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