Cutting and Pasting

Earlier this year, I completed a string arrangement for a client who commented that he liked the way that every ‘verse’ of the strings had changes and variations in it. He said that many string arrangements he’d heard had made use of ‘cut and paste’ with the same string parts returning in an identical way later in the track. This struck me as quite odd as it hadn’t occurred to me to ‘cut and paste’ anything in a composition or string arrangement for a pop song – when you have a 3 or 4 minute pop song, the whole thing grows naturally and will benefit greatly from variety in all of the writing, a theme can develop with variation and add real interest to the track, even if it’s low down in the mix. Changes between sections can be subtle but ideally need to keep some continuity (rather than introducing a brand new melody every time).

In classical music, a composer would usually take the opportunity when a melody returns later in a piece, to transform it with different use of instrumentation but retaining the clear melody or theme which had occurred earlier on. The idea of a later section being ‘cut and pasted’ has an anti-climactic feel for the listener – if this technique is used too often, the music becomes predictable and unmemorable.

With modern music writing software, there can be a tendency to simply highlight a given area and with the click of a mouse, repeat it later on in an unchanged form. Although that might seem like an easy option, it may not be using the full potential of the strings which could have enhanced the track far more with a little creativity.