Should You Buy Professional Arrangements?

sheet music chopinI ran across a blog entry by Mike Chin, co-founder of The A Cappella Blog, and it raised a good question. I thought I might pass it along. It seems to be a pretty hot topic in collegiate a cappella, especially in light of the hit TV show The Sing-Off. I haven’t heard as much about it in the Christian a cappella ranks, but I know it’s present. I’ve dealt with it myself over the years.

He states, “There’s an established market for the sale of professionally written a cappella arrangements. With this in mind, it is best for your group to buy arrangements rather than trying to compose your own?” He goes on to point out dissenting viewpoints.

Buy It Quickly and Move Forward

There’s a pretty good argument for buying an existing arrangement or contracting someone to knock it out for you. As more people come into the a cappella fold every year, the number of arrangers and arrangements increases making songs more available and more affordable. Pay for it and get it done quickly. You’ll save countless hours of energy trying to work out the arrangement that will pay off in a perfected performance.


On the other side, there’s a good argument for doing the work yourself. First (and foremost in my mind) is the fact that it will increase your arranging skills and understanding of the process. You can study all the theory you like, but you really only learn it when you put it into practice. Secondly, to quote Mike:

“A good a cappella arrangement will be serviceable for just about any group, but for a great arrangement to lead to an equally great performance, it should be crafted with the unique group of singers that will perform it in mind. Nine times out of ten, this means someone in the group—someone who knows all the voices involved—should be writing the arrangement.”

Personally, I tend to fall into the second camp… which is tough for me to say since I am an arranger and am often hired to arrange for groups. Maybe there is a third alternative that I fall into… hire an arranger who arranges with the needs of the group in mind. But then, I suppose we all do that.

What do you think? Any group members want to sound off? Leave a comment.

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