What’s in an Arrangement

The whole concept of a gaming orchestra is still a fairly new one. It still requires explanation to confused family members (“You mean games, like Pac-Man?”), so it’s not that weird to consider there isn’t exactly a vast pool of orchestral repertoire (yet). Occasionally the various orchestras will borrow from one another, but more often than not, we’re arranging this stuff ourselves.

What does that mean, anyway?

Much of the time, we don’t have actual sheet music to work with. So we plunk out the notes ourselves. We listen to the song, and if we’re lucky there’s piano music or some other kind of existing notation. Then we boot up that notation software and decide who gets to play what.

MGSO is lucky to have Alyssa (our founder/director/conductor), who’s pro trained and does this music stuff for a living. She worked up this handy PowerPoint for the rest of us, most of whom have never considered writing music before. There’s lots of handy tips and tricks in there, and a special shout-out to converting game music into something that that works for real instruments. (Welcome to the endless loop that is video game music!)

Wait, wait. You mentioned notation software.

Indeed! There are a few options for writing out music, from barebones freebies to “I’m not spending that much if I’m not pro” software. There are certainly more out there than these, but I’m personally in the “not pro” category, and you probably are, too. Nor can I tell you which is “best,” because it depends on your needs. Each program has a demo, so try them all. You get what you pay for, more or less, but rest assured that our MGSO arrangers have used some combination of all of them.

Musecore
FREE

Noteworthy Composer
$49
(free demo, but unable to save)

Sibelius
$119, or various monthly subscriptions
(offers a 30-day free trial)

Finale
Up to $600, depending on version & student/teacher discounts
(offers a 30-day free trial)

More and more of our members are delving into the world of arranging, even those who don’t do music professionally. If you’ve ever considered it, remember you’re not doing it alone, either—ask anyone in the group and they’ll give you tips and tricks, dos and don’ts, on their particular instrument. Because as cool as an arrangement may sound, you also want to make sure it’s physically possible for its players, too.

“You guys need to play music from This Best Game Ever!” our fans shout, and we wholeheartedly agree. But even better is having the music for it. This non-pro musician has dabbled in the art of arrangement. Why not try it out yourself? Arranging music is fun, and doubly so when your piece is out there in the group for a performance. (If not a little nerve-racking. But mostly fun.)