About the Song
Settle Down (Forum5Recordings, 2010) is from Kimbra’s debut studio album Vows. This piece has highly developed layering skill of the vocal harmonies and percussion parts. As soon as Olivia suggested this song, we immediately thought this will give us good challenge and develop our vocal and arranging skills. After choosing the piece, we spend fair bit of time to check whether this song was suitable for school students, in terms of range, register, key, lyrics and the music video.
As our stepping point, we decided to annotate and write out everything we can hear from the original song, main melody to tiny little accompanying parts. My role was to notate all the bass part/percussion part in the original song. Since the original music itself develops from layers of harmony/percussions, it was critical to notate all the percussive materials as much as possible, so that we have more resources to arrange later on.
So, this is what I started with on our first session. Notating rhythms were quite challenging since they were mostly syncopated. However, as soon as I notated the main rhythms of each section, most of them. were repeated or just slightly variated. After notating all the bass and percussion parts, our group combined everything into one score and created a master score. Then, we spent time together arranging the piece through singing few parts together, adding more harmony and more body percussions. We also researched some covers of the song on the YouTube for ideas, for example a performance from the live SXSW 2012 (Palladino, Segundo, 2012).
Then my main role next was to set up the recording spaces for the recording individual voices. We had some struggles singing parts all together since we did not have many singers in our group, hence we chose to record individually. I had experience on recording for the other assessment hence myself and few others set up the appropriate microphones to record singing. Then I was in charge of recording all the vocals into the GarageBand. We recorded parts by parts so that it was easier to monitor/re-record/edit but also easier for singers since we had all the parts moving around equally to each member.
Then the next job was, I had to import the Musescore files into Sibelius and polish the percussion parts. First, I added the ‘Clapping’ rather than ‘wood block’ or the ‘drum set’ then polished notating problems such as rests in wrong position or in the different part. Example underneath;
An idea of A cappella, vocal group with no instrument accompanying – has been growing for past few decades (Folds, 2015). People, especially young adults learn ways to communicate and express their emotions through A cappella. As they communicate their parts, listen to harmonies and shine when they have melody parts really give young adults unforgettable experience in their life.
The one of most challenging part and interesting part of the A cappella is the arranging. It is amazing how the original music can be changed by re-positioning melodies and accompanying parts. Deke suggested to avoid the song which has already been arranged by another A cappella group (Sharon, 2017, p.12). However, we did not follow this since we are targeting for students rather than the professional A cappella group. We thought it would be better to arrange the song with some example around the internet, hence students can easily compare how one music can be varied by changing/repositioning a musical element in the music. And the reason we chose the “Settle down” was that it already had a lot of musical element within the music – hence it can be easily approached to students in teaching about various components in music and how this can be used to arrange a piece. Deke also suggested to listen to the original song repeatedly (Sharon, 2017, p.12). This was essential to hear the harmony and be familiar with the overall structure/atmosphere of the music so that it will be easier when it comes to performing the song. Having the parts written on the computer programme was helpful as well. We exported the individual parts in the mp3 so that it can be used as a resource for students to hear and practice their individual parts, then hear the song as whole – then this will give students a better understanding in their role in the group. This also aligns with the Orff’s approach where the aural learning is essential in student’s school time.
While we were arranging the score, we made sure that the melody and accompanying part was passed around in each member, equally as possible, as Kenny suggested during the lecture. The idea of passing around the melody was to keep the piece interesting and gives each individual a chance to sing the melody line rather than repeating the same bass line over and over again. This also gives an opportunity for students to express their emotion toward the music and communicate them with other individuals in the group, and hear how there are tweaking the original and creating their own unique music. Hence, this will create stronger connection between the student and the music. We incorporated this idea into our arrangement and had the melody passing around the different members of the group. We particularly focused on creating the different tone colour through various voices and try to accompany those individuals with strong harmonies. The reason why Ender (male voice) did not had the main melody was that he had very focused body percussion part. We created this part for students who are not confident in singing out loud. In this way, we can still include them into the group and make them fill valuable in the group first with what they can do. Then slowly, the teacher can put it harmonies for the students to open up and sing out loud with others and enjoy singing in a group.
Vocal range was another factor which was raised for our arrangement. This was another reason why we added quite complicated percussion part in our arrangements. For boys who are going through the voice cracking can still be part as an ensemble hence give them chance to develop their vocals slowly. Also for the girls, as Ramsey discussed in the article, we had parts where it was more catered to sopranos but we also included parts for altos (Ramsey, 2008, p.73). If we use these as an educational resource, we will suggest that they can sing octave lower if they feel too stress singing the high notes – which we did in one of the harmony part.
Overall, this assessment has definitely challenged me in thinking vocal arrangement critically. Through creating an resources and actually singing the product was a challenging process and definitely gave myself an insight on how it can be developed better for the future.
Palladino, Segundo. (2012, Mar 16). Kimbra – Settle Down (live SXSW 2012 – Spotify Sessions) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd7GLvMYSHI&feature=youtu.be
Fold, Ben. (2017). Foreword. Choral Director, 14(2)
Forte Femme. (2014, Feb 14). Settle Down – Forte Femme (Kimbra Cover) – A cappella [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCEk7ncEvPk&app=desktop
Forum5Recordings. (2010, Jul 6). Kimbra – “Settle down” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHV04eSGzAA
Ramsey, Andrea. (2008). Choral Music in the Junior High/Middle School: A Junior High State of Mind: Considerations for Composing and Arranging for the Middle Level Choir. The Choral Journal, 49(2), 73-74
Sharon, D. (2017). Contemporary A cappella arranging in ten steps. Choral Director, 14(12), 12-13.