Deke’s 10 Steps in Arranging A Cappella

IMG_1472Based off the book “A Cappella Arranging” which he co-wrote with Dylan Bell (Freeplay Duo), Deke shared 10 steps to an arranging at this year’s Vocal Asia Festival 2015 in Shanghai to a great enthusiastic batch of participants.

This is just a summarized post with the notes taken briefly shared during the 90 minutes.

One should recognise that the process of writing an arrangement is a decision-making process, what goes into the mix, when does it go and why are decisions that many arrangers ask themselves.

Deke shared that the 10 steps are to help you not get stuck, rather than be a do-it-this-way guide as an arrangement is a roadmap – different people will interpret it differently.

  1. Choose the song

    Consider the solo, mood, and the song. To keep in mind also to consider the group you are arranging for, unless it is meant to be a commercially-available arrangement, these things determine a lot of factors while writing the arrangement.

  2. Listen

    Deke challenged the participant to think about the value of listening. What do we listen for? The parts? Harmonies? What is perceived in your head might not be what is doable; and so it is important to keep your ears (and minds) open by listening to a variety of covers, A cappella or not – the motif/idea might just appear in a trombone cover of Rolling in The Deep.

  3. Look & Listen to other Arrangements

    A Cappella is BIG, stop restricting yourself.

  4. Settle the Form

    Listen and Identify the form and segments – it makes work easy. A power arrangement isn’t necessary one that must exhaust its singers.

    “A Cappella is better when shorter.” – Deke Sharon, 2015


  5. Prepare your Materials
    Fail to Prepare = preparing to fail.
  6. Write the Melody

    Most important line, duh.

  7. Write the Bass

    The Bass line serves various functions, mostly as the tonic/root of the chord and as a rhythmic element in your arrangement.

  8. Then, write the Backgrounds

    The instruments and people are important – start fleshing it out, but remember that music isn’t beautiful because it is complex. Deke’s tip: start simple.
  9. Final Touches

    Expressions are like the salt and pepper to a fresh arrangement, so instead of just writing and then looking horizontally, always look vertically at your score – is each chord and moment working?One of the things you should strive is to make the singers want to sing the music, instead of just singing notes.

  10. Learn

    The group has to learn the music – watch how they learn it. How do they take to it – is it too difficult? Why then?It is important for the arranger to know how the group is digesting the arrangement to facilitate editing, if needed.

“A Cappella Arranging” can be bought from Kinokuniya in Singapore.

Derrick KamDerrick KAM is the leader of Acappuccino, a pop-jazz team formed together with a group of friends. By day a Choir instructor and by night an avid A Cappella enthusiast, Derrick hopes to bring the spotlight into Singapore’s A Cappella community in whatever way possible to showcase the diversity and inspire a new generation of singers.

TVB encourages the contributions of ad hoc writers who objectively can present themselves with the goal of promoting the Singapore and/or international A Cappella community at large. Do contact us at to let your voice be heard!


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