Bobby Owsinski's 5 Elements Of A Great Arrangement

A while back I came across a great article about musical arrangement on Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture Blog.

He explains that most songs usually have five elements: Foundation, Pad, Rhythm, Lead and Fills that, when used effectively, can make a great song. Any more than that makes it confusing to the listener.

These elements can also be a helpful analysis tool for a musician in the process of arranging his masterpiece or for anyone who wants to figure out what makes a hit song tick.

Here's a quick overview of Owsinkski's five elements of a great arrangement:

1) Foundation - The Rhythm Section. The foundation is usually the bass and drums, but can also include a rhythm guitar and/or keys if they’re playing the same rhythmic figure as the rhythm section.

2) Pad - A Pad is a long sustaining note or chord. In the days before synthesizers, a Hammond Organ provided the best pad and was joined later by the Fender Rhodes. Synthesizers now provide the majority of pads but real strings or a guitar power chord can also suffice.

3) Rhythm - Rhythm is any instrument that plays counter to the Foundation element. This can be a double time shaker or tambourine, a rhythm guitar strumming on the backbeat, or congas playing a Latin feel. The Rhythm element is used to add motion and excitement to the track.

4) Lead - A lead vocal, lead instrument or solo.

5) Fills - Fills generally occur in the spaces between Lead lines, or can be a signature line. You can think of a Fill element as an answer to the Lead.

On Bobby's blog, he regularly analyzes  current and past hits using these five elements as a template so I highly recommend following his blog.

Read the entire Five Elements of A Great Arrangement article HERE.


About Bobby Owsinski

Bobby Owsinski is a producer, and a music and technical consultant. He has also authored several handbooks geared towards the music industry:

  • The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook
  • The Studio Builder’s Handbook
  • The Touring Musician’s Handbook
  • Mixing And Mastering With T-RackS
  • How To Make Your Band Sound Great
  • The Drum Recording Handbook
  • The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook
  • The Recording Engineer’s Handbook
  • The Audio Mastering Handbook
  • The Studio Musician’s Handbook
  • Music 3.0
  • The Music Producer’s Handbook
  • The Musician’s Video Handbook