Playing Arrangements vs. Original Pieces

Playing arrangements…that’s ridiculous. But does it have to be? If you only stick to original works, you can limit yourself and your music.

Playing Arrangements vs. Original Pieces | Hannah B Flute

So consider how arrangements can add to your repertoire. Then, you can choose pieces you want to play and share with an audience. Soon enough, you’ll be able to get better at your instrument and learn fun pieces.

Before we get into the pros and cons, this post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Pros and Cons of Playing Original Pieces

A lot of classical musicians learn to play original works for their respective instruments. If you’re a flute player, that means learning pieces by Bach, Mozart, and the French composers.

But there’s a lot more out there to music. Still, playing original pieces can be a great way to learn about music history and express that history to an audience.

Here are a few pros and cons of playing works originally written for your instrument.

Learn Standards

Of course, the biggest advantage is that you get to learn the standard repertoire for your instrument. If you want to become a professional classical performer, learning standard pieces is necessary.

Even if you don’t want to perform classical music professionally, learning the big pieces can help you grow as a musician. If you learn, say, the Mozart Flute Concerto in G, you’ll be in a good position if you ever need to play it in an audition.

You have to go through a process to learn the piece from front to back. And that takes time and discipline. Those things can help you learn other pieces, whether you stick to classical music or not.

Written for You

Another benefit of sticking to original pieces is that they’re for your instrument. You don’t have to worry about finding a piece that is impossible to play. As a flute player, I don’t have to worry about which note to play from a piano score or a violin double stop.

That can make learning and actually practicing a lot easier. When you play off of a part for a different instrument, you have to do more planning. And if you don’t know what to look for to find the melody, you may struggle.

If all you want to do is play your instrument, you should stick to pieces that composers have written specifically for it. While those pieces may not always be the easiest to play, they (should) fit the range.

Can Be Limited

One of the drawbacks of sticking to original pieces is that you can limit the music you play. For example, the piccolo didn’t start to grow its repertoire until a few decades ago. So if you want to play Romantic era works, you basically have to find an arrangement.

Other instruments, like the saxophone, face similar limitations. Saxophonists who want to play Bach won’t find any original works. If you want to stick to original music for the saxophone, you only have about 200 years of music.

That may sound like a lot, but it can still limit you. So consider the type of music you want to play, such as the era or style. That way, you can decide if only playing arrangements might be worth it.

May Not Be Your Favorite

Speaking of music you like, that’s another downside to only playing music for your instrument. If you don’t love contemporary music, you might not want to play a ton of original piccolo works.

Consider if you find yourself listening to music for other instruments more than music for your own. Odds are, you can find an arrangement that works for your instrument, or you can do the arranging yourself.

You shouldn’t have to force yourself into a box based on the instrument you play. Sure, you may have to learn some of the standards. But you should be able to experiment and play what you want.

Pros and Cons of Playing Arrangements

While playing arrangements may seem out there, it can be a great way to make music. A lot of the pros and cons of arrangements are opposite those of the pros and cons of playing original pieces.

But it’s still worth looking at the advantages and disadvantages. That way, you can figure out if you want to focus on playing arrangements or if you want to balance them with original music.

More Repertoire

Of course, when you open yourself up to playing arrangements, you have access to a ton more music. As a flute player, I love playing the prelude from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, so I arranged it for the flute.

I also love music by Debussy. Syrinx is one of my favorite pieces, but I also like the solo piano piece, 2 Arabesques. Like the Bach cello suite, I made an arrangement of the piano work for the flute.

You have access to tons of pieces, even if you play an instrument with a large repertoire. And you don’t even have to stick to classical music. If you like to play pop tunes, you can find the sheet music for those songs or learn them by ear.

Enjoy the Piece

You don’t have to worry about not learning a piece you love to listen to. If you find yourself listening to a specific piece a lot, consider finding an arrangement for it for your instrument.

Sure, you might be able to use the original score. But if you play a transposing instrument or don’t want to read different clefs, arrangements are great. You can play the pieces you want, regardless of their original instrumentation.

Hard to Play

Sadly, playing arrangements can be difficult, sometimes more so than original works. When you try to play a work for a different instrument, you may face issues with the range or the notes themselves.

For example, take playing a violin piece on the flute. You might encounter double stops, so you have to pick a note to play. Or you might have to transpose the low G through Bb or B up an octave.

If you want to just focus on learning the music without adapting it, you might find playing arrangements is annoying. So if you really want to play pieces for other instruments, don’t be afraid to shop around for a good arrangement.

Not Standard

If you’re in music school or want to turn your music into a career, especially in the classical world, playing arrangements might be out of the question. Your school may have specific requirements for the music you learn.

Of course, you can always learn arrangements outside of school. But that just adds more work to your plate. And you may not want to spend that extra time practicing.

You can also wait until the summer or after you graduate. But even then, you might need to spend time learning excerpts so that you can get into grad school or land an orchestra job.

Is Playing Arrangements or Original Pieces Better?

Playing arrangements and original pieces both offer unique benefits. You can learn music just for your instrument but also explore repertoire for other instruments.

Think about where you currently are as a musician and your future goals. Then, you can figure out what type of music will help you get to where you want to be.

For some people, playing arrangements doesn’t make sense. But for others, balancing arrangements and original rep is great.

Is Playing Arrangements for You?

Playing arrangements can be a great way to express yourself. You don’t have to play the same pieces as every other flute player. Instead, you can have fun and enjoy the music you love listening to.

Just make sure you don’t sacrifice learning standard repertoire. Try to find a balance between the two types of pieces.

Want to start playing arrangements? Head to Flute Files to check out my growing library of arrangements for the flute!

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