Working in the music arrangement business usually requires one to be sufficiently musically knowledgeable that one can read music, play music on one or more musical instruments, and write music. It is also necessary to have knowledge of orchestration and music harmony. Getting formal training as a result of majoring in music in college can be helpful if you aspire to become a music arranger; however, one's musical training need not necessarily be formal if one has sufficient musical skill. For example, one could be informally trained to be a music arranger as a result of being a member of a music group or as a result of working directly with singers or record companies.
Developing the ability to quickly sense the needs of a singer or musical group can be important if you hope to become a music arranger. One of the primary jobs music arrangers have is to arrange music based on the specific needs of a singer or group. The music used could be an existing song or it could be a new song being written. Arranging music requires that the music arranger be certain that each part of a song is harmonized sufficiently. This means the instruments, tempo, and mood must fit together perfectly.
Listening, understanding, and working well with others are important traits to have if you plan to become a music arranger. Good music arrangers have to know how to collaborate with singers, groups, music producers, or music directors who will establish guidelines on how a song should be done. The music arranger must be able to understand the direction of the music director and must be able to bring the director's musical vision to life.
Being willing to relocate to a major music city such as Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles and being willing to adapt to various potential work settings is also important if one wants to become a music arranger. For instance, music arrangers may work for a record company; however, they may also work in other settings such as television, movies, or in a music service. In a television job, a music arranger could be asked to arrange the music used in comedy shows or other types of television programs. In movies, a music arranger could be asked to arrange the music that ends up being the theme song or perhaps background music played in various scenes. By contrast, at a music service, a music arranger would likely be asked to arrange or orchestrate the type of music one typically hears in shopping malls, department stores, physicians' offices, or other public settings.
Having willingness to begin as a freelancer can be important if you hope to become a music arranger. In fact, it is possible that a beginning music arranger may not be able to make a living solely doing music arrangement and this may result in one having to get another job to support oneself. Also, work hours could be inconsistent because musicians work varied hours. Granted, if one is persistent and if one is able to get noticed, one will begin to get more clients. Once the clients begin to accumulate, it becomes possible to make income of $75,000 US Dollars (USD) per year or much more depending on the work setting or city.