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Interacting regularly with fans of steelband music, especially those on the When Steel Talks networks, I have often encountered the term "Text book" arrangement when discussing Panorama performances. This expression always perplexed me. I often found myself wondering where this textbook on arranging for Panorama can be found. Searched quite a bit for it but to no avail, so I figured I will write my own.

In a quick worded summary version, a textbook arrangement should have an intro, verse, chorus, variations, recap and ending. One of the variations should include a minor re-harmonization if the actual song is in a major key.

According to Dr. Jeannine Remy, it was a combination of Anthony Williams, Bobby Mohammed and Clive Bradley who carved the foundations for the "standard format" of today's Panorama arrangement. I use quotation marks because it is this "standard format" that may be the mysterious "textbook" arrangement.

The Panorama arrangement has become a very complicated creature and as a result, it would always be a topic for debate as to what would be the "textbook" arrangement. Nonetheless, the following are suggestions to establish what the The "textbook" arrangement should look like:

This has to do with how many independent voices we hear simultaneously in the music.
The textbook says:
Panorama arrangements should consist of:
Rhythm/Drums: Any non-pitch percussion would fall into this category
Accompaniment: This is any group of instruments that provide a "musical bed" of chords
Counter Melody

Any combination of these five voices is an acceptable panorama texture.

Structure is the recognizable sections that a panorama arrangement can be broken into.
The textbook says:
Every panorama song should have the following structure
-Song (verse/chorus in the original key as sung by artist)
-Variations (I, II, III, IV, V)
-Recap (in original key as verse chorus)

This is where the lines of what is TEXTBOOK and what is not can be very blur. Using the Panorama structure as described above...

The textbook says:
-Arrangers may use any key (major/minor), progressions, drops, jams and motifs as he/she chooses.
-There must be some reference to the actual song MELODY to come.
-The INTRO should be approximately 1/10th of the total length of the piece, so a 10-minute piece should have an intro lasting one minute when performed to tempo.
-Textbook tempo is 114-124 bpm.

The textbook says:
-This is the actual song and should sound that way. It must be recognizable and in the original key as written by the composer.
-The texture should closely mirror the actual performance of the original song. Therefore, if the original song uses drums, bass, keyboards, brass, backup voices and lead singer, all of these should be recognizable during the panorama band's performance. Also, if the song has an introduction before the lead singer sings, then the band should represent this.
-The progressions used in the original song must be used in this section of the panorama arrangement.

Any amount of variations may be used. Arrangers have the freedom to compose and basically be as creative as their mind would dare. It is here that the men are separated from the boys. But what exactly would be considered textbook for a variation section in terms of harmony and musical development.

The textbook says:
-There should be five variations of length 60-90 seconds each.
-The first variation should be a repeat of the verse/chorus with the melody in the lower pans (Guitars, cellos, quads) with the exception of the BASS.
-The second variation should highlight the arranger's favorite theme or phrase from the original song, no more than four bars. This theme should then be passed around as many pans as desired and should also be modulated.
-The third variation should be a jam session. The bass and accompaniment pans should lay a musical foundation (usually a four chord progression related to the song) that the tenor pans could showcase their musical virtuosity. This jam session should modulate into the fourth variation
-The fourth variation should now allow the bass and lower pans to showcase their virtuosity. The arranger may also opt for a change in feel, rhythm and key.
-The fifth variation should feature a DEFINITE modulation. If the music was not previously in a MINOR key, this is the last chance. If it was already in a minor key, raise it up to the major. This variation may also "word paint" the actual song, that is, if the song is about rain, then imitate rain, if it was about trains, then imitate a train, if the words were about war (musical), imitate it, etc. etc.

The transitions through the different variations are all up to the musical ability of the arranger. On concluding the final variation the arranger must bring the music back to the verse chorus in the original key for the recap.

This is a return to the original verse/chorus or some significant part of it in the original key. It does not need to adhere to the strict requirements of the first hearing of it. Voices may be added or reduced to vary the texture.

This is the opposite of the intro and should lead to a climatic ending.
The textbook says:
-It should include a jam session
-It should re-state a primary motif, phrase or melody taken from the original song.
-It should be resounding, definite and FINAL.
These are suggestions of the TEXTBOOK - any arrangement varying from these suggestions should not be considered textbook.

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Replies to This Discussion

Towards a better understanding of the PANORAMA ARRANGEMENT!!!

Wow,  wow, wow.  and here I thought the bands had to follow the guidelines as given to them by the association.  Then the arrangers could use whatever talent they could muster to catch the judges and the "people's choice".

But then, don't we have a musical festival for those intricate rules?

Boi, I dumb  oui.

Brenda H.


Yes KL

The way it should be and the way it is, is 2 different roads. I agree in lots of ways but, Textbook arrangement got Starlift nowhere when they played Kitch’s Mas in South back in 66.

Deviating from that in 1978 with only a rhythm section intro won them great accolade.

I believe it’s still down to the judges and the performance vibes on the night.

Textbook arrangement got North Stars 2nd place in 1965 when Cavaliers dropped the bass line innovation playing Melody’s Mas. Definitely a performance vibe on the night.

Similarly last year’s Full Extreme by All Stars was all about performance vibe on the night.



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