Sometimes, I read "this song was arranged by someone", and "this song was scored by somebody else".

What's the difference between scoring some music and arranging it?

3 Answers 3


According to the definition a score is:

a written form of a musical composition; parts for different instruments appear on separate staves on large pages; "he studied the score of the sonata"

Definition of score

Whereas arrangement is:

In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure.

Definition of arrangement

So a score is a way of laying out a piece of music but an arrangement is a different way of playing an existing piece of music.


I'd say the conceptual difference is

  • Scoring is putting the notes down on paper for a band/orchestra to read.

  • Arranging is actually being responsible for deciding what those notes may be.

The arranger may not physically write the score, that job may be given to a transcriber.

But I'd also say both are otherwise used so interchangeably that my definition cannot be relied on to separate the 2 acts in everyday usage.


'Scoring' is a somewhat vague word that could mean a number of activities that involve writing a score. It it often used to mean writing a whole set of accompanying music:

James Roy Horner has scored over 100 films. 

It is also often used in the form "scored for", telling us what instruments the piece is written for. In this sense it could mean the same as arranged:

This piece is scored for strings and woodwind.

Arranging is the act of writing music such that it is suitable to be played by a certain instrument or ensemble. So we can say

 Eleanor Rigby features a double string quartet arrangement by George Martin.

In which context we are talking about Eleanor Rigby as an original composition. However, if we say

Tonight's concert will feature an arrangement of the Mission Impossible theme 
for theremin, sousaphone and recorder

then it's clear that we are talking about a new version of an existing piece of music.

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