Hey guys! My drummer and I are competent musicians who are delving into a bit of arrangement for beginners.

Basically we're recreating popular songs with the goal to have the song still very recognizable, but to find a different 'face' to it, or to change the way it is played so we feel like we've added our own touch. We're going about it by learning the song, thoroughly mastering it, and then just playing around.

Problem is, I only know basic theory and my drummer knows none. It often feels like we're just stumbling around blindly.

Any suggestions?

One Love,
Read the threads stickied here, I know it sounds obvious, but it should teach you a large amount of theory.
if you want it "still very recognizable" then you won't be changing too much, it would be more in the style the songs played. The notes wouldn't change, so the theory issue shouldn't get in the way. try different tones, tempos, etc. try adding in slides and bends where there are none.
But if your looking to change it up a little more drastically than that, keep the melody and lyrics (if its vocals) and try different chords as a foundation. Most people will immediately recognize the melody, but chords would be something new.
You should at least learn chords, notes in the chord, and what chord progression are if you don't already know all that though.
I think you're going about it wrong. You should learn the bare fundamentals of what makes that song unique (usually just the chord progression and lyrics) and then add your own stuff into the mix.

If you were to master how it was done originally, it would be hard to get away from it.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Okay, I'm doing this with a couple of songs right now. The first one is Bad Religion's Whisper in Time which is a little slower than their usual drag race speed but still hard hitting. I do it on acoustic and all the chords played arpeggio. We have light vocals and flute. Same song but a very different feel.
The other is Ride On by Christy Moore. His version is classic acoustic guitar & vocals. Mine is chugging metal with wailing lead over the melody line in the breaks. Get the idea?
It helps if your arrangement still fits the sentiment of the song, but even that is not essential if you do it with a bit of humour.
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