Arranging 1: Rhythm Section


Authored by Suzanne Dean


Course Code: OCWPR-130

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Arranging 1: Rhythm Section explores all aspects of writing and arranging for the rhythm section. Part of Berklee's required core curriculum, this music arrangement course will teach you how to write for the rhythm section (drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards) and create killer arrangements that really groove. This music arrangement course also directs you on everything you'll need to create an effective arrangement; including rhythm section notation, adaptation of the melody and chords, intros and endings, articulations and dynamics, and how to create an emotional contour throughout the arrangement. Arranging 1: Rhythm Section is essential learning for anyone interested in arranging music for a band, you'll discover how to pick and choose the techniques that work best for you, and how to put them all together in a way that will get everyone moving!

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify different sections of a tune
  • Adapt and notate a melody in different styles
  • Identify certain techniques in the music you listen to
  • Apply various types of rhythm section notation
  • Compose effective intros and endings
  • Create a notation arrangement that is interesting and flows smoothly from beginning to end
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Lesson 1: Parts of a Song

  • Parts of a Song
  • Analyzing a Lead Sheet
  • Formal Analysis
  • Choosing a Style

Lesson 2: Adapt Your Lead Sheet

  • Anticipations
  • Delayed Attacks
  • Diminution and Augmentation
  • Altering Pitches in the Melody
  • Altering Chord Changes

Lesson 3: Drum Notation

  • Specific 3-Part Notation
  • Basic Time, Cymbal Accents, Fills, and Kicks Over Time
  • Stop Time

Lesson 4: A Closer Look at Drum Notation

  • Notation Variations
  • Variation 2
  • Variation 3

Lesson 5: Bass Notation

  • Range and Transposition
  • Bass Lines for Swing
  • Bass Swing Exercise
  • Bossa Nova and Samba Bass Lines
  • Latin Bass Lines in Relation to Other Instruments

Lesson 6: Bass in Pop/Rock, Funk, and Fusion

  • Pop/Rock Bass Lines
  • Funk Bass Lines

Lesson 7: Introductions, Endings, Articulations, and Dynamics

  • Introductions
  • Endings
  • Articulations
  • Dynamics

Lesson 8: Guitar Notation

  • The Instrument
  • Comping
  • Solos
  • Fills
  • Single-Note Comping with Rhythm Slashes
  • Single-Note Comping with Specific Notes
  • Top-Note Voicing

Lesson 9: Guitar Notation Continued

  • Specific Voicings
  • Repeated Voicings
  • Specific Rhythms
  • Power Chords
  • Muffled Chords and/or Single Notes

Lesson 10: Keyboard Notation

  • The Instrument and Hand Span
  • Single and Double Staves
  • Multiple Keyboard Parts
  • Sustain Pedal
  • Chord Voicings

Lesson 11: Keyboard and Guitar

  • Keyboard and Guitar in Rock
  • Keyboard and Guitar in Funk
  • Keyboard and Guitar - Latin Feel
  • Keyboard and Guitar - Funky R & B

Lesson 12: Final Review


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Take the Arranging 1 self-assessment quiz to determine your level.

Completion of Music Notation and Score Preparation Using Finale or Music Notation and Score Preparation using Sibelius Ultimate and Music Theory 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Recommended experience in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice.

Students should be able to:

  • understand music theory, including intervals, chords, major and minor scales, and key signatures
  • read both treble and bass clef notation
  • notate music and create MIDI or audio files


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to submit MP3 files based on their scores which can be produced using either notation software, recording live musicians, or MIDI sequencing in a DAW of their choice.


  • Finale (full version) or Sibelius (Artist or Ultimate)


  • Recommended: One (or both) of the following studio monitoring options:
    • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as an audio interface and necessary cables
    • Over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, Sony MDR-7506, Philips SHP9500, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, etc.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Suzanne Dean


Suzanne Dean is an arranger, composer, keyboardist, guitarist, vocalist and educator. In addition to releasing two albums on Nova Records, she worked as an orchestrator on the television series Jake and the Fatman, and taught at Berklee College of Music from 1997-2017. Her new EP Come To Paradise, was released in April of 2016. One of Suzanne’s songs, Ngizohmaba, was nominated for Best World Traditional Song by her Independent Music Awards fans, for 2016.

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Suzanne received an Associate’s Degree in music from the University of Maine in Augusta, after which she spent some years performing and was the leader of her own jazz quartet. She then attended Berklee College of Music and received a Bachelor's of Music in Film Scoring. After a move to LA, and releasing her first two albums, she attended the Master's program in music composition at California State University in Northridge, California.

Suzanne released her first album on Nova Records in 1987, entitled Dreams Come True. Her second album was released in 1991, entitled I Wonder. These albums featured some of L.A.'s finest studio musicians, such as contemporary jazz greats John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Peter Erskine. These recordings received worldwide distribution and continue to receive airplay in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. The writing and arranging vary from acoustic jazz to fusion and incorporate orchestral elements. In addition to composing and arranging music on the albums, she also served as the keyboardist and vocalist on several of the tracks.

Suzanne’s newest CD Come to Paradise, features well-known LA session musicians including saxophonist Bob Sheppard and guitarist Dean Parks. The music is eclectic but this time consists entirely of original songs for which she wrote both the music and lyrics, with the exception of one song, which was co-written. For this new CD, Suzanne features Nicole Zuraitis, a New York based vocalist versed in a multitude of styles. Suzanne adds some vocals on a few tracks and plays 8 string ukulele on the title track.

Suzanne recently retired as Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music in the Contemporary Writing and Production Department. She taught Music Application and Theory, Arranging 1, Harmony 2, The Music of Laurel Canyon, Women Songwriters of the 20th Century, Artistry Creativity and Inquiry and Arranging for Songwriters. She also authored and teaches Arranging 1: Rhythm Section, for Berklee online.  Read Less

Dan Moretti


Dan Moretti is an American Saxophonist, Recording Artist, Composer, Producer and Educator.  He has been on the faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston since 1996 and currently is holding a full time position as Professor in the CWP (Contemporary Writing and Production) department.  He was given the school’s “Curriculum Development Award” for his popular on-campus course "Groove Writing". At Berklee Online the course is called "Arranging Contemporary Styles."  In 2008, his book "Producing and Mixing Contemporary Jazz" was released on Hal Leonard-Berklee Press.  In 2010 Dan collaborated with Matthew Nichol and Oscar Stagnaro on the book “Essential Grooves” for Sher Music, which is required for Arranging Contemporary Styles.

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Dan has 20 recordings released worldwide.  His newest “Tres Libre” was top 10 nationally on the RMR charts in 2021 on the “Roots Grooves” label.  From 2000 until the present, Dan has also been active in Europe and America performing his music at festivals and presenting seminars in Italy, Turkey, England, Belgium, Holland, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Africa, Ecuador and Gibraltar as-well-as being a sideman with artists like Nile Rodgers and Chic.  Some of the performers he played with are Robert Plant, Stevie Nicks, Chaka Khan, Kid Rock, George Duke, Solomon Burke, and Steve Winwood, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Robert Plant, Kid Rock,  Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, The Temptations, Mike Stern, Omar Hakim, Jimmy Cobb, Dave Samuels, Dave Liebman, Marvin Stamm, Nat Adderly, and The Crusaders. Read Less


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