Arranging: Contemporary Styles


Authored by Dan Moretti


Course Code: OCWPR-250

Next Semester Starts
Jan 10, 2022

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Arranging: Contemporary Styles is an award winning, informative, ear-opening course covering writing and production in over 30 styles. The course has been a requirement on campus at Berklee for more than 15 years where it is called Groove Writing. It is a perfect follow up to Arranging 1: Rhythm Section. In this music arrangement course, in addition to learning about these important styles, you will create your own great grooves and hybrid styles in the same fashion as many successful contemporary artists and producers.

Read More

Learn how to write, record, and produce for the rhythm section (drums, percussion, bass, guitar, keyboards, and melody) -- no previous DAW experience necessary. Some of the styles covered include rock, pop, soul, R&B, Brazilian, Afro Cuban, funk, and hip-hop. During this process, you will increase your style, vocabulary. and performance skills, while learning a bit of background history, too. These styles are also essential learning for producers and instrumentalists interested in songwriting and composing music for soundtracks, jingles, music beds, and film work. Short 4-8 measure examples are produced weekly with a midterm and final project. By the end of this music arrangement course, you will have a greater knowledge of styles, including scoring, production skills, and creative techniques that can be used to duplicate or combine styles. You will build an impressive portfolio of recordings and arrangements that will enhance your songwriting and production library and impress potential clients.

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand contemporary styles and their applications in today's music world
  • Recognize style influences and create your own grooves using a root approach
  • Recognize the production approaches that define these styles
  • Expand your musical language stylistically through leaning identifiable rhythms
Read Less
Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
Request Info


Lesson 1: The Great Rhythm Sections

  • Listening Analysis: How Should You Listen?
  • The Great Rhythm Sections
  • Discussion 1.1: Discuss What Makes a Song Groove?
  • Motown: Jamerson/Benjamin
  • Stax Records: Dunn/Jackson
  • British Invasion Rock: The Who
  • California '60s: Osborn/Blaine, "The Wrecking Crew"
  • Big Easy Funk: Porter/Modeliste
  • The Philly Sound: Baker/Young
  • Muscle Shoals: Hood/Hawkins
  • The Funk: James Brown
  • British Invasion Rock: The Stones
  • Nashville: Moore/Harman
  • New York Soul: Rainey/Purdie
  • Reggae: Sly & Robbie
  • Hard Rock: Rush
  • Discussion 1.2: Your Favorite Rhythm Sections
  • Quiz: The Great Rhythm Sections
  • Assignment 1: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 2: Pop/Rock

  • What Is Groove?
  • Style Characteristics of Pop/Rock
  • Listening Analysis: How Should You Analyze?
  • Listening Analysis: Van Halen, "Jump"
  • Listening Analysis: Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction"
  • Listening Analysis: Paula Cole: "Me"
  • Listening Analysis: The Pretenders, "Chain Gang"
  • Listening Analysis: Sting, "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"
  • Discussion 2.1: Analyze and Transcribe
  • Quiz: Identifying Pop/Rock Grooves
  • Assignment 2: Write a Pop/Rock Groove

Lesson 3: Brazilian, Part 1: Samba and Bossa

  • Style Characteristics of Samba
  • Samba Rhythms and Instruments
  • Samba: Surdo de Primera
  • Samba: Surdo de Segunda
  • Samba: Surdo de Tercera
  • Samba: Repinique
  • Samba: Caixa
  • Samba: Tamborim
  • Samba: Agogô
  • Putting It All Together: Samba Batucada
  • Listening Analysis: Samba with Contemporary Rhythm Section
  • About Bossa Nova
  • Style Characteristics: Bossa Nova
  • Listening Analysis: "Girl from Ipanema"
  • Listening Analysis: "Song for My Father"
  • Generic Bossa
  • Discussion 3.1: Explore Samba and Bossa
  • Assignment 3: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 4: Brazilian, Part 2: Partido Alto, Baião, and Hybrid Grooves

  • Style Characteristics of Partido Alto and Baião
  • Building the Baião Rhythm: Pandeiro
  • Building the Baião Rhythm: Zabumba
  • Building the Baião Rhythm: Coconut
  • Building the Baião Rhythm: Triangle
  • Putting It All Together: Baião
  • Hybrid Styles
  • Discussion 4.1: Analyze Brazilian Hybrid Styles
  • Quiz: Brazilian Music Listening
  • Assignment 4: Brazilian Styles, Part 2

Lesson 5: Afro-Cuban, Part 1

  • Style Characteristics of Afro-Cuban Rhythms
  • Typical Afro-Cuban Rhythms
  • Latin Instruments
  • About the Clave
  • Afro-Cuban 6/8
  • Building the Afro-Cuban 6/8 Groove
  • Putting It All Together: The Afro-Cuban 6/8 Groove
  • Building the Cha-Cha-Cha: Intro
  • Building the Cha-Cha-Cha: Timbale
  • Building the Cha-Cha-Cha: Guiro
  • Putting It All Together: The Cha-Cha-Cha
  • Buena Vista Social Club, Page 1
  • Afro-Cuban Hybrid Examples
  • Discussion 5.1: Analyze Cha-Cha-Cha
  • Assignment 5: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 6: Afro-Cuban, Part 2

  • What Is Mambo?
  • Style Characteristics of Mambo
  • Mambo Basic: Conga, Timbale (Cascara), Guiro, Bongo Bell
  • Putting It All Together: Mambo Basic Tumbao
  • Mambo: A Traditional Groove
  • Mambo: Latin Jazz Mambo
  • The Palladium Era
  • Hybrid Styles: Listening Examples
  • Hybrid Styles: Corazón Espinado
  • Hybrid Styles: Represent
  • Hybrid Styles: Real Emotions
  • Hybrid Styles: Mambo Mixed
  • Hybrid Styles: Have You Met Miss Jones?
  • Hybrid Styles: Trippin'
  • Discussion 6.1: Analyze Hybrid Examples
  • Quiz: Listening Quiz for Lessons 5 and 6
  • Assignment 6: Write Your Grooves
  • Extra Credit, Option 1: Test
  • Extra Credit, Option 2: Rewrite Melody

Lesson 7: Soul

  • Style Characteristics of Soul
  • Soul Music Studios and Links
  • Listening Analysis: Dan Penn, "Dark End of the Street"
  • Listening Analysis: Dan Penn, "Memphis Women and Chicken"
  • Listening Analysis: Dan Penn, "Cry Like a Man"
  • Listening Analysis: Aretha Franklin, "Respect"
  • Listening Analysis: "In the Midnight Hour" and "Soul Man"
  • Listening Analysis: Booker T. & The M.G.'s, "Green Onions"
  • Listening Analysis: Booker T. & The M.G.'s, "Hip Hug-Her"
  • Listening Analysis: "What'd I Say" and "You're a Sweet Man"
  • Discussion 7.1: How Would You Analyze the Soul Examples?
  • Discussion 7.2: Political and Historical Events That Influenced Soul Music
  • Assignment 7: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 8: Motown

  • Style Characteristics of Motown
  • Northern Soul: The Motown Record Company
  • Listening Analysis: The Temptations, "My Girl"
  • Listening Analysis: Four Tops, "Standing in the Shadows of Love"
  • Listening Analysis: The Supremes, "Where Did Our Love Go?"
  • Listening Analysis: More Motown Sounds
  • Listening Analysis: More Motown Sounds, Page 2
  • Discussion 8.1: How Would You Analyze the Motown Examples?
  • Discussion 8.2: Comparing Motown and Stax and Muscle Shoals Soul
  • Quiz: Soul and Motown Listening
  • Assignment 8: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 9: James Brown

  • Style Characteristics of James Brown Funk
  • Listening Analysis: "Please, Please, Please"
  • Listening Analysis: "Out of Sight"
  • Listening Analysis: "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"
  • Listening Analysis: "Cold Sweat"
  • Listening Analysis: "Turn It Loose" and "Sex Machine"
  • Listening Analysis: "The Payback"
  • Discussion 9.1: How Would You Analyze the Funk Examples?
  • Discussion 9.2: Civil Rights Movement and Funk
  • Assignment 9: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 10: 70's and 80's Funk

  • Style Characteristics of '70s and '80s Funk
  • Listening Analysis: The Commodores, "Brick House"
  • Listening Analysis: The Meters, "Cissy Strut"
  • Listening Analysis: Jean Knight "Mr. Big Stuff"
  • Listening Analysis: Ohio Players, "Fire"
  • Listening Analysis: The Meters, "People Say"
  • Listening Analysis: Tower of Power, "What Is Hip"
  • Listening Analysis: Tower of Power, "Soul Vaccination"
  • Listening Analysis: Tower of Power, "Down to the Nightclub"
  • Listening Analysis: Tower of Power, "Oakland Stroke"
  • Listening Analysis: Tower of Power, "Squib Cakes"
  • Listening Analysis: Rick James, "Super Freak"
  • Listening Analysis: P-Funk
  • Listening Analysis: Chic, "Good Times"
  • Listening Analysis: Michael Jackson
  • Discussion 10.1: Comparing the Funk Examples
  • Quiz: Funk Music Listening
  • Assignment 10: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 11: Hip-Hop and Related Styles

  • Style Characteristics of Hip-Hop
  • Listening Analysis: Hip-Hop
  • Listening Analysis: "I Wanna Be Down" (Remix)
  • Listening Analysis: Adina Howard, "Freak Like Me"
  • Listening Analysis: En Vogue, "My Lovin"
  • Listening Analysis: Groove Collective, "Rentstrike"
  • Listening Analysis: Hip-Hop Sequence
  • Listening Analysis: Contemporary Hip-Hop Examples
  • Listening Analysis: Jazz-Related Hip-Hop
  • Discussion 11.1: How Would You Analyze the Hip-Hop Examples?
  • Discussion 11.2: Trends and Style Names
  • Assignment 11: Write Your Grooves

Lesson 12: Your Final Mix

  • Final Project: Overview
  • Final Project: Grading Criteria
  • Final Project: Submit Your Idea
  • Final Project: Proposal 16 Bars Notated
  • Final Project Submission
  • Course Wrap Up



Completion of Arranging 1: Rhythm Section or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Recommended experience in a DAW of choice.

Required Textbook

Essential Grooves for Writing, Performing and Producing Contemporary Music By Dan Moretti, Matthew Nicholl, and Oscar Stagnaro. Sher Music

Software Requirements

  • Finale (full version), Sibelius (full version) or MuseScore

    Most assignments will require you to write, score, and record short four to eighth bar grooves in different styles. For each assignment, you will submit both the score and a recording of your groove. Your score must either be created using Finale, Sibelius, or MuseScore which must then be saved as  a PDF file. For your recording, you must supply an MP3 file, whether you choose to record your band playing or sequence the groove using music production software.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphone
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. 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


Dan Moretti

Author & Instructor

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.

Read More

Dan has 18 recordings released worldwide.  His newest “Invoke” is on the label Dodicliune.  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


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.


Get Info