Arranging: Small Ensemble and Horns

Author: Jerry Gates   •   Course Code: OCWPR-231

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Whether you are writing for jingles, soundtracks, or pop songs, knowing how to write/arrange for smaller bands and larger ensembles is crucial to your success. Arranging: Small Ensemble and Horns explores the properties of the trumpet, trombone, and alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones and approaches the techniques and melodic embellishments that will give you a basic understanding of writing/arranging for these horns as a section. In this music arrangement course, you will focus on applying writing processes for two-, three-, four-, and five-part horn combinations; skills that can be applied to both live instrumentation and sampled or synthesized sounds. You really can't write effective sequenced parts without knowing what real players would characteristically play on these instruments. This music arrangement course will provide you with a greater understanding of the possibilities and sounds that the horns as a section can add to your arrangement.

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Learn to identify chord symbols
  • Understand trumpet and trombone instrumentation
  • Understand the instrumentation breakdown of saxophones
  • Write within a given key and transpose to fit a specific instrument (unison writing)
  • Understand and complete an arranging process
  • Understand melodic development
  • Write two-part and three-part soli sections

Lesson 1: Chord Symbol Identification

  • Major Chords
  • Minor Chords
  • Dominant Chords
  • Augmented Chords
  • Diminished Chords
  • Half Diminished Chords

Lesson 2: Rhythm Section Notation Review

  • Drums: 3-Part Notation
  • Drums: Stop-Time Notation
  • Drums: "Kicks Over Time" Notation
  • Bass: Written Out Pitches
  • Bass: Rhythmic Notation with Slashes
  • Bass Activity 2
  • Guitar
  • Guitar: Melodic Lines
  • Guitar: Comping Parts
  • Keyboards: Melody Parts
  • Keyboards: Comping and Solos

Lesson 3: Instrumentation: Trumpet and Trombone

  • Trumpet
  • Trumpet With Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area
  • Trumpet Mutes
  • Tenor Slide Trombone
  • Pedal Tones
  • Trombone Range Breakdown
  • Slide Positions

Lesson 4: Instrumentation: Alto, Tenor, and Baritone Saxophones

  • Eb Alto Sax
  • Alto with Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area
  • Bb Tenor Sax
  • Tenor With Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area
  • Eb Bari Sax
  • Bari Sax With Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area

Lesson 5: Unison Writing

  • Writing within a Given Specific Key
  • Transposing to Fit a Specific Instrument
  • Combinations of Horns on Unison Melodies
  • Two Octaves Playing the Melody
  • Three Octaves Playing The Melody

Lesson 6: The Arranging Process and the Midterm Project

  • Considerations Before Writing Pitches
  • The Arranging Process
  • Midterm Project Review

Lesson 7: Melodic Development

  • Eighth-Note Anticipations: Melodic Development
  • Quarter-Note Anticipations
  • Eighth-Note Delayed Attacks
  • Quarter-Note Delayed Attacks

Lesson 8: Melodic Development Continued

  • Straight vs. Swing
  • Sixteenth-Note Anticipations
  • Sixteenth-Note Delayed Attacks

Lesson 9: Harmonization: 2-Part Couplings (Soli Writing)

  • Melodic Couplings: Diatonic Thirds and Sixths
  • Intervals of Fourths and Fifths
  • Seconds and Sevenths
  • Orchestrating the Harmonized Melody

Lesson 10: Three-Part Soli Writing

  • Harmonizing A Diatonic Melody with Triads
  • Diatonic Approach-Chord Harmonization
  • Chromatic Approach Chord Harmonization
  • Applying Triadic Voicings to 4-Part Chords

Lesson 11: Three-Part Soli Writing (Continued)

  • Tension Substitution
  • Omit 2, 3, or 4 Technique
  • Harmonization with Diatonic Major and Minor Triads
  • Special-Case Voicings

Lesson 12: Background Lines

  • Voice Leading Background Lines
  • Common Tones in Background Lines
  • Creating Complex Background Lines
  • Final Project

Jerry Gates

Author & Instructor

Composer, producer, educator, orchestrator and arranger Jerry Gates has been a music industry professional for over thirty-five years. At Berklee College of Music, he teaches in the Contemporary Writing and Production Department and has taught most of the core classes in that major. He has authored Arranging For Horns through Berklee Press and Hal Leonard Publishing and has self published All Twelve: Dodecaphonic Sources For Contemporary Composition.

For Berklee's online school, Jerry has authored Arranging: Rhythm Section and Horns, Arranging: Advanced Horns and Writing for Woodwinds and Strings for Additionally, Jerry teaches writing techniques such as contemporary composition, orchestration and arranging privately through his website, He is is one of four directors of the large ensemble recording orchestra at Berklee College of Music and at the rank of Professor teaches Contemporary Arranging techniques, Directed Studies in Arranging, Contemporary Twelve-Tone Composition, Orchestration, and Writing and Production in the Recording Studio.

Over a period of many years in the industry, Jerry has acquired skills that allow him to work in a number of different capacities. He finds that this variety of skills allows him to be valuable to a client. This also keeps his job challenging as he never knows what role he will work in next. Working globally, Jerry's most recently completed projects include symphonic treatments and arranging original music for the Polish/German jazz quartet Poetic Jazz. He has produced, orchestrated and conducted string sessions for noted Egyptian producer/Arab Idol judge Hassan El Shafei. Jerry has also produced, composed and arranged music for Nestlé’s "Wonk Your Room" online promotion and’s "Loss For Lyrics" online Web promotion. Finally, Jerry composed the score for a documentary retrospective of Florida's poet laureate, the late Edmund Skellings titled, "Ed Skellings – In His Own Words."

His television and radio credits include Bank of America, Log Cabin maple syrup, Scope mouthwash, Marlboro cigarettes, and music preparation for "The Dennis Miller Show," jazz great Bill Holman, and film composers Jack Smalley and Richard Band.

In addition to his personal website,, additional examples of his work can be found at and


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

  • Ability to write scores and record for the rhythm section
  • Basic understanding of music and music theory including intervals, chords, major and minor scales, and key signatures
  • Ability to read both treble and bass clef notation

No Required Textbooks

Software Requirements

  • You can produce scores in Finale (full version) or Sibelius and submit them as PDF, JPG, GIF, or pasted into DOC files. Note that Finale Notepad, PrintMusic, and Finale Guitar are not sufficient for use in the course. You can handwrite scores, scan them, and submit them as PDF, JPG, GIF, or DOC files.

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

  • If you are going to create scores by hand, you will need a scanner to put them in electronic format (see Software Requirements above for acceptable formats)
  • 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)


Got a question? 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.

  • Level
    Level 2
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition

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