Arranging: Small Ensemble and Horns


Authored by Jerry Gates


Course Code: OCWPR-231

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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Lesson 1: Chord Symbol Identification

  • Major Chords
  • Minor Chords
  • Dominant Chords
  • Augmented Chords
  • Diminished Chords
  • Half Diminished Chords
  • Minor - Major 7th Chords and Symbols
  • Listening Practice: "The Goodbye Look"
  • Assignment 1: Transposing the Chord Types

Lesson 2: Rhythm Section Notation Review

  • Drums: 3-Part Notation
  • Drums: Stop-Time Notation
  • Drums: "Kicks Over Time" Notation
  • Bass: Written Out Pitches
  • BBass Rhythmic Notation with Slashes
  • Guitar
  • Guitar: Melodic Lines
  • Guitar: Comping Parts
  • Keyboards: Melody Parts
  • Keyboards: Comping and Solos
  • Listening Practice: "Toasted Hop" Rhythm Section
  • Assignment 2: "Innocent Wonder" Rhythm Section

Lesson 3: Brass and Saxes

  • Trumpet
  • Trumpet With Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area
  • Trumpet Mutes
  • Tenor Slide Trombone
  • Pedal Tones
  • Trombone Range Breakdown
  • Slide Positions
  • Listening Practice: Trumpet and Trombone
  • E-flat Alto Sax
  • Alto with Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown 1 of Ranges by Area (Part 1)
  • B-flat Tenor Sax
  • Tenor with Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area (Part 2)
  • E-flat Bari Sax
  • Bari Sax with Concert Pitch Melody
  • Breakdown of Ranges by Area (Part 3)
  • Listening Practice: Saxophones
  • Assignment 3.1: Trombone and Trumpet Appropriate Keys or Not
  • Assignment 3.2: Determining Horn Ranges

Lesson 4: Melodic Development

  • Eighth-Note Anticipations - Melodic Development
  • "What If" Eighth-Note Anticipations
  • Quarter-Note Anticipations
  • Eighth and Quarter-Note Delayed Attacks
  • Eighth and Quarter-Note Delayed Attacks: "Samba Novo"
  • Listening Practice: Anticipations
  • Assignment 4: Rewriting "Foggy Day" using Anticipations
  • About the Mid-term Assignment

Lesson 5: Melodic Development Continued

  • Straight vs. Swing
  • Sixteenth-Note Anticipations
  • Sixteenth-Note Delayed Attacks
  • Sixteenth-Note Delayed Attacks: "Doezema"
  • Sixteenth-Note Delayed Attacks: "Toasted Hop"
  • Sixteenth-Note Delayed Attacks and Anticipations: "Toasted Hop"
  • Listening Practice: 16th Note Anticipations and Delayed Attacks
  • Assignment 5: Writing using Sixteenth-Note Anticipations and Delayed Attacks

Lesson 6: Unison Writing

  • Writing within a Given Specific Key
  • Transposing to Fit a Specific Instrument
  • Combinations of Horns on Unison Melodies
  • Unison Melodies Example: "The Long Wait"
  • Unison Melodies Example: "Katherine"
  • Two Octaves Playing the Melody
  • Three Octaves Playing the Melody
  • Listening Practice: Unison Horn Melodies and Lines
  • Assignment 6: Midterm Assignment Draft

Lesson 7: Arranging Process

  • Considerations Before Writing Pitches
  • The Arranging Process
  • Lead Sheet Stage
  • Lead Sheet Stage Demo
  • The Sketching Stage
  • The Sketching Stage Demo
  • Scoring/Orchestration Stage: Full Score
  • Scoring/Orchestration Stage Demo
  • Part Extraction Stage (Copying)
  • Assignment 7: Midterm Project Final Version

Lesson 8: Two-Part Couplings (Soli Writing)

  • Melodic Couplings: 1 Diatonic Thirds and Sixths
  • Melodic Couplings: "Toasted Hop" Brass Parts
  • Melodic Couplings: "Toasted Hop" Saxophone Part
  • Intervals of Fourths and Fifths
  • Seconds and Sevenths
  • Orchestrating the Harmonized Melody
  • Listening Practice: Two-Part Couplings
  • Assignment 8: Melodic Rhythms and Couplings for "Foggy Day"

Lesson 9: 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
  • Listening Practice: Three-Part Soli
  • Listening Practice: "What If" Harmonization
  • About Your Final Assignment
  • Assignment 9: First Draft of Final Project

Lesson 10: Three-Part Soli Writing Continued

  • Tension Substitution
  • Omit 2, 3, or 4 Technique
  • Harmonization with Diatonic 1 Major and Minor Triads
  • Special-Case Voicings
  • Low Interval Considerations
  • "Make Me Smile" Horn Applications
  • "September" Horn Applications
  • Assignment 10: Final Assignment Draft

Lesson 11: Background Lines

  • Voice Leading Background Lines
  • Common Tones in Background Lines
  • Creating Complex Background Lines
  • Creating Complex Background Lines: Roots Added
  • Creating Complex Background Lines: Leading to the Target Note
  • Creating Complex Background Lines: Using 7ths and 3rds, Rising Lines
  • Applying Background Lines: "What If" Solo
  • Applying Background Lines: "Slammed"
  • Assignment 11: Final Project Draft

Lesson 12: Preparing Scores and Parts for Performance

  • Origin of Contemporary Instrument Order
  • Orchestra
  • Big Band
  • Small Ensemble: "The Man"
  • Small Ensemble: "Toasted Hop"
  • Small Ensemble: "Innocent Wonder"
  • Listening Practice: "Innocent Wonder"
  • Working with Unusual Instrumentations
  • "The 2 Other Side" Full Score Listening
  • "Tangarablé" Full Score Listening
  • Individual Player Parts
  • "Slammed" Piano Part
  • "Innocent Wonder" Alto Flute Part
  • "Innocent Wonder" Piano Part
  • "Toasted Hop" Drums Part
  • "The Man" Guitar Part
  • Hand Drawn Individual Player Parts
  • Listening Practice: Horn Writing
  • Final Project Submission Checklist
  • Assignment 12: Final Assignment


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
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



  • 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.


  • Students are required to produce scores and submit them in PDF format. Note that handwritten notation is required for the first assignment. Options for the other assignments include:
    • Notation software (recommended option), such as Finale (full version), Sibelius (Artist or Ultimate), Dorico (Elements or Pro), MuseScore (free), etc.
    • Handwritten notation captured by a digital camera or a scanner can be used in lieu of notation software.


  • Scanner or digital camera to convert handwritten notation into PDF format
  • Printer or staff paper
  • 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.

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 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


Jerry Gates


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.

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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. Read Less


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

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