Arranging: Woodwinds and Strings

Author: Jerry Gates   •   Course Code: OCWPR-333

Arranging: Woodwinds and Strings—the most advanced music arrangement course offered by Berklee Online—provides a simple, straightforward, and in-depth approach to this high level material. Throughout the course you'll gain a true understanding of the sound and personality of woodwind and string instruments, and learn how to apply them in a variety of commercial music settings, such as television and film.

Each lesson focuses on the fundamental properties of a particular instrument or group of instruments—its extreme range, practical or usable range, and inherent idiosyncrasies. You'll then apply this information to actual songs, arrangements, and compositions. You'll explore topics such as unison doubling of woodwinds, conceptual and dramatic approaches to composition, combining woodwinds and strings, string harmonics in a jazz/pop context, and the effect of strings and woodwinds on brass instruments. Instruments covered within the course include flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and acoustic bass.

This music arrangement course emphasizes the practical, real-world application of the concepts covered and, to that end, provides interviews with industry writers and comprehensive information working with clients, conducting research for projects, addressing economic issues regarding instrument choices, analyzing scores, and scheduling studios and players.

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

  • Orchestrate and compose music for various contemporary woodwind and string instruments
  • Arrange or compose music for small and large string sections
  • Analyze orchestral scores and understand their nomenclature
  • Understand common orchestration techniques used in songs, music beds, jingles, web sites, and films
  • Decipher instructions given by a client regarding visual media assignments in television and film
  • Have a better understanding of dramatic composition

Lesson 1: Woodwind and String Overview—What They Can Do

  • Instrumental Roles: Melody
  • Instrumental Roles: Pads
  • Instrumental Roles: Fills
  • Instrumental Roles: Improvised Solos
  • Instrumental Roles: Background or Guide Tone Lines
  • Instrumental Roles: Effects
  • Instrumental Roles: Accompaniment or "Comping"
  • Instrumental Families and Subgroups

Lesson 2: Woodwinds—Flute and Piccolo

  • The Flute—Range, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • The Piccolo—Range, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • Using Flute and Piccolo Together
  • Piccolo as a "Double"

Lesson 3: Woodwinds—Oboe and English Horn

  • Oboe—Range, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • English Horn—Range, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • Using Oboe and English Horn Together
  • English Horn as a "Double"

Lesson 4: Woodwinds—Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

  • Clarinet—Range, Transposition, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • Bass Clarinet—Range, Transposition, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • Using Clarinet and Bass Clarinet Together
  • Transposition Exercise
  • Midterm Project Preparation

Lesson 5: Woodwinds—Bassoon

  • Bassoon—Range, Clefs, Color Changes, Idiomatic Characteristics, and Articulation
  • Bassoon—Common Roles
  • Midterm Project Preparation

Lesson 6: Mixed Woodwinds

  • Unison Doubling of Woodwinds—Like Sounds
  • Orchestration of the Woodwinds in Various Settings
  • Solo Writing
  • Midterm Project

Lesson 7: Introduction to Violins and Viola

  • The Violin—Range, Clefs, Color Changes, Basic Bowing, and Articulation
  • Idiomatic Characteristics
  • The Viola—Range, Clefs, Color Changes, Basic Bowing, and Articulation
  • Idiomatic Characteristics
  • Observational Listening

Lesson 8: Strings: Cello and Bass

  • The Cello—Range, Clefs, Color Changes, Basic Bowing, and Articulation
  • Idiomatic Characteristics
  • Acoustic Bass—Range, Clefs, Color Changes, Basic Bowing, and Articulation
  • Idiomatic Characteristics
  • Observational Listening

Lesson 9: Conceptualizing Composition

  • Melodic Shape-Line
  • Melodic Shape- Circle
  • Melodic Shape-Square
  • Natural Resolution of Tension Substitutes
  • Compose Fragments based on Techniques

Lesson 10: Combining Strings and Woodwinds I

  • Small Combinations of Woodwinds and Strings
  • Strings and Woodwinds as "Sweetening"
  • Economic Issues Regarding Instrument Choices
  • Hiring "Doublers"
  • Berklee/Industry Writer Interview
  • Score Analysis

Lesson 11: Combining Strings and Woodwinds II

  • String Harmonics in a Jazz/Pop Context behind Solo Instrument
  • String and Woodwind Voicings
  • The Effect of Strings and Woodwinds on Brass Instruments
  • Berklee/Industry Writer Interview
  • Score Analysis

Lesson 12: Final Thoughts

  • Getting the Job
  • Research for the Project
  • Scheduling Studios, Players, etc.
  • Discussions with the Client
  • Score Analysis

Jerry Gates

Author & Instructor

Educator, composer, arranger, and bassist Jerry Gates has been a music industry professional for over thirty - five years. 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. As a professor at Berklee College of Music, he teaches Contemporary Arranging Techniques, Directed Studies in Arranging, Contemporary Twelve-Tone Composition, Orchestration, Writing and Production in the Studio, and Music Preparation courses. His latest music can be found at

Jerry's most recently completed projects include orchestrating, conducting and producing a string session for the soon to be released Middle Eastern television series titled, "Sultana." The main composer for this series is Hassan El Shafei. He composed the electronic score for a retrospective on Florida's poet laureate, the late Edmund Skellings titled, "Ed Skellings – In His Own Words." Additionally, he composed, directed and produced music for Nestle's "Wonk Your Room" online promotion campaign. As an author, Jerry has written a book entitled "All Twelve—Dodecaphonic Sources For Contemporary Composition" and is currently writing an arranging book for Berklee Press and Hal Leonard tentatively titled, "Arranging for Horns."

He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music, a Master of Music/Composition degree from the Hartt School, and graduated from both the Television/Film Scoring and Composing/Arranging certificate programs at the former Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, CA.


Completion of  Arranging: Advanced Horn Writing or equivalent knowledge and experience is required or demonstrated understanding of the following:

  • Major/minor keys
  • Major/minor triads
  • Major/minor/dominant 7th chords and available tensions
  • Approach chords
  • Basic voicing knowledge
  • Understanding of instrumental transposition (bass, guitar, saxophones, and trumpet)
  • Writing for rhythm section instruments such as guitar, bass, piano, and drums

Students should have access to sequencing and notation software and have an intermediate competency in using their equipment. Although this is not a technology-driven class, students should be able to record multiple tracks in their sequencing software and create an MP3 of the final mix.

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

  • Finale (full version) or Sibelius (full version). Note that you will need to submit scores as PDF files. Finale Notepad, PrintMusic, and Finale Guitar are not sufficient for use in the course. You can also opt to handwrite scores, scan them, and submit them as PDF files. 
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, such as Logic, Reason, SONAR, Digital Performer, etc., to sequence your scores and submit them as MP3 files
  • The scores and audio to "The Planets" by Gustav Holst and "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams

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

  • A printer is recommended so that you can print out music examples used in the course
  • 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
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
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  • Non-Credit Tuition

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