Arranging: Woodwinds and Strings


Authored by Jerry Gates


Course Code: OCWPR-333

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Arranging: Woodwinds and Strings 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.

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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
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Woodwind and String Overview - What They Can Do

  • Instrumental Roles: Melody
  • Instrumental Roles: Pads
  • Pads for "Waiting for the Call"
  • Instrumental Roles: Fills
  • Instrumental Roles: Improvised Solos
  • Instrumental Roles: Written Solos
  • Instrumental Roles: Background or Guide Tone Lines
  • Background Lines of "Waiting for the Call"
  • Instrumental Roles: Effects
  • Instrumental Roles: Accompaniment or "Comping"
  • Assignment 1: Demonstrate the Seven Roles of Music

Lesson 2: Woodwinds—Flute and Piccolo

  • The Flute
  • The Flute: Sound Characteristics
  • Flute Demostration with Fernando Brandao
  • The Flute Example: “Come With Me”
  • The Piccolo
  • The Piccolo: Sound Characteristics
  • The Piccolo: Song Examples
  • Assignment 2: Music for Flute and Piccolo

Lesson 3: Woodwinds – Double Reeds: Oboe, English Horn and Bassoon

  • Oboe
  • Oboe: Sound Characteristics
  • Oboe: Song Examples
  • Oboe Part of "The Other Side"
  • English Horn
  • English Horn: Sound Characteristics
  • English Horn: Concert and Transposed Versions Example
  • English Horn Analysis
  • Bassoon
  • Bassoon: The Rite of Spring
  • Bassoon: Sound Characteristics
  • Bassoon Demonstration with Dominick Ferrara
  • Bassoon: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Paul Dukas
  • Bassoon: Song Examples
  • Assignment 3: Transcribing a English Horn Part

Lesson 4: Woodwinds – Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

  • Clarinet
  • Clarinet: Sound Characteristics
  • Clarinet Analysis and “Rhapsody in Blue"
  • Clarinet: Song Examples
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Bass Clarinet: Sound Characteristics
  • Bass Clarinet Analysis
  • Bass Clarinet: Song Examples
  • Assignment 4: Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

Lesson 5: Score Reduction

  • Simple Reductions
  • Score Reduction of "The Lark Ascending"
  • Score Reduction of "The Lark Ascending," Part 1
  • Score Reduction of "The Lark Ascending," Part 2
  • Score Reduction of "The Lark Ascending," Part 3
  • Score Reduction of "Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun"
  • Score Reduction of "Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun," Part 1
  • Score Reduction of "Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun," Part 2
  • Score Reduction of "Get in Line"
  • Score Reduction of "Get in Line," Part 1
  • Assignment 5: Reducing a Score

Lesson 6: Mixed Woodwinds

  • Unison Doubling of Woodwinds—Like Sounds
  • Unison Doubling of Woodwinds: “What If" Example
  • Unison Doubling of Unlike Instruments
  • Unison Doubling of Woodwinds: Rossini Example
  • Unison Doubling of Woodwinds: Schubert’s Symphony No. 8
  • Assignment 6: Midterm Project

Lesson 7: Introduction to Violins and Viola

  • The Violin
  • The Violin: Brahms' Symphony Number 1 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade
  • The Violin: Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1
  • The Violin: String Quartet Configuration Examples
  • Violin Demonstration with Mimi Rabson
  • Pizzicato
  • Viola
  • Viola: Sound Characteristics
  • Viola Demonstration with Mimi Rabson
  • Multiple Stops
  • Assignment 7: The Lark Ascending score

Lesson 8: Strings: Cello and Bass

  • The Cello
  • The Cello: Harris’ Symphony No. 3
  • The Cello: Other Examples
  • Cello Demonstration with Junko Fujiwara
  • The Bass
  • The Bass: Wagner’s Die Meistersinger
  • Orchestral Size and Orchestral Weight
  • Bass Multi Stops
  • Assignment 8: Strings of The Lark Ascending

Lesson 9: Conceptualizing Composition

  • Melodic Shape: Line (Part 1)
  • Melodic Shape: Line (Part 2)
  • Melodic Line Shape of "Elven Dance"
  • Melodic Line Shape of "The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3"
  • Melodic Shape: Circle
  • Melodic Circle Shape of "Venus, The Bringer of Peace"
  • Melodic Shape: Square
  • Melodic Square Shape of "The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3"
  • Melodic Shape: Combining Shapes
  • Assignment 9: Creating Melodic Fragments for Each Shape

Lesson 10: Small Group Applications for Woodwinds and Strings

  • Adding Flute to Soprano Sax and Brass (Section 1)
  • Adding Flute to Soprano Sax and Brass (Section 2)
  • Adding Flute to Soprano Sax and Brass (Section 3)
  • 1 Violin “Wires”
  • Fourth Shapes
  • Solo Cello and Strings
  • Strings on the Melody: "Yalova Nights"
  • Strings on the Melody: "Prelude in A Minor"
  • Strings on the Melody: Other Examples
  • Assignment 10: Final Project Parameters

Lesson 11: Combining Strings and Woodwinds II

  • Woodwind Doubles
  • Writing for Large Ensembles
  • Arrangement of a "A Child Is Born"
  • Large Ensemble with a Vocalist (Part 1)
  • Large Ensemble with a Vocalist (Part 2)
  • Assignment 11: Final Project

Lesson 12: Final Thoughts

  • Imitative Writing
  • Repetition
  • Being a Producer
  • The Project
  • Assignment 12: Final Project


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
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.


Media and Subscriptions

  • Audio recordings for the required scores:
    • “The Planets,” by Gustav Holst
    • “The Lark Ascending,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams


  • 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. Options 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.


  • 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 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

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.

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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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