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

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: 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.

No Required Textbooks

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
    Level 3
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition
  • This course has reached capacity for our current term. Many of our other courses remain open. Please call our academic advisors at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.) or +1-617-747-2146 (Int'l) to learn more.

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