Arranging For Big Band

Jazz Arranging 2: Big Band Arranging

In this second semester of jazz arranging, we will concentrate on arranging and orchestrating music for 17-piece big band — 4 trumpets, 3 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 2 alto saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, bari sax (no woodwind doubles), piano, guitar, string bass and drums.

There will be one major arranging project, divided into constituent sections, plus preparatory and listening/analysis assignments. The UConn Jazz Ensemble will read, rehearse and perform your completed piece. The instructor must approve your selection, chosen from the standard jazz repertoire.

Course Outline and Class Schedule

Semester: Spring 2020
Course #: MUSI 3632 (two credits)
Instructor: Earl MacDonald, Professor of Music, Director of Jazz Studies
Class Meeting Times: Mondays & Wednesdays, 9:05AM – 9:55AM.
Occasional “make up” classes will take place on Fridays from 9:05- 9:55.
Room: MUSB 109
Office Hours: Fridays 9:05-9:55. MUSB 207.

Suggested Textbooks

The following big band arranging texts are on reserve in the Music Library. 3-hour loan period.

  • “Inside The Score” (a detailed analysis of 8 classic jazz ensemble charts)
    by Rayburn Wright.  Kendor Music.Inside the Score, Rayburn Wright's jazz arranging textbook
  • Basics In Jazz Arranging
    by Paris Rutherford
  • Introduction to Big Band Arranging
    by Paris Rutherford
  • The Contemporary Arranger
    by Don Sebesky
  • Instrumental Jazz Arranging
    by Mike Tomaro and John Wilson
  • Changes Over Time: The Evolution of Jazz Arranging
    by Fred Sturm

Additional titles and resources:


The major project will be divided into manageable, constituent formal units. Each of the following will be allocated a percentage of your final grade:

  • formal planning – 10% (due: 2/7/2020)
  • preparatory assignments – 10% (throughout the semester)
  • head statement(s) – 10% (due: 2/24/2020)
  • soli (1/2 chorus minimum) – 10% (due: 3/11/2020)
  • shout (1/2 chorus minimum) – 10% (4/1/2020)
  • solo(s) with backgrounds – 10% (due: 4/6/2020)
  • intro/ending – 10% (due: 4/13/2020)
  • realization – 10% (first reading = 4/21/2020)

Instituting a number of smaller, weighted deadlines, will help students to successfully deliver the completed big band arranging project on time.

The remaining 20% is designated for ten listening/analysis assignments (2% each). These will typically be due at the beginning of Wednesday’s classes. Visit the following link for a list of suggested big band albums. Students are welcome to borrow scores from the jazz ensemble library. Start with the pieces in Rayburn Wright’s “Inside the Score.”

All assignments are due at the beginning of class on their assigned date. Late assignments will be penalized heavily. Revisions are encouraged after receiving feedback. Provided the initial deadline was met, and a good faith effort was demonstrated, grades may be increased to reflect improvements.

Time line (in reverse chronological sequence):

  • reading dates: April 21, 23, 28, 30 (final 4 Jazz Ensemble rehearsals, following their April 19th concert)
  • weeks to completion: 13

The following online class schedule is continually evolving and is custom-tailored to meet student needs. Check back frequently, as updates and links will be added before each class.

Week 1:

Jan. 22 (Wednesday)
  • orientation: “big picture” semester overview, text books & resources
  • project management


Jan. 24 (Friday): “make-up” class
  • formal delineations, planning and road maps 


Week 2:

Benchmark Goals:

Jan. 27 (Monday) & Jan. 29 (Wednesday):

The instructor will be out-of-town this week. Work independently by completing the assigned readings and tasks.

Week 3:

Feb. 3 (Monday)


Lecture Topics:

    • formal planning
    • density & dynamic contour charts
    • orchestrational choices


Using “Inside the Score” and the above, linked example as models, create a detailed plan for your arrangement.  If your song follows a 32-bar AABA form, address each 8-bar section. Describe the orchestration, texture and density. Demarcate where all formal units will take place — solis, solos (including who!), backgrounds, ensemble “shout,” transitional passages, intro/ending etc. Designate the apex. Indicate feel changes and key modulations, if applicable. Use your imagination to include as much specificity as possible. Your plan could be presented as a detailed list (headings and bullet points) or as a graphic, dynamic contour chart, similar to Rayburn Wright’s examples on pages 8, 28, 48, 78, 96, 116, 150, and 160-16.

Feb. 5 (Wednesday)


    • listening/analysis assignment #1 (2%)

Lecture Topics:


Using copies of the provided score paper, write the lead lines and rhythm section parts for the in and out-heads of your chart. If including ensemble “hits” and backgrounds, write the top, melodic line only. Do not yet harmonize the horns.

Feb. 7 (Friday)


    • road map/formal delineations (10%)

Week 4:

Feb. 10 (Monday)


Lecture Topics:

“Complete Ensemble Voicings Overview”

    • 4-part block writing
    • “Basie 4-part,” “Basic Ensemble” (utilizing triadic extensions), “Combination Voicings”
    • Upper Extension triads


    • Preparatory Worksheets: due Friday, Feb. 14
      1. 4-part block, isolated chords
      2. Big Band ensemble voicings worksheet
Feb. 12 (Wednesday)

Manchester High School Jazz Festival. NO CLASS.

Feb. 14 (Friday) — make-up class


  • listening/analysis assignment #2 (2%)
  • Preparatory Worksheets:
    1. 4-part block, isolated chords
    2. Big Band ensemble voicings worksheet

Lecture Topics:

  • 4-part block writing, continued

Week 5:

Feb. 17 (Monday)


    • lead line sketches for: in-head and out-head


    • melody statements (in and out heads) scored: voiced/harmonized, orchestrated (due: Monday, Feb. 24)

Lecture Topics:

    • 4-part block writing, continued: harmonizing non-chord tones within passages
Feb. 19 (Wednesday)

NO CLASS.  [Professor MacDonald is recording today.]

Week 6:

Feb. 24 (Monday)


    • listening/analysis assignment #3 (2%)
    • melody statements (in and out heads) scored: voiced/harmonized, orchestrated

Lecture Topics:

    • soli lines — melodic line writing
    • 4-part block writing, continued
    • harmonization techniques for non-chord tones


    • Sketch your soli line, considering range and instrumental limitations. Due: Monday, March 2.
Feb. 26 (Wednesday)

Mid-semester progress reports issued.

Lecture Topics:

    • 4-part block writing, continued
    • rhythm section integration
    • chorale writing


    • listening/analysis assignment #4 (2%)

Week 7:

March 2 (Monday)


    • Sketched soli line

Lecture Topics:

    • soli line feedback
    • chorale writing


    • “Beautiful Love” chorale-style head arrangement. Due: March 9th.
March 4 (Wednesday)


    • listening/analysis assignment #5 (2%)

Lecture Topics:

    • soli line feedback/consultations


    • Harmonize soli. Due: March 11.

Week 8:

March 9 (Monday)


    • “Beautiful Love” chorale-style head arrangment

Lecture Topics:

    • soli harmonization feedback/consultations
March 11 (Wednesday)


    • listening/analysis assignment #6 (2%)
    • harmonized soli

Lecture Topics:

    • “shout choruses:” principles and examples


    • Shout chorus lead line: due Monday, March 23

Spring Break: March 16 – 19 (Week 9)

Week 10:

March 23 (Monday)


    • shout chorus lead line

Lecture Topics:

    • feedback/consultations


    • harmonize the shout chorus (due: April 1, 2020)
March 25 (Wednesday)


    • listening/analysis assignment #7 (2%)

Lecture Topics:


    • solo and background sections (due: Monday, April 6)

Week 11:

March 30 (Monday)

Lecture Topics:

    • backgrounds/”solo enhancements” consultations
April 1 (Wednesday)


  • listening/analysis assignment #8 (2%)
  • harmonized shout chorus

Lecture Topics:

    • Backgrounds/”Solo Enhancements” consultations
    • transitional material

Week 12:

April 6 (Monday)


    • solo and background sections

Lecture Topics:

    • Introductions and Endings — principles and examples


    • Intro and Ending (due: April 13)
April 8 (Wednesday)


  • listening/analysis assignment #9 (2%)

Lecture Topics:

    • Introductions and Endings consultations

Week 13:

April 13 (Monday)


    • Intro & Ending

Lecture Topics:

    • Finale music notation software guidance
    • articulation markings & dynamic schemes
    • part formatting
    • proofreading


    • Finale note entry.  Creation and formatting of score and parts
April 15 (Wednesday)


  • listening/analysis assignment #10 (2%)

Lecture Topics:

  • Consultations, guidance
  • advanced reharmonization
  • motivic and rhythmic development
  • …and more

Week 14:

April 20 (Monday)
  • Part taping.
  • Final scanning of parts.
  • Highlighting roadmap instructions (D.S., etc.).
April 21 (Tuesday)

Reading Session #1

April 22 (Wednesday)
  • evaluative, critical listening to recordings of student arrangements
April 23 (Thursday)

Reading Session #2

Week 15:

April 27 (Monday)
  • evaluative, critical listening to recordings of student arrangements
April 28 (Tuesday)

Reading Session #3 (if necessary)

April 29 (Wednesday)
  • evaluative, critical listening to recordings of student arrangements
April 30 (Thursday)

Reading Session #4 (if necessary)


*The course content, schedule and grading scheme are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.

Communication policy

E-mail is the instructor’s preferred method of communication with students. Please allow 48-hours for replies. When requesting a meeting with me outside of my office hours, please submit several meeting time options. I prefer to be addressed as Professor MacDonald.

Some useful telephone numbers, websites and services:
Student Code

You are responsible for acting in accordance with the University of Connecticut’s Student Conduct Code. Review and become familiar with these expectations.

Academic Integrity

This course expects all students to act in accordance with the Guidelines for Academic Integrity at the University of Connecticut. Consult UConn’s guidelines for academic integrity. Cheating and plagiarism are taken very seriously at the University of Connecticut. As a student, it is your responsibility to avoid plagiarism.

Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence

The University is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within its community – students, employees, or visitors. Academic and professional excellence can flourish only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect. All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of an academic and work environment in which people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination or discriminatory harassment. More information is available at and


Except for final examinations, the instructor has final authority in permitting students to submit assignments late or make up examinations.


My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I’ve recorded them prior or during my lecture in order to ensure that I obtain copyright protection. Students are authorized to take notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. I will inform you as to whether you are authorized to record my lectures at the beginning of each semester. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, or make a commercial use of them without prior permission from me.

Students with Disabilities

The University of Connecticut is committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assuring that the learning environment is accessible. If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options. Students who require accommodations should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020, or

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