Writing Jazz Combo Arrangements

Course Outline & Class Schedule

Fall Semester
Course #: MUSI 3631, section 001 (two credits)
Instructor: Earl MacDonald, Professor of Music & Director of Jazz Studies

Text Book: “Jazz Arranging and Composing, A Linear Approach”
By: Bill Dobbins.  Advance Music.  ISBN 3-89221-006-3

In the first semester of jazz arranging (within a two semester sequence), we will concentrate on writing for small ensembles consisting of one, two & three horns plus rhythm section. For each of the three instrumentations we will address several arranging techniques designed to create melodic and enjoyable parts for musicians.

transposition quiz:  10%
transcription / analysis project: 20%

rhythm section notation project: 10%
3 arrangements: 15% + 20% + 20%

*one must be hand-written, and one must be generated with a computer notation program.

rehearsal & performance coordination / participation: 5%

There will be no formal midterm or final exam for this course. Expect the workload to be demanding; but know that you are developing skills which can be used for the rest of your musical life.

Proposed timeline for covering the course material

Week 1:
– course outline, schedule, policies and grading explained.
– orientation: idea generation, arranging techniques, musical options.
– instrument transpositions, ranges, restrictions & demonstrations.
– transpositions: practice test homework

Week 2:
– grading of transpositions homework
– additional transposition exercises and homework
– rhythm section writing and assignment
– transcription/analysis projects assigned

Week 3:
– transposition/instrument ranges quiz (10%)
– Finale software instruction
– part copying instruction.
– quartet instruction.  Quartet arrangement assigned.

Week 4:
– rhythm section notation project due (10%)
– consultations for quartet assignment
– Finale software instruction

Week 5:
– mid-semester progress reports due to students
– quartet assignments due.
– reading session in the jazz rehearsal room. (15%)

Week 6:
– 2-horn instruction & analysis.
– quintet arrangement assigned.

Week 7:
– additional 2-horn instruction, analysis & discussion.
– consultations for quintet assignment

Week 8:
– quintet arrangements due.  Reading session in the jazz rehearsal room. (20%)

Week 9:
– 3-horn instruction and analysis.  sextet arrangements assigned
– rehearsal for Music Convocation performance.
– performance of selected arrangements in Music Convocation.

Week 10:
– additional  3-horn instruction, analysis & discussion.
– consultations for sextet assignment and Finale projects

Week 11:
– transcription projects due. analysis presentations
– reading session in the jazz rehearsal room. (20%)

Week 12:
– sextet arrangements due.
– reading session in the jazz rehearsal room (20%)

Week 13:
– assessment of 6tet assignments
– requested topics
– suggested reading and listening lists in preparation for Jazz Arranging II: writing for jazz big band

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