Jazz Arranging 1

Writing Jazz Combo Arrangements

Course Title: Jazz Arranging 1
Course #
: MUSI 3631, section 001. Two credits.
Semester: Fall 2023
Instructor: Earl MacDonald, Professor of Music & Director of Jazz Studies
Class meeting time: Mondays & Wednesdays, 9:05 a.m. – 9:55 a.m.
Classroom: MUSB 109
Earl MacDonald’s Office: MUSB 207.
Office Hours: Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and by appointment

Jazz Arranging and Composing, A Linear Approach, by: Bill DobbinsText Book:

Jazz Arranging and Composing, A Linear Approach
by: Bill Dobbins
Advance Music. ISBN 3-89221-006-3

*Link to other highly recommended jazz arranging text books


Music Notation Software:

Finale or Sibelius
(Note: the instructor is fluent with Finale. Use of Sibelius will be allowed, with the caveat that no guidance will be offered for Sibelius users.)

Using MuseScore is highly discouraged as it generates the octave treble clef for the tenor sax. DO NOT use the octave treble clef under any circumstances. The instructor will not accept or grade any work submitted which uses an octave treble clef.

Course description:

We will concentrate on writing musical arrangements for small jazz groups consisting of one, two, three and four horns plus rhythm section. For each instrumentation we will address several basic arranging techniques designed to create melodic and enjoyable parts for musicians. Manuscript preparation and the use of music notation software will be taught as a means of clearly communicating your ideas to performing musicians.

Course content will include:

instrument ranges, transpositions and timbres, melodic interpretation, melodic analysis (identifying passing tones, appoggiaturas, escape tones, neighbor tones, etc.), formal organization & development (introductions, endings, backgrounds, solis, etc.), voice leading, harmonic anticipation, chromatic and diatonic parallelism, “tonicization,” harmonization, homophony, basic reharmonization and rhythm section notation.

  • chord symbols & spelling quiz: Mon., Sept 11, 2023: 5%
  • transposition quiz: Wed., Sept. 27, 2023:  10%
  • copyist/notation project: Wed., Oct. 4, 2023: 10%
  • Worksheet assignments: 15%
  • 3 arrangements: 20% each. (sketches for consultations: 5%, finished arrangement: 15%)
    • quartet: Mon., Oct. 23, 2023 (hand-written)
    • quintet: Mon., Nov. 13, 2023 (with notation software)
    • sextet: Mon., Dec. 4, 2023 (with notation software)

* All assignments are due at 9:05 a.m. on their specified date.

There will be no formal midterm or final exam for this jazz arranging 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.

A mid-semester progress report will be e-mailed from the instructor. The course content and schedule are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion and will be properly communicated to students as changes arise. Note: This online jazz improvisation syllabus and class schedule are malleable, evolving, and frequently updated documents. Check them frequently.

Grading Scale:

Grade Letter Grade GPA
93-100 A 4.0
90-92 A- 3.7
87-89 B+ 3.3
83-86 B 3.0
80-82 B- 2.7
77-79 C+ 2.3
73-76 C 2.0
70-72 C- 1.7
67-69 D+ 1.3
63-66 D 1.0
60-62 D- 0.7
<60 F 0.0

Communication policy

E-mail is the instructor’s preferred method of communication with students. Please allow 24-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.


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.

Timeline for covering the course material:

Aug. 28 (Monday):

– course outline, schedule, policies and grading explained.
– orientation: idea generation, arranging techniques, musical options.
– listening example:

– chord symbol review & worksheet homework.

Aug. 30 (Wednesday):

– listening example:

intro to 4-part closed block
Homework: 4-part closed block worksheet #1: due Wednesday, Sept. 6th
– chord symbol review & worksheet homework.

Sept. 4 (Monday): Labor Day – No classes

Sept. 6 (Wednesday):

– listening example:

4-part closed block worksheet #2 due: Monday, Sept. 11th
– chord symbol review & worksheet homework.

Sept. 11 (Monday):

– chord symbol quiz (5%)

Sept. 13 (Wednesday):

– 4-part closed block: harmonizing non-chord tones
4-part worksheet #3 due: Monday, Sept. 18th

Sept. 18 (Monday):

– listening: Ray Brown Trio with Ulf Wakenius – Summertime
– “Summertime” lead sheet.
– 4-part closed block: 4-part worksheet #4 first two questions due Wednesday, Sept. 20th
– instrument transpositions, ranges, restrictions: brass, saxes, quick reference sheet
– homework: Transpositions Practice Test #1;   Answer Key

Sept. 20 (Wednesday):

– instrument transpositions, ranges, restrictions, demonstrations

  • saxophones
  • trumpet
  • trombone

– 4-part closed block: 4-part worksheet #4 last last two questions due Wednesday, Sept. 25th
– assessment of transpositions homework
– homework: Transpositions Practice Test #2;   Answer Key

Sept. 25 (Monday):

– listening example:

– rhythm section instruction: drum notation key, sample drum part
copyist/notation project assigned; due Wed., Oct. 4th.
If I Should Lose You
lead sheet

part copying: sample sax part
– homework: Transpositions Practice Test #3;   Answer Key

Sept. 27 (Wednesday):

– transposition/instrument ranges quiz (10%)

Oct. 2 (Monday):

Quartet Arranging: 1-horn & rhythm 

– quartet instruction.
Quartet Arrangement Assignment distributed. Due Monday, Oct. 23th.

Quartet Arrangement Assignment

writing drum parts using FINALE

Oct. 4 (Wednesday):

– copyist/notation project due: (10%)
formal planning: There Will Never Be Another You,”
reinventing melodies: “Smile,” arranged by Pete McGuinness

Oct. 6 (Friday):
Mid-semester progress reports due students from faculty via Husky CT.
Grades thus far: chord spelling (5%) + 4-part assignments (15%) + instrument ranges (10%) + copyist notation project (10%) = 40% of total grade

Oct. 9 (Monday):

– additional quartet instruction: text book examples from Bill Dobbins’ “Jazz Arranging and Composing”

Oct. 11 (Wednesday):

– copyist/notation project returned
– David Berger video: Jazz Composing & Arranging Habits
– consultations for quartet assignment

Oct. 16 (Monday):

– consultations for quartet assignment
– PDF: Music Preparation Fundamentals for Jazz Composers & Arrangers, by Darcy James Argue
– arranging/transforming pop songs:

Oct. 18 (Wednesday):

Quintet Arranging: 2-horns & rhythm

– 2-horn instruction & analysis.
quintet arrangement assigned; due Mon., Nov. 13th.

Quintet Arrangement

Oct. 23 (Monday):
– Quartet assignments due. (15%)
– additional 2-horn instruction, analysis & discussion
Jazz Reharmonization Techniques

Oct. 25 (Wednesday):
– additional 2-horn instruction, analysis & discussion
Be Still, My Soul (a reharmonization arrangement)
– Amanda Tosoff video: Reharmonization – 3 Techniques for Getting Started

Oct. 30 (Monday):
– class canceled

Nov. 1 (Wednesday):
– consultations for quintet assignment
– discussion of graded quartet assignments
– recorded examples

Nov. 6 (Monday):

– consultations for quintet assignment

Nov. 8 (Wednesday):

Sextet Arranging: 3-horns & rhythm

– 3-horn instruction and analysis.  Sextet arrangements assigned: Due Mon., Dec. 4th.

Jazz Sextet Arrangement

– consultations for quintet assignment

Nov. 13 (Monday):

Last day to withdraw from a course
– Quintet arrangements due. (15%)
–  https://www.earlmacdonald.com/3-horn-examples/

Nov. 15 (Wednesday):

– review of sextet assignment criteria/parameters
Bye Bye Blackbird examples
– additional 3-horn instruction, analysis & discussion

Nov. 18 – 26: Thanksgiving Recess

Nov. 27 (Monday):

– consultations for sextet assignment

Nov. 29 (Wednesday):

– consultations for sextet assignment

Dec. 4 (Monday):

– Sextet arrangements due. (20%)

[no option to revise, as students are now familiar with the instructor’s expectations]

– reading session scheduled in jazz combos class (5PM, room 109)

Dec. 6 (Wednesday):

– suggested reading and listening lists in preparation for writing for jazz big band
– big band preview/overview

Dec. 8 (Friday): Last day of fall semester classes

Dec. 14 (Thursday): Reading Day

Dec. 13 (Wednesday):

– Final opportunity to submit revisions. 3PM deadline. Place your revised scores (along with your original version and my comments) in the box outside my office door.

Dec. 11 – 16: Final Examinations

It is the responsibility of all students to acquaint themselves, and to adhere to all university policies. Please review the following:

Students are expected to follow all safety protocols and to keep current with university communications regarding COVID-19.

Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence

The University is committed to maintaining a safe and non-discriminatory learning, living, and working environments for all members of the University 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. In addition, inappropriate amorous relationships can undermine the University’s mission when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their authority. To that end, and in accordance with federal and state law, the University prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment, as well as inappropriate amorous relationships, and such behavior will be met with appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University. Additionally, to protect the campus community, all responsible employees (including faculty), as outlined in the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence, are required to report to the Office of Institutional Equity any information that they receive related to sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking involving a student. An exception to this reporting exists if students disclose information as a part of coursework submitted to an instructor in connection with a course assignment. Even in the absence of such obligation, all Employees are encouraged to contact OIE if they become aware of information that suggests a safety risk to the University community or any member thereof. The University takes all reports with the utmost seriousness. Please be aware that while the information you provide will remain private, it will not be confidential and will be shared with university officials who can help. More information, including confidential and exempt employee resources available for support and assistance, can be found at equity.uconn.edu and titleix.uconn.edu.

Statement on Absences from Class Due to Religious Observances and Extra-Curricular Activities

Faculty and instructors are expected to reasonably accommodate individual religious practices unless doing so would result in fundamental alteration of class objectives or undue hardship to the University’s legitimate business purposes. Such accommodations may include rescheduling an exam or giving a make-up exam, allowing a presentation to be made on a different date or assigning the student appropriate make-up work that is intrinsically no more difficult than the original assignment. Faculty and instructors are strongly encouraged to allow students to complete work missed due to participation in extra-curricular activities that enrich their experience, support their scholarly development, and benefit the university community. Examples include participation in scholarly presentations, performing arts, and intercollegiate sports, when the participation is at the request of, or coordinated by, a University official. Students should be encouraged to review the course syllabus at the beginning of the semester for potential conflicts and promptly notify their instructor of any anticipated accommodation needs. Students are responsible for making arrangements in advance to make up missed work.

For conflicts with final examinations, students should contact the Dean of Students Office. Faculty and instructors are also encouraged to respond when the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletes (CPIA) requests student progress reports. This will enable the counselors to give our students appropriate advice.

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 http://csd.uconn.edu/.

Emergency Management/Preparedness

In case of inclement weather, a natural disaster, or a campus emergency, the University communicates through email and text message. Students are encouraged to sign up for alerts through http://alert.uconn.edu. Students should be aware of emergency procedures, and further information is available through the Office of Emergency Management at http://publicsafety.uconn.edu/emergency/.

Some useful telephone numbers:

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