Stickley Arranging Horns

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    JAZZ & ROCK & ROLL HORNSA simple approach to arranging horns for your jazz or rock&roll band

  • I know there are many of you who would love to add horns to your band or original music, and would like a simple, straight forward approach. After looking around on the web for any information or tutorials on writing for spe-cifically a horn section, I found very little, and what I did find was in bits and pieces. Having a horn section in your rock, r&b, or jazz group can really enhance your music, and add to your l ive per formance. How many times have I heard, I love horns when folks in the crowd see my trumpet and sax player setting up their gear.

    This tutorial wil l start with writing a part arrangement for trumpet and tenor sax or flugelhorn and flute. We will then move on to 3 part writing for trum-pet, tenor sax, and trombone, and eventually 4 and 5 part writing. As we move along, it wil l be necessary for us to get into a little more advanced harmony.

    We will also cover chart prepa-ration. How to transpose for the different instruments and the best way to lay out your chart. In addition we will cover dynam-ic markings, articulations, DSs, Codas, and rehearsal marks. These are all very important ele-ments so that your arrangement will get played properly without wasting precious rehearsal or studio time. Some knowledge of chords and harmony will be helpful and there are some web-sites out there that can help you with this.

    ABC studio, New York, NY

    If youre just starting out with reading and notating music, your horn players can also help you get through this hurdle. Most horn players are brought up reading music, and by working together you can make it happen.

    My goal is to keep these tutorials lean and to the point. We are going to only cover material that is necessary for you to accomplish your goal as a band leader or singer songwriter. My old teacher back in the day use to say, it aint rocket science. And he was right, It aint.



    I currently have two horns in my jazz group, trumpet and tenor sax, and would like to start there. Writing for horns is much different then writing for 3, 4, or 5 horns and not for the obvious reasons. In some respects larger groups are easier to write for depending on style. Your ideas for your arrangement will be determined by how many horns you are writing for.

    Before you start writing your arrangement, have your chord changes set on what you want. The chords for your song will dictate your voicings. You will first write the trumpet part since it is typically the top note of your voicing for most situations. When writing for any combination of brass or wind instru-ments you always want to voice from the top down.

    In many situations you will write for trumpet and tenor sax in octaves, par-ticularly when the trumpet is playing in its higher register above the staff. If you were to write a 3rd interval specifically with the tenor sax, it wil l sound thin.

    As the trumpet line dips into the staff or its middle register, you then have opportunities to write a 3rd or 6th interval with the tenor sax. If your trumpet, for most of the arrangement is in the upper part of its range and you would like to use intervals, switch your sax to an alto or a soprano.

    Dont forget that 4th and 5th intervals can be very nice and have a specific flavor and work well for both rock and jazz.

    Trumpet and tenor sax can sound really fat in the staff playing octaves or unison in the middle of their range. I heard a horn section that was trumpet, trombone, and baritone sax, and the trumpet never played out of the staff. With the bone and bari sax it sounded big and fat. High is not always bet-ter.

    The Sean+Fred Show Sextet at Ivories Jazz Lounge, Portland OR 2013

  • Octaves 4ths



    EXAMPLE #. An arrangement I did for Green Dolphin Street using 5ths. Notice in the last bars it breaks into octaves for the quick 8th notes. This arrangment plays at about 140 bpm.

    EXAMPLE #1. This is a part intro with Trumpet and Tenor Sax for the tune Sugar, and is all over one chord, C7sus. With short burst, the trumpet in the staff, this is writen in octaves, thirds and fourths . A very stark idea that woks well with this tune.



    5nd Street NYC, July 1948

  • 5EXAMPLE #3. With quick 8ths and the trumpet above the staff, octaves work nicely. The last bars could work in 6ths, but I decided on Octaves. Either idea would work.

    EXAMPLE #4. This idea is per fect for octaves with the trumpet popping those double high C. This idea plays after the DS and fi l ls around the vocal in the last A section. An idea like this creates excitement.



    NOTE: you will find the audio companion to these example on the FSM website at:

  • 6EXAMPLE #5. A combination of octaves and intervals throughout this example of SUGAR with chord changes on every bar with the horns fi l ing around the vocal.

    Chicago Horns 2006


  • Lovely Day


    My trumpet player doubles on flugelhorn and my sax player doubles on flute. Flute and flugelhorn work well together and will give you a whole new color to use in your group.

    First I write out what my flute will play since its usually the top voice in this scenario and will write the flugelhorn under the flute in octaves or intervals. Since the flute and flugelhorn both have higher ranges than a tenor sax, you could write 3rd and 6th interval a lot higher in the staff. Also, prime unison and 3rds in the staff sound very nice with these instruments.

    Try mixing your unisons and octaves with intervals. Weve all heard this done many times where the horns play a line in octaves or unison and then at the end of the phrase they will play a held note which is then voiced in 3rds, a 6th or a 5th. Mixing things up like this is very effective and sounds fantastic with 4 and 5 horns bursting into a big fat voicing.

    EXAMPLE #6. Heres an example of Flute and Flugel Horn on LOVELY DAY playing in prime unison.


    Just adding an 3rd horn to your l ineup opens up a whole new world of possibil it ies.

    You can now have triads instead of intervals, using closed and open voicing. You can divide the horn section into groups, working your tenor instruments against your trumpet, or, while one of you horns is solo-ing, the other two can comp in intervals.

    The Tower of Power Saxes. Oregon Zoo, 2007

    With 3 horns you can mix up your orchestration a number of ways if you start incorporating any of the rhythm section. Group your guitar or keyboard with one of your horns as one section and have your other horns as the other section. Then have the sections counter or play against each other.

    Dont forget that all 3 horns dont always have to be playing. Your tenor instruments can be active while your trumpet is resting or tacit.

    With 3 horns there are some nice linear or contrapuntal ideas you can incor-porate. This can be a little bit more involved and well have some examples of that too.

    If youre writing a jazz arrangement with extended harmony, as in, A9(+11) or A13, it can be more challenging with 3 horns than with 4 or 5. With 4 or 5 horns its obvious that you can cover more notes. This approach will be easier to show using examples.

  • 9EXAMPLE #7. Three part writing with block or closed voicing for trumpet, tenor sax, and trombone. With the trumpet (the top voice) being in the staff, this works well with two tenor instruments playing the lower voices. All three play the single note at the start of each phrase.

    EXAMPLE #8. With part writing for 3 horns you can put the treble line in prime unison or octaves with your trumpet and sax and the trombone playing the bass clef, or you could fl ip the sax and bone parts, depending on the sound you want.


    THE ODD COUPLE ending/coda

    Twilight Club 1956Pensacola, Florida

  • 10

    EXAMPLE #9. Three Time Blueser #1This is an example of 3 voices that I transcribed from a big band album by composer, Elmer Bernstein. On his original version the treble line was played by trumpet and trombone and the bass clef was played by the tenor and baritone saxes. When I was putting my sextet book together for 3 horns and piano trio, I copied the orchestration of the original version with just one instrument on each note instead of the 4 or 5 in a typical big band. Currently we are doing this tune with only trumpet and sax so I had them play the treble line and the rhythm section plays the bass l ine. You can actually orchestrate this example a multiple of ways.

    EXAMPLE #10. Heres a bluesy thing in 3/4 where the trumpet and sax play a slightly varied idea in the treble staff with a little contrary motion. In the bass clef the trombone is playing a 1 bar pattern with the rhythm section. For a different color you could fl ip the sax and trombone parts and it would sti l l work.

    3 Time Bluser, Elmer Bernstein

    3 Time Bluser, cont

  • Passing - Cmin7


    EXAMPLE #11. Bluesette for 3 horns.This example is a 3 part closed or block voicing. With the top note being the melody, you just voice down fallowing the intervals of the chord. Notice the melody notes, G & C on the nd beats of bars 1 & . They are not in a Bbmaj7 chord, but are in a Cmin7 chord, the chord in the key of Bb major. Using the minor chord for your voicing is known as a Passing chord.

    Toms Tavern club at Gonzalez & Railroad St. Pensacola, Florida.1956.