Arranging Music

This is an assignment taken from one of my works at Hull College as part of an Extended Diploma Music Lv.3 course in 2010 that received a Distinction.


Deconstructing music allows us to have a deeper understanding of its component parts and the methods employed by the writer. To be able to appreciate the arranging techniques of writers on a technical level we can develop our own knowledge and skill. The work of Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones and Bob Brookemeyer are all written for big band jazz orchestra but have their own styles, techniques and signature which you will study in this unit.


For this assignment you will study the arrangement of others and write a comparison between two using appropriate musical and technical terminology.

  • Use of rhythm, pitch, harmony, dynamics and timbre to create various textures.
  • Use of instrumental groupings.
  • Use of counterpoint and melodic embellishment.
  • 4 and 5 part voicing’s of instruments over common chords and progressions within each piece.

Written essay detailing clear differences between two arranging styles and have complete authority over the language used. This should also include objective conclusions as to the effectiveness of each style.

Score Analysis

In this assignment I will be going to compare the jazz arrangement of Sammy Nestico’s work with that of Thad Jones.

Just by looking at the score of “Hay Burner” by Sammy Nestico, he starts off in contrary motion while in the arrangement of “US” by Thad Jones who is using parallel motion. The use of contrary motion is that it keeps listener listening because it is interesting, helps to keep the music flowing and to give a strong sense of direction where parallel motion is more rigid, tedious (after awhile) and kind of blocky.

However, the rhythm used in Thad Jones arrangement, in bars 2 to 5 there is a great difference in the sound of the music because there are quavers and semiquavers that are included in auxiliary and passing notes and the use of gliss on the trumpets in bar 3. Also, by using a variety of dynamics such as the accented notes marked with a marcato along with the F (forte/loudness) at the beginning to make the music relatively more prominent.

Another thing I notice, is that Sammy Nestico uses many of the (VI), II, V, I progressions’ and simple Chords such as C7, Cb9 and Co7 and less frequently uses the chord extensions of C7(b9 b5) and C#11 whereas Thad Jones does; this can be seen in bars 57: the use of C6/9/G; bar 68: Bb(sus4) and Emaj9 #11; He uses the extensions of b9, b9 #5, #11 and maj13(#11) more often than what Sammy Nestico does along with some contrary motion; this keeps the listener interested by using more colour and texture in the music while Nestico’s music, this is something that it lacks quite often and I suppose that it does explain why we get bored of it more quicker than Thad Jones’s arrangements do.

The thing I like about Thad Jones arrangement is that for the most part of it is in the use of solo instruments and instrumental groupings that Sammy Nestico does not use as often except for the occasion of bars 55 to 58 and bars 95 to 99, otherwise, it is mostly them all or with just a few omitted from the music.

At the beginning of Thad Jones arrangement, he includes an improvisation for the sax (even despite the fact that this is not written on the score, obviously not an improvisation would be). Thad Jones also includes a piano solo at the end of bar 28 through bars 29 to 34 which leads into the trombone section playing for bars 35 to 42 and to give some opulence, Thad Jones adds trumpets to the following 8 bars (of bars 43 to 50) by adding together unison trumpets; this gives more texture and colour within the brass part of the music.

“Scalla plaining” is commonly used in jazz that allows one to keep a note that is not within the chord because this note (even though it could be a passing note) is treated as the closest note below it that is in the chord or if there’s a tie then it is the chord the note ends on: the next chord that will be used instead of the one in the current position; Sammy Nestico uses this a lot, for example, the last quaver of bar 43 would be Am7 but the next chord Bb6 is used instead and bar 53, the & of beat 1 (Ab) would use the chord of F/C but instead the chord used is G7(b9) in which also can be used in the previous chord of D7(b9 b5) as well.

When looking at bar 53 in the Thad Jones arrangement, I notice that parallelism is being used here; parallelism as you can see, is that all the instruments are playing in the same direction rather than a little contrary and/or parallel motion, but this is just pure parallel (parallelism).

Further on in bar 55, Thad Jones also uses a chromatic movement that I think helps to build some kind of tension for what is to come in the next section of the music.

Another thing I notice is that Sammy Nestico use close part harmony to build up tension (usually keeping the note order top to bottom not crossing the voices and rarely using the techniques of drop 4 and to relief that tension he uses open part harmony with the use of drop 2 (dropping the 2nd note from the top of the trumpets or sax’s to the bottom, an octave lower allowing to prevent voices from crossing).

Thad Jones use some of the drop 4 technique (which is the same as the drop 2 but instead you would drop the 4th from the top of the trumpets or sax’s as well and drop the 4th to the bottom below the dropped 2 and placed that an octave lower to avoid the voices from crossing); This technique is very useful because when harmonising we are most likely to start harmonise in parallel motion and with advantages of the drop 2 and drop 4 we (or the arranger) has more control in the flow of the music, to avoid parallel motion and use as much as contrary motion as possible.

Thad Jones uses drop 2 in bar 51 where contrary motion is created once between parallel and in the sax soli of Sammy Nestico’s arrangement at bar 58, he also uses drop 2 but does not really enter contrary motion but stays in parallel for a while.

Finally, using all instruments at once the two arranger achieve great effects, such as Thad Jones ending of a section at bar 57 with a marcato and a small pause he releases some of the tension that has built up for ready for the next section to come in.

However, Sammy Nestico makes better use by ending the music with all the instruments playing with the chord spread out (open harmony) and a little rhythm on the drums which make it sound more or less flashy but most importantly the pause showing the end.


“Hay Burner” by Sammy Nestico – Score Arrangement and Music
“US” by Thad Jones – Score Arrangement and Music

Categories: AnalysisStudy



I’m self-taught pianist. I have interests in the traditional Roman and Greek literature of music dating from 1200.c to 1900 (Classical Music) and its contemporary forms by composers such as Edward Elgar to Joe Hisaishi (Modern Classical, minimalism, surrealism, anime / film / game). I also arrange, compose, transcribe and midi orchestrate music.