One of the most common types of combo settings is 3 horns and rhythm. This group consists (usually) of trumpet, tenor sax, and trombone + rhythm section. Most commonly known as a jazz “combo” or “small group”.
Writing for only 3 horns can be challenging, but with a few guidelines to follow, and with some practice, arranging tunes for this size group will eventually become easy for you.
In this lesson, I take a previously done 4 horn arrangement and cut it down to just 3 players. I am often amazed at how much better a 4 horn chart can sound as opposed to only 3 voices. But in reality, you’ll probably get more gigs with less people, so get used to writing for this type of group.
Below the video is the finished chart with the 3 horn parts and the piano part (4 voices). Sit at the piano and play through some of these to get an idea of how the voicings sound. Then try your hand at some small combo arrangements. They can be fun, and unlike a big band chart, can be a little less intimidating.
- Strive for the fullest sound you can
- Limit repeated notes whenever possible
- Strive for good (and idiomatic) lines for each player
- Effective registers for each instrument
- Use moving lines to outline harmony where necessary