Span, Weight and Density Concept in Jazz Arranging

Thinking in terms of an arrangement as having a constant ebb and flow of span, weight and density helped totally change the way I thought about putting a jazz arrangement (especially for big band) together.

It was a concept that I was not even aware of until I was doing a Master’s Degree and studied with Cliff Colnot, a prominent commercial jingle writer/arranger in the Chicago area. Cliff is one of those guys that is basically just brilliant, and, although not a jazz player in the traditional sense, his knowledge of arranging and musical conception was light years ahead of anyone I had run across up to that time. Since he worked in the cut throat commercial music scene, his knowledge of a variety of musical styles was second to none. He was a taskmaster at arranging, however, and studying with Cliff had a definite impact on raising the level of my arranging skills at the time.

The book we used in this particular arranging class was Arranging Concepts Complete: The Ultimate Arranging Course for Today’s Music (Dick Grove Arranging Series)
. It is by far one of the best arranging books I have learned from.

Considering the concept of span, weight and density throughout a musical arrangement will help steer you away from always thinking in terms of writing for “sections” within a big band. This video explains in simple terms the concept and how it can help your arrangements begin to sound fresher and more original each and every time. More about this concept in future videos.


11 Replies to “Span, Weight and Density Concept in Jazz Arranging”

  1. Bengt Palmgren

    Very useful concept to think in other ways than pure “section writing”. Looking forward to next lesson.

  2. Mel Villena

    Good techniques to keep in mind and use as springboard for almost any type of standard arranging/orchestration. Thanks for bringing this up Jim.

  3. Laurent

    As usual, very good stuff
    Thanks Jim
    and it’s always explained in a very simple way, easy to understand
    but your french accent gives it away 🙂

  4. Alan


    Great – really helpful again, thanks. The theory is fairly simple -but I guess putting it all into practice is where it gets a bit tricky!



  5. Michael

    As always, great lesson, Jim. Please keep doing these!
    I can’t stop thinking about how these principles helped so many great writers/arrangers develop their own signature sound.

  6. g m

    I’ll keep that in mind when I’m doing my chart for my final test at the music university. Jim your videos are really helpful, though I’m studying arrangements at the university I learn faster watching your videos. Thanks for loading them up!

  7. Jim Martin

    Thanks for the nice comments on this one you guys. There is a huge concept and one lesson just barely scratches the surface. In the future, I’ll analyze some stuff just based on the concept of span/weight/density. I really think that mastering this concept will put you light years ahead of most arrangers.

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