Student Critique: Big Band – Miss Jones (Page 2)

This video continues onto page 2 of the big band arrangement of a fellow class member. I recently found out that the student that arranged this is only a junior in high school, so I think its great that he is taking it upon himself to tackle charts for big band.

Some points covered in this lesson: 1) choosing the proper key for the arrangement, 2) repeats vs no repeats for AABA tunes, 3) counterpoint issues and possibilities, 4) melody notes reign supreme, 5) choosing rhythms that lay well, and more.

Before you watch this lesson, download and print this page. You can then refer to it as I go through the lesson.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below.

Download page 2 of the score here

5 Replies to “Student Critique: Big Band – Miss Jones (Page 2)”

  1. Austin

    Hey Jim, I was wondering…. How could I voice out that C7 chord better and what could I do about the
    Amin chord next to that?

  2. Ethan

    Thank you so much Jim and Austin. I, as well, am a junior in HS, and it’s very helpful to see the kinds of things I can always fix in my own work. I’ve only arranged for big band once (an original– a mistake) and I think I have more skill writing for combo, but I’m definitely inspired to get off my butt and develop some better big band chops.

  3. David

    Hi, Jim. Interesting, as usual. In regards to the straight 3rds harmonization of the melody; what if the arranger was going for a “close position” effect? I thought I understood that in close position voicing, the idea was to build the chord down in thirds from the melody note. This is also the idea with “drop” voicings, as I understand them. For some reason, the PDF wouldn’t download for me to see your notes (I’ll try again, later) but I am interested in discussing this. I know that generally the close position is used in faster passages; what I don’t know are the general rules for how notes are distributed across the sections in close harmony. I know you favor “crossing” the instruments, but for now, please bear with me on this as I am trying to understand some basic things, and I seem to be a bit dense (I blame it on age). If I voiced 4 trumpets close (or dropped), would the trombones be doing something similar in a different octave, with the 5th possibly doubling the melody? What would the saxes be doing; an open-voiced pad behind the horns, playing a counter-melody during held notes in the brass? One of the Berklee books has some good examples of close and dropped voicing, but they spread them out over 5 instruments. I’m wondering about the traditional sectional roles in this question, and how they are linked (where do the tpts and trombones overlap on the way down the harmonic series) perhaps practice from the 30’s – 40’s or so.

    Thanks, Jim. Grateful as always.

  4. Jim Martin

    David: to be honest, I don’t use the 4 voice close position thing so much. It is a somewhat limiting when you get into more complex chords. That being said, you can voice trumpets in close position and have the bones an octave lower. You can also have the saxes down an octave as well with the bari sax doubling down an octave.

    The thing about this type of voicing approach is that it sounds pretty “formula” and everything starts to sound the same after awhile. Also, if trumpets are lower, the bones tend to start sounding too low an octave down. There is one chart that I did use this type of approach. Its called Blues for Mr. P and you can view the score and listen at this page:

    I was thinking span/weight/density for the chart, so you’ll see that it doesn’t always stay in close position 4 part chords.

    You are right though, when there are fast passages for the whole band, the 4 voice close position works well since the voice leading usually ends up fairly step-wise. This is an instance where you can use the diminished 7th chord to cover the passing (non chord tones) notes. That concept is covered in this lesson.

    Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions on this.

  5. curt

    A junior in high school….I’m pretty impressed.

    Jim hearing you play the voicings on the piano is very helpful


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