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The University of Southampton

MUSI3015 Orchestration and Arranging

Module Overview

This module is based partially on lectures and partially on the study of existing scores, together with listening tasks. It is understood that practical experience of hearing your arrangements is the best teacher of all: therefore there is an expectation that you will write for existing and active ensembles. A prior knowledge of notation software e.g. Sibelius or Finale, is also important.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • how to handle instruments in large and small ensembles to provide well-balanced textures
  • how to arrange song-forms in appropriate structures, with correct instrumental distribution of harmony and voice-leading, and with appropriate use of invented materials such as introductions, countermelodies, and (in the case of jazz and pop) grooves and hooks
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Perceive the implications of a brief and plan accordingly
  • Conceive, think through and execute a creative task
  • Present polished copies of musical score, either handwritten or printed with the aid of a computer notation programme for music software
  • Anticipate practicalities when working with groups of people with differing requirements
  • Communicate your own ideas and responses to a brief
  • Manage your time when planning and handling large scale assignments
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • transcribe material from piano music to orchestral format
  • mix musical colours, in appropriate textures (at unison, octaves, etc) to bring out melodic lines as necessary
  • The same regarding the balance of textures of different types – contrapuntal, homophonic etc
  • Understand and engage with the musical syntax of an arrangements’ ‘style’, and extrapolate it convincingly
  • Lay out scores to a high standard by hand or in computer-set notation
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan the use of orchestration in terms of layers and section contrasts to clearly articulate musical form (phrase and large structure)
  • plan and execute arrangements clearly, showing your method of working from initial research, through drafts to final version


The module covers many aspects of orchestration technique common to classical music, pop and jazz. These include melodic highlighting, balancing of chords (in a variety of settings), balancing of parts (principal and secondary layers), and the relation of good orchestration to musical form. Introductions are given to most orchestral instruments in terms of basics of range, their technical abilities, how they combine etc. The same is given for instruments in jazz and pop line-ups. Consideration will also be given to orchestration in imitation of particular styles – classical and non-classical. Four assignments are usually set. These will probably consist of – i) a chamber orchestral arrangement of a simple hymn or carol; ii) a transcription of a piece of piano music; iii) a pop, jazz or classical arrangement of existing song materials; iv) a final project of students’ choice, in agreement with the module tutor(s). This will be a substantial arrangement of pre-existing material which involves some level of stylistic transformation. This usually means selecting a song or instrumental piece and arranging in a different style of music (e.g. doing a latin jazz version of ‘God Save the Queen’)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - lecture - group tutorials Learning activities include: - analysis/listening to scores - reading treatises on orchestration - preparation of orchestrations, transcription and arrangements in clear stages from initial idea to final score, possibly with the use of computer notation and sequencing packages. Lectures will provide you with detailed knowledge of the principles of orchestration and instrumental usage, with much focussed listening and examination of scores. These examples will provide models, which you will respond to by imitation and with original invention in the exercises. You will discuss these in tutorial sessions as you work upon them, so building up your knowledge and ability for self-criticism. Innovative or special features of this module: - Breadth of musical styles and genres approached

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Runswick, Daryl (1992). Rock, Jazz and Pop Arranging. 

Nestico, Sammy (1993). The Complete arranger. 

Adler, Samuel (2002). The Study of Orchestration. 


Assessment Strategy

Differentiation between 2nd and 3rd level work The assessment of skills will be the same as for 2nd level students. For 3rd level students taking this unit, expectations will be higher than those for 2nd level students, and the assessment criteria will be accordingly stricter. In particular: • Topics chosen should allow a greater degree of focus and detail, whether of analysis, examination of and commentary on facts, critical insight, independent argument, or other factors. • Conversely, assignments should demonstrate a broader knowledge and understanding of context, a more confident use of analytical and critical tools, and a more mature handling of argument, etc. • Optimal standards of presentation are required, in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar; sophistication of vocabulary; provision of footnotes; inclusion of full bibliographic and related details; physical appearance of work, etc. In short, 3rd level students should aspire at all times to the highest possible levels of undergraduate work.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (4 minutes) 60%
Assignment  (4 minutes) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (4 minutes) 40%
Assignment  (4 minutes) 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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