Writing for the Rhythm Section: Bass

In Week 3 of Jazz & Popular Arranging, we added the Rhythm Section to our writing, specifically the bass. Much of the lecture material on bass line construction was similar to the content in Mike Steinel’s Developing the Successful Jazz Ensemble MECA at VanderCook. We continued on the path of unison/octave writing for horns while composing simple bass lines.


The bulk of the lecture material dealt with constructing bass lines in 2 (using roots and fifths) and in 4 (adding in 3rds and 7ths). The use of passing tones was only briefly discussed, as they would not be required in our assignment. To demonstrate the difference between a 2-beat and 4-beat feel, the lecture material used Horace Silver’s “Strollin’”. The tune starts out with a 2-beat feel under the head before shifting to a 4-beat feel behind the soloists.

Discussion Board

Prompt: Listen to "In the Midnight Hour," and use the provided template to create a new background horn arrangement to accompany the existing vocal and rhythm section performance (in other words, replace the original horn parts with your own). Write for trumpet and tenor sax for the first chorus (see pp. 239-40 in the Standards Real Book) from letter A through the first ending, and notate your horn figures as an untransposed unison line (the tenor, of course, will sounds an octave lower).

By Day 4, post an empty post (this will function as a placeholder) in Discussion 3 titled "your name – discussion 3," and attach the PDF of your completed arrangement to the empty post. Your facilitator will assign you one of your colleagues, and you will comment on their arrangement by Day 6 as a reply to their placeholder post (please feel free to comment on more than one!). Of course be positive, but don't be afraid to make suggestions and constructive criticism. Your own music library should be able to provide you with plenty of examples of horn arrangements, and you might find it helpful to refer to the songs from Week 2. By the way, this is for fun – don't obsess on it or spend an inordinate amount of time on this discussion.

Original Post:

Original Melody (top) and Horn Arrangement in Concert Pitch (Bottom)

Original Melody (top) and Horn Arrangement in Concert Pitch (Bottom)

Response: Rather than share my classmates’ work, I’ll say that many of us had similar mixes of horn “hits” (like measure 2), melody alignment (measure 8), and responses to the melody (measure 3). Many of us also chose to use articulations to enhance and specify the writing.


Prompt: Write a horn arrangement of "I Could Write a Book" (The Standards Real Book, pp. 181-82). Begin with the pickups to letter A of the fake book (you are omitting the verse) and omit the final pickups in the last measure. With an instrumentation of trumpet, tenor sax, and baritone sax, using only unisons and octave unisons, employ a variety of instrumental combinations that highlight and amplify the piece's phrase structure. Using the provided score template, write the parts in concert pitch and then execute the correct transposition (in this case all must be transposed). Place the parts in comfortable areas of the horn (no extreme registers). Considering any comments from your facilitator, make the melody swing even a little harder!

Compose a bass line employing just roots and fifths. In the template, for letter A the bass should be in two, letter B in four (these make up letter A from the fake book), letter C in two, letter D in four (these make up letter B from the fake book). Advanced students may write a smooth bass line employing roots, thirds, fifths, and sevenths. Please notate the chord symbols above the bass line for all assignments. Do not use any of the chords that are in parentheses.

By Monday (Day 7) submit three songs (something with approximately thirty-two measures) from The Standards Real Book that you would like to use for your final project. Indicate an order of preference, and your facilitator will choose one. They will choose based upon your level as compared to the difficulty of the tunes.


Assignment 3-2: Originally for the last part of the assignment, I wanted to do an arrangement of J.J. Johnson’s Lament or Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are, but neither are in The Standards Real Book. So I went through page by page and came up with the following list:

  • At Last — Warren & Gordon (Ballad)

  • Come Fly With Me — Van Heusen & Cahn (Longer than 32 bars)

  • (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay — Redding & Cropper (Ballad? Longer than 32 bars)

  • Fascinating Rhythm — George & Ira Gershwin

  • A Foggy Day — George & Ira Gershwin

  • Have You Met Miss Jones? — Rodgers & Hart

  • How Long Has This Been Going On? — George & Ira Gershwin

  • I’ve Got You Under my Skin — Cole Porter (Longer than 32 bars)

  • The Lady is a Tramp — Rodgers & Hart (Longer than 32 bars)

  • Moondance — Van Morrison

  • Shiny Stockings — Foster & Fitzgerald (Longer than 32 bars)

  • Someone to Watch Over Me — George & Ira Gershwin (Ballad)

  • Sweet Georgia Brown — Bernie, Pinkard, & Casey

  • You Make Me Feel So Young — Myrow & Gordon

Seeing a lot of Gershwin on there, I decided to little those down to one. I settled on How Long Has This Been Going On?. I also got rid of all of the ballads and anything significantly longer than 32 bars. I finally submitted the following three:

  1. How Long Has This Been Going On? — George & Ira Gershwin

  2. Moondance — Van Morrison

  3. Sweet Georgia Brown — Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, & Kenneth Casey


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.