Jazz Composition and Arranging Tips: Ensemble Voicings

Jazz Composition and Arranging Tips: Ensemble Voicings

I have been a Finale user since the mid-1990s. Along the way, I have learned many “tricks” to use the application in a way that compliments my writing flow and allows me to do things quickly.

I enjoy sharing these tricks in clinics for composers, students, and teachers as well as in my courses at the University of Northern Colorado. In all cases, it’s exhilarating to see the faces of fellow Finale users light up when they see a quicker and more effective way to do something they do on a regular basis.

I’m excited to share one of those tips today and look forward to sharing more in future posts.

Ensemble Voicings from Sketch to Score

As I am composing/arranging I often create my ensemble voicings in a single staff. This allows me to see all of the actual notes in one place and in concert pitch. For me, this simplifies work on sectional and ensemble voicings before I create the actual transposed score. In fact, when writing for jazz orchestra, I often use a sketch version of the score comprised of two grand staves, one for the saxes/woodwinds section and another for the brass section; and staves for guitar, piano, bass, and drums. You can hide or delete these staves later.

In addition to entering notes, I also add all my articulations and dynamics as I write these one-staff voicings (which saves me the effort of adding them to individual voices later).

Once the notes are entered, there’s an easy way to distribute the individual voices of each section to the appropriate staves. Finale calls this process “Explode Music,” and it’s pretty simple. With the Selection tool chosen, you indicate what music you want to distribute. Then from the Utility menu, you choose Explode Music and follow the prompts. Here’s what it looks like in action:

Exploding music can save you a lot of time and avoid many clicks of the mouse. It also allows you to develop a faster workflow. I hope this tip makes you smile and helps you to more efficiently create and share your music.

Socrates Garcia

Socrates Garcia is a composer, arranger, producer, recording engineer, bandleader, guitarist, and educator from the Dominican Republic. The director of music technology at the University of Northern Colorado, he teaches courses in music technology and jazz arranging. He has given clinics at many music conferences including the Jazz Education Network, International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers, TMEA (Texas), CMEA (Colorado), and OMEA (Ohio). His 2016 award winning album for MAMA Records, “Back Home,” features the Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra, a contemporary jazz big band that combines Afro-Dominican genres that include merengue, bachata, and palos or atabales, alongside other Afro-Caribbean genres.

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