Music Theory 101

Author: Paul Schmeling | Course Code: OHARM-101

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Pitch. Rhythm. Scales. Intervals. Chords. Harmony. If you're serious about music, these are fundamental concepts you need to understand and master. Music Theory 101 will set you on your way. After more than 40 years at Berklee, Professor Emeritus Paul Schmeling has helped countless students build a solid base of musical knowledge. And he'll do the same for you, supported by class discussions, interactive tools, and personalized feedback that will help you put these theories into practice every day. Join our community of beginning learners for engaging, hands-on activities that will help you read, write, and truly hear the elements of music like never before. Enroll today!

By the end of this course, you will:

Read and write musical notationPlay notes on a piano keyboardUse scales, intervals, and chordsWrite a melody

Lesson 1: Rhythm Part I

PulseMeterNotesRhythmic Notation Activities

Lesson 2: Rhythm Part II

Eighth NotesBeaming, Dots, and TiesRhythmic Notation TipsRhythmic Dictation ActivityRhythmic Notation Activity

Lesson 3: Pitch Notation

ABCs of Pitch NotationTreble Clef NotesBass Clef NotesGrand StaffOctavesAccidentals: Sharps, Flats, and NaturalsEnharmonics

Lesson 4: Major Scales

Half Steps and Whole StepsChromatic ScalesWhole Tone ScalesMajor ScalesOther Major ScalesKey SignaturesScales and Key Signatures

Lesson 5: Minor Scales

The Minor Scale SoundThe Relative Major/Minor RelationshipParallel MinorHarmonic MinorMelodic MinorThe Descending Melodic Minor ScaleThe Real Melodic Minor ScaleMinor Scale Key Signatures

Lesson 6: Intervals

Interval Number NamesInterval SoundUnisonPerfect and Major IntervalsMajor vs. Minor IntervalsPerfect/Major vs. DiminishedPerfect/Major vs. AugmentedCompound Intervals

Lesson 7: Chords I: Triads

Major TriadsMinor TriadsDiminished and Augmented TriadsChord Symbols

Lesson 8: Triad Inversions

Triad InversionsBass/Chord TheoryVoice LeadingParallel and Contrary Motion

Lesson 9: Chords II: Basic Seventh Chords

The Major Seventh ChordThe Dominant Seventh ChordThe Minor Seventh ChordThe Minor 7The Diminished Seventh ChordChord Symbols and Review

Lesson 10: Inversions and Voice: Leading of Seventh Chords

Inversions of Basic Seventh ChordsPositions of Basic Seventh ChordsVoice Leading Seventh ChordsVoice Leading: Two Ways

Lesson 11: Using the Lead Sheet

Harmonizing the MelodyCreating Harmonic AccompanimentsVoice DoublingsIncreasing Activity in the Bass

Lesson 12: Melody Writing

Making Melodic ConnectionsRepeating PhrasesSequences

Paul Schmeling

Author & Instructor

Paul Schmeling is a master pianist, interpreter, improviser and arranger who has inspired countless students since he began teaching at Berklee in 1961. He has performed or recorded with jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Rebecca Parris, George Coleman, Carol Sloane, Frank Foster, Art Farmer, Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, Dick Johnson and Slide Hampton. In the 1990s, the Paul Schmeling Trio released two inventive and critically acclaimed albums, interpreting the music of Hoagy Carmichael and songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Recently retired as chair of the piano department, he is co-author of the Berklee Practice Method: Keyboard (2001) and Instant Keyboard (2002) and the author of Berklee Music Theory: Book 1.

Roberta Radley


Roberta Radley is Assistant Chair in the Ear Training Department at Berklee College of Music. A Berklee graduate with a degree in composition, she joined the faculty in 1976. Since then, Radley has taught a wide range of ear training classes, using innovative methods to help students hear music more analytically, and earning recognition for Outstanding Achievement in Music Education from Berklee College of Music. Co-author of the Department Core Curriculum Ear Training 1-4 books as well as author of the Harmonic Ear Training DVD on Berklee Press, Roberta has traveled widely on behalf of Berklee, holding scholarship auditions, working with affiliated schools, and presenting seminars across the U.S. and internationally. Additionally, Roberta is an active performer as a pianist and vocalist and is an experienced private piano and voice instructor.

Dave Limina


Dave Limina is an Assistant Professor in the Piano Department at Berklee College of Music, where he received the Most Valuable Contribution to the Performance Curriculum Award in 2001 for his work in developing the Hammond organ program. An experienced session keyboardist, composer, and arranger, Dave has performed with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Lori McKenna, Duke Robillard, Paula Cole, Mark Murphy, Robert Lee Castleman, and the first national touring company of the Broadway musical Rent. He received Boston Music award nominations for his work with Courage Brothers, Ronnie Earl, and Mighty Sam McClain. He played keyboards on Michelle Willson's Wake Up Call, which was a Boston Music Awards winner in 2001. Dave does extensive session work in Boston and New York featuring his piano, Hammond organ, and vintage keyboard playing. He is the author of Hammond Organ Complete (Berklee Press) and the instructional video/DVD Accelerate Your Keyboard Playing. He is a monthly contributor to Keyboard magazine of Japan.

Russell Hoffmann


Russell Hoffmann is Assistant Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music and is a pianist, recording artist, composer and arranger in many styles of contemporary music, including jazz, Latin, and pop styles. He has served as musical director for Concord recording artist Marlena Shaw and the University of Minnesota's "Twelve Moods for Jazz" Langston Hughes project. He has performed with many jazz luminaries, including Jack McDuff, James Moody, Billy Hart, Donald Harrison, Bobbie McFerrin, Peter Lietch, and many of Boston's finest jazz artists. As a clinician, Russ has appeared in Berklee's Italy summer program, Umbria Jazz Festival, Perugia, Italy; Berklee in Taipei; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Heineken Jazz Fest, San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the Berklee Annual Jazz Festival. He is the author of workbooks on keyboard comping, ensemble performance, and co-author of the Berklee Practice Method: Keyboard.

Steve Rochinski


Steve Rochinski is a Professor in the Harmony Department at Berklee College of Music. An accomplished guitarist, recording artist, and internationally known performer and clinician, Steve has received numerous grants and awards including a 1993 Jazz Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for private study with Tal Farlow.

Before coming to Berklee, Steve toured for many years, and in his travels has worked with the Candoli Brothers, Tal Farlow, Attila Zoller, Jimmy Raney, Tim Hagans, Pat Harbison, Gary Foster, Hank Marr, Brad Goode, Scott Lee, Joe Hunt, Chuck Redd, Richard Evans, and Tony Tillman. In 1995, Steve released his critically acclaimed debut CD Until Further Notice (LineOut Music/North Country Dist.). He currently records for Jardis Records, Germany's leading jazz guitar label. His releases include A Bird in the Hand (JRCD9922) and Otherwise (JRCD20033) (

He is the author of the award-winning The Jazz Style of Tal Farlow: The Elements of Bebop Guitar and The Motivic Basis for Jazz Guitar Improvisation (Hal Leonard Corp.). In November 2001, Steve's life and career was featured in the 7th anniversary issue of the internationally renowned magazine for jazz guitar fans, Just Jazz Guitar (No. 29, November 2001). Steve will be profiled in the next edition of the book The Jazz Guitar: Its Evolution, Players, and Personalities Since 1900 by Maurice Summerfield (Ashley Mark Publishing) and the 2005 Edition of Who's Who in America (Marquis Publishing).

Michael Hamilton


Mike Hamilton has been producing, writing, recording, and performing music for over twenty years. He was a member of the late night band for the BET television show Live from LA, where he wrote and produced hip-hop pieces for guest artists such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Warren G, Method Man, P. Diddy, and Mystical. He has produced recordings for Interscope, Island Def Jam, and BGP Records. His recordings include Heart and Soul with the Winans, Thus Spoke Z with CTI, and the solo albums Natural Attraction and Here Together. While the saxophone is his principal instrument, he also plays keyboards, bass, and drums.

Hamilton has appeared and toured with multi-platinum recording artists such as James Brown, Tyrese, Savage Garden, Coolio, Joe, Ronny Jordan, Jonathan Butler, and Phil Perry. He has performed at the BBC London, the NFL World Bowl IX Halftime Show, the Turn Ben Stein On TV show, and the Today show. He has been featured at the Boston Globe Jazz Festival and the Santa Barbara Jazz Festival. He received his bachelor of music degree from Berklee College of Music, where he is now an assistant professor in the Contemporary Writing and Production department.


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Berklee Music Theory: Book 1 by Paul Schmeling

This book is perfect for anyone who wants to learn music theory, whether they already play an instrument, or are looking to expand the depth of their musical knowledge. This essential method features hands-on and "ears-on" practice exercises that help you explore the inner workings of music, presenting notes, scales and rhythms as they are heard in today's music styles. The included CD will help reinforce lessons as you begin to build a solid musical foundation.

Berklee Music Theory: Book 2 by Paul Schmeling

Learn the fundamentals of harmony by furthering your music theory background. When you can read basic music notation and recognize common scales, as presented in the first book of this series, Berklee Music Theory 1, you'll be ready to learn the fundamentals of harmony.

Berklee Music Theory 2 features hands-on exercises and ear-training activities to help you use chords effectively. You will learn basic triads and seventh chords, inversions, voice-leading, how to use chords to accompany melodies, and how to create melodies that grow out of chord progressions.

PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current versionNoteflight Crescendo. Upon enrolling in the course, you will be offered an academic discount on this online notation tool.
Windows Vista SP2 or higherIntel Pentium or higher1 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommendedSound cardSpeakers or headphones for your computer
OS X 10.5 or higherIntel Mac1 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommendedSpeakers or headphones for your computer
  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

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