Music Application and Theory


Authored by Eunmi Shim


Course Code: OHARM-105

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


This course provides a study of music fundamentals and their use in contemporary popular music. This study includes aural analysis of contemporary songs, including chord function, form, bass motion, and the role of the rhythm section. Exploring songs through this lens will lead you to a better understanding of harmony, bass lines, rhythmic language, and form.

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Keyboard exercises and written homework assignments will give you extensive practice in reading and writing major and natural minor scales in all keys, as well as triads and 7th chords diatonic to those scales. The course provides introductory exposure to chromatic variations on major key harmony: You will explore the principle of modal interchange in limited situations to add color and variety to diatonic progressions.

Rudiments of rhythmic notation will be used in analyzing and writing for the pop/rock rhythm section. You will create scores for the melody and rhythm section, which will be put to use in short, guided composition assignments in contemporary song forms.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Correctly notate melody, harmony, and rhythm
  • Compose melodies, bass lines, and chord progressions in major and Aeolian systems (including limited non-diatonic harmony), using the 12-bar blues form or other popular song forms
  • Analyze and articulate the melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and structural elements of a broad range of musical styles
  • Create lead sheets, chord charts, and arrangements for rhythm section
  • Aurally recognize and transcribe common harmonic patterns, bass lines, and drum patterns
  • Use the keyboard to learn and practice the theoretical concepts presented in the course
  • Demonstrate the creative integration of course concepts through homework assignments and projects, both in recorded and score formats
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Music Notation and Scales

  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Whole and Half steps in the Major Scale
  • Major Pentatonic Scale
  • Introduction to the Natural Minor Scale
  • Introduction to the Drums and Drum notation
  • Keyboard Corner: Major Scales
  • Assignment 1.1: Major and Major Pentatonic Scales
  • Assignment 1.2: Playing Major Scales

Lesson 2: Scales and Intervals

  • Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths
  • Intervals
  • Natural Minor Scale and Minor Pentatonic Scale
  • Identifying and Spelling Intervals
  • The Bass
  • Keyboard Corner: Natural Minor Scales
  • Assignment 2.1: Natural Minor and Minor Pentatonic Scales
  • Assignment 2.2: Playing Natural Minor Scales

Lesson 3: Triads, Major Key Triads, and Harmonic Function

  • Triads
  • Diatonic Triads in Major Keys
  • Harmonic Function and Cadence
  • Major Key Chord Progressions
  • Keyboard Corner: Diatonic Triads in Major Keys
  • Assignment 3.1: Diatonic Triads in Major Keys
  • Assignment 3.2: Playing Diatonic Triads in Major Keys

Lesson 4: Triads in Natural Minor, Interval Inversion, and Imaginary Bar Line

  • Diatonic Triads of the Natural Minor Scale
  • Aeolian Harmony
  • Chord Progressions in Aeolian Harmony
  • Interval Inversion
  • Imaginary Bar Line
  • Keyboard Corner: Diatonic Triads of Natural Minor Scales
  • Assignment 4.1: Interval Inversion, Diatonic Triads of Natural Minor Scales, and Imaginary Bar Line
  • Assignment 4.2: Playing Diatonic Triads of Natural Minor Scales

Lesson 5: Triad Inversion, Voice Leading, and Cadence

  • Triad Inversion
  • Voicing
  • Voice Leading
  • Open and Closed Cadences
  • Keyboard Corner: Chord Progressions in C major
  • Assignment 5.1: Triad Inversion and Voice Leading
  • Assignment 5.2: Playing Chord Progressions in C Major

Lesson 6: Functional Groups, Compound Meter, and the Blues

  • Functional Groups
  • Functional Substitution
  • Compound Meter
  • The Blues
  • Keyboard Corner: Chord Progressions in A Minor
  • Assignment 6.1: Voice Leading, Functional Substitution, and Rhythm Notation
  • Assignment 6.2: Playing Chord Progressions in A Minor

Lesson 7: Sus Chords, 7th Chords, and Bass Lines

  • Sus2 and sus4 Chords
  • 7th Chords
  • Bass Lines
  • Approach Notes
  • Keyboard Corner: 7th Chords
  • Assignment 7.1: Project 1 (Writing Bass Lines with Chords)
  • Assignment 7.2: Playing Bass Lines

Lesson 8: Major Key 7th Chords, 7th Chord Inversion, and Drum Grooves

  • Diatonic 7th Chords in Major Keys
  • 7th Chord Inversion
  • Drum Grooves
  • Bass and Drums
  • Keyboard Corner: Diatonic 7th Chords of C Major
  • Assignment 8.1: Project 2 (Adding Drum Grooves to Project 1)
  • Assignment 8.2: Recording Project 2

Lesson 9: 7th Chords in Natural Minor, Modal Interchange, and Sixteenth-Note Rhythms

  • Diatonic 7th Chords of the Natural Minor Scale
  • Modal Interchange and Subdominant Minor
  • Sixteenth-Note Rhythms and Imaginary Bar Line
  • Sixteenth-Note Grooves
  • Keyboard Corner: Diatonic 7th Chords in Natural Minor
  • Assignment 9.1: Diatonic 7th Chords in Natural Minor, Modal Interchange, and Sixteenth-Note Rhythms
  • Assignment 9.2: Playing Diatonic 7th Chords in Natural Minor

Lesson 10: Motific Development, Melody Writing, and Harmonization

  • Motific Development
  • Melody Writing in a Major Key
  • Harmonization in a Major Key
  • Keyboard Corner: Playing Project 3
  • Assignment 10.1: Project 3 (Short Composition in a Major Key)
  • Assignment 10.2: Playing Project 3

Lesson 11: Compound Intervals, Tensions, and More Melody Writing

  • Compound Intervals
  • Tensions
  • Melody Writing in a Minor Key
  • Harmonization in a Minor Key
  • Keyboard Corner: Playing Project 4
  • Assignment 11.1: Project 4 (Short Composition in a Minor Key)
  • Assignment 11.2: Playing Project 4

Lesson 12: Song Form, Dynamics, and Score Format

  • Song Form
  • Markings for Dynamics and Articulation
  • Repeats and Endings
  • Score Format
  • Keyboard Corner: Playing Project 5
  • Assignment 12.1: Project 5 (Longer Composition with Bass and Drums)
  • Assignment 12.2: Recording Project 5


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
This course does not have any prerequisites.


  • Music Notation: Theory and Technique for Music Notation by Mark McGrain (Berklee Press, 1990)
  • Music Application and Theory, Course Text and Reference for PW-111, 3rd edition by Joe Mulholland and Tom Hojnacki. More info about purchasing this textbook (~$25) will be available after enrolling.
  • Study Supplement for PW-111, Music Application and Theory by multiple authors. More info about purchasing this textbook (~$25) will be available after enrolling.


  • Students are required to record video for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • External webcam
  • Note: The camera view must be from above, recording the keys right side up. It is imperative that the videos show the student's fingerings. You may need certain accessories to accomplish this, such as a goose-neck camera holder, tripod, etc.



  • Piano or keyboard instrument with at least 61 keys and a sustain pedal
    • If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a high-quality piano software instrument is also required.
    • If using a digital piano or keyboard workstation without built in speakers, an audio interface or amplifier is also required.


  • Scanner or digital camera to convert handwritten notation into PDF format
  • Printer or staff paper

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Eunmi Shim

Author & Instructor

Pianist and musicologist, Eunmi Shim is the award-winning author of Lennie Tristano: His Life in Music (University of Michigan Press), which received the Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound and the Bronze Prize for the Independent Publisher Book Award in Performing Arts. Also a contributor to The Grove Dictionary of American Music, she is a Professor at Berklee College of Music.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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