Music for Beginners

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Authored by Joseph Mulholland, Yumiko Matsuoka, Gaye Tolan Hatfield


Course Code: OHARM-100

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Harmony and ear training are the building blocks of music, much in the way that grammar and your ability to listen provide a foundation for language. Music for Beginners is designed to give you exposure to essential concepts in harmony and ear training to strengthen your musicianship, regardless of the instrument or style of music that you play. Berklee degree programs require a core foundation in harmony and ear training. In order to get the most out of your music theory studies, it is important to know the basics about chords, melodies, rhythms, scales, time keeping, solfège, and how all of these elements come together to create music. This course will assist you in growing your skills in all these areas. You will use the keyboard, your voice, and interactive practice routines to understand and memorize some fundamental facts about music that you will apply directly to your music pursuits throughout life.

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

  • Play and write six major scales and the chords that they create
  • Identify notes in a scale
  • Understand the basic beats in a piece of music and how they can be combined and divided
  • Use some basic conducting patterns
  • Understand more about your voice
  • Sing using solfège
  • Notate (write) all of these things so you can share ideas with other musicians
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Pitch and Note Names

  • What Is Ear Training?
  • What Is Harmony?
  • Harmony: Pitch and Music Notation
  • Harmony: Note Names and the Staff

Lesson 2: Beat, Meter, and the Major Scale

  • Ear Training: Defining Beat and Meter
  • Solfège and the Major Scale
  • Harmony: Notes and Rests
  • Harmony: Meter and Time Signature

Lesson 3: Vocal Introduction and the C Major Scale

  • Ear Training: You, the Instrument
  • Harmony: Playing the C Major Scale
  • Harmony: Writing the C Major Scale
  • Harmony: Half Notes and Rests
  • Harmony: Intervals on the Keyboard

Lesson 4: Beginning Conducting and Intervals

  • Ear Training: Let's Try Conducting
  • Harmony: Half and Whole Steps
  • Harmony: The Interval of the 3rd within the Major Scale

Lesson 5: Accidentals and the Tone Ladder

  • Ear Training: Exploring the Pitches
  • Harmony: Accidentals
  • Harmony: The G Major Scale
  • Harmony: The Tie
  • Harmony: The Interval of a Fifth

Lesson 6: Chord Introduction and Movable “Do”

  • Ear Training: What’s Up with Movable “Do”
  • Harmony: Chords
  • Harmony: Chords in C Major

Lesson 7: Diatonic Triads, the Bass Part, and 2/4 Time

  • Ear Training: Write Out the Song—2/4 Time
  • Harmony: The Rhythm Dot
  • Harmony: The F Major Scale and Diatonic Triads

Lesson 8: Eighth Notes and Rests

  • Ear Training: Sounds and Silences Faster than the Beat
  • Harmony: Eighth Notes and Eighth Note Rests
  • Harmony: Key Signatures

Lesson 9: Tendency Tones and the Key of B-Flat

  • Ear Training: Note Groups called Tendency Tones
  • Harmony: Key of B-Flat
  • Harmony: Diatonic Triads in B-Flat

Lesson 10: Larger Intervals and Harmonic Analysis

  • Ear Training: Singing and Identifying 3rds
  • Harmonic Analysis
  • Harmony: Exploring Larger Intervals
  • Ear Training: Scale in Thirds

Lesson 11: Introduction to Harmonizing and the Circle of Fifths

  • Ear Training: Dig In a Bit More—Form and Harmonizing a Melody
  • Harmony: C, F, and G Major Scales
  • Harmony: Stepping Up in Fifths
  • Harmony: Key of A and D Major
  • Harmony: The Circle of Fifths

Lesson 12: Course Review

  • Ear Training: What's Next?
  • Note Identification in Both Clefs
  • Chords Spelling
  • Scale Spelling
  • Chord Progressions


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

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


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)



  • 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


Joseph Mulholland

Author & Instructor

Joe Mulholland is a professor in the Harmony department at Berklee College of Music. He teaches all the core Harmony classes, as well as the electives Harmony of Brazilian Song, Advanced Harmonic Concepts, Advanced Modal Harmony, and Reharmonization Techniques. He created and teaches the Jazz Composition course and the Music Foundations course for Berklee Online, and gives private Skype lessons in jazz songwriting to students around the world.

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In his capacity as chair of the Harmony department (2005-2015) at Berklee, Joe extensively revised the Harmony 2 and 3 workbooks and wrote the Music Application and Theory workbook for first-year students, as well as editing and contributing substantially to the Study Supplement for that course. With his colleague Tom Hojnacki, Joe wrote The Berklee Book of Jazz Harmony (Berklee Press), the new Harmony 2 workbook, and the Harmony 2 Study Supplement.

An accomplished pianist, recording artist, composer, and teacher, Joe has released five albums of original music and has composed electronic scores for Boston-area dance companies, including a Tango Suite commissioned by the Northeast Youth Ballet that received performances in Boston and New Jersey. Joe also performs as a vocal accompanist. In his role as music director for the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts, he composed and recorded sound design and songs for original productions of Peer Gynt and Dogtown Common. He also wrote 11 songs and three dance numbers for the original musical The Battle for Pigeon Cove Harbor, which received a three-week run in theaters on the North Shore of Boston.

Before coming to Berklee, Joe taught piano and ensemble at Brown University and Boston-area music schools, as well as serving as music director for Didi Stewart and Friends, an award-winning ensemble devoted to presenting full-length tributes to composers and performers in the American Songbook and classic R&B styles. Read Less

Yumiko Matsuoka


Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Yumiko Matsuoka is a Berklee graduate and a professor in the Ear Training department. She has also taught vocal writing in the Contemporary Writing and Production department. Yumiko is the founder of the Boston-based a cappella quintet Vox One, whose albums Vox One, Out There, Chameleon, and Pure Imagination have won multiple awards from the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America (CASA). Vox One has performed locally as well as nationally, and has toured in Japan several times.

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Her arrangements and compositions can also be heard on her anthology To Every Thing There Is A Season, Vox One's Say You Love Me, and on recordings by other a cappella groups around the globe. Recent works include arrangements of the Beatles songs for Houston Chamber Choir, a composition celebrating Shakespeare's 400th anniversary for Stile Antico and Folger Consort, as well as chapters on a cappella arranging for A Cappella Perfect Book Advanced, published in Japan. Yumiko has also written for Japanese TV commercials including Toyota, Sharp, Meiji Seika, and Japan Energy Corporation. Some of her arrangements have been published by the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Press and by Edition Kawai in Japan. She is active as a coach and adjudicator, and gives workshops throughout the U.S., Japan, and Korea. Since 1998, she has served as an adjunct faculty member for ensemble singing workshops hosted by a New York-based ensemble, the Western Wind. Read Less

Gaye Tolan Hatfield

Author & Instructor

Gaye Tolan Hatfield is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and a professor in the college’s Ear Training department. She has also taught in the Harmony, Voice, and Ensemble departments, and co-wrote and teaches the Berklee Online course Music Foundations. Her work outside of the college includes writing, arranging, transcribing, and performing locally as a vocalist, pianist, and flutist. She has assisted orchestrators for the Boston Pops, and in the summer of 2013, wrote a choral arrangement that was performed at the Pops 4th of July concert.

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Hatfield's compositions can be heard on a variety of television shows, including Navy NCIS, History Detective, The Young and the Restless, Revenge, NUMBER3, C.S.I. NY, Good Wife, and United States of Tara, in addition to the films Dear John and What To Expect When You're Expecting. She has also been a member of the Providence Singers, and penned an arrangement of "Someone to Watch Over Me" for their 2007-2008 Gershwin tribute concert.

Gaye earned 2015 and 2016 Daytime Emmy award nominations for her work as a member of the composing team for The Young and the Restless. Read Less

Kris Adams


Kris Adams is a professor in the Harmony Department at Berklee College of Music and also teaches in the Voice and Ensemble Departments. She is the author of Sing Your Way Through Theory, A Music Theory Workbook For The Contemporary Singer. Her recording credits include two television specials for PBS and three album releases, This Thing Called Love, Weaver of Dreams, and Longing on Jazzbird Records. Kris has shared the stage with Joe Lovano, Wayne Escoffery, Lee Musiker, Cameron Brown, Billy Drummond, Bill Pierce, Harvie S, Jay Leonhart, and Michelle Hendricks. She has performed and given clinics in New England, New York, Los Angeles, Brazil, Germany, and Italy, at the Fara Sabina Jazz Festival alongside Jonathan Kreisberg, Kevin Hays, Rueben Rogers, and Gregory Hutchinson.

Gail McArthur-Browne


Gail McArthur-Browne is an assistant professor in the Contemporary Writing and Production department at Berklee College of Music. She is a saxophonist, composer, and arranger originally from Glasgow, Scotland. She has performed with many great musicians, including Benny Carter, Gerry Mulligan, Grover Washington, Don Cherry, Jackie McLean, Antonio Sanchez, Christian McBride, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Maria Schneider, The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Vital Information, Dave Weckl, and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez.

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McArthur-Browne has won many awards, including The Princes Trust Award, STUC James Milne Award, Scottish International Education Award, The Cross Trust Award, Mary Patton Rowan Award, and the Cosmopolitan Magazine and American Express Performing Arts Award. She has made several television appearances, including U.K. Channel 4 Television, "Down the Line," CNN's Berklee Special, WBZ4 News, and CN8 "Nitebeat." In 1999 and 2000, she was commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council and composed pieces for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Read Less

Rich Greenblatt


Rich Greenblatt is a vibraphonist with "dazzling speed and a truly magical touch" writes John Blenn in 'Good Times Magazine'. He has recorded three CDs as a leader, ‘Hat Trick’(2009), ‘Hot and Dry’ (2003) and ‘Mooin’ (1998). Rich has performed and recorded with such great artists as Kurt Elling, Billy Mitchell, Dennis Irwin, Oscar Castro-Neves, Garrison Fewell, Kevin Hayes, Greg Hopkins, Winard Harper, Joe Hunt, Yoron Israel, The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, and The English Chamber Orchestra.

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Rich is an Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music. He is an endorsing artist for Musser vibraphones and Vic Firth mallets. Read Less

Danny Morris


Danny "Mo" Morris is a professor in the Bass department at Berklee College of Music, and has worked with students since 1988. Danny is known for his muted tone, warm personality, and ability to work with all levels of students. "My mission is really to teach students how to develop their individuality in terms of their rhythmic concept and their tonal concept, what notes to play and when," he says. “There's a consequence to every note you play. And even when you don't play, such as when there's a rest, there's a consequence, because when the bass comes in, it’s going to be huge."

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Danny teaches courses on artistry and professional development at Berklee’s Boston campus. He is the faculty ambassador to the Berklee Valencia campus. In the 1980s, Danny was the bassist for the James Montgomery Blues Band and the Jon Pousette-Dart Band.

"I absolutely love teaching," he says. "It's intriguing to work with the language of music and the art of playing and developing songs for live performance. I'm proud to have taught so many students who are having successful music careers and families. That’s the most satisfying aspect of my job." Read Less


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