Music Foundations

Authors: Yumiko Matsuoka, Joseph Mulholland, Gaye Tolan Hatfield   •   Course Code: OHARM-100

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 Foundations 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, solfege, 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.

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 solfege
  • Notate (write) all of these things so you can share ideas with other musicians

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
  • Solfege 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

Yumiko Matsuoka

Author & Instructor

Yumiko Matsuoka, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and a professor in the college’s Ear Training department. She has also taught vocal writing in the Contemporary Writing and Production department. Matsuoka is the founder of the Boston-based a cappella quintet Vox One, whose albums Vox One (1993), Out There (1995), Chameleon (1997), and Pure Imagination (2005) have won multiple awards from the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America (CASA). Her arrangements and compositions can also be heard on her anthology To Every Thing There Is A Season (2008), Vox One’s Say You Love Me (1995), and on recordings by other a cappella groups around the globe. Vox One has performed locally as well as nationally, and has toured in Japan several times.

Matsuoka has also written for TV commercials in Japan, 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. and Japan. Since 1998, she has served as an adjunct faculty member for ensemble singing workshops hosted by a New York-based ensemble, the Western Wind. For more information, visit

Joseph Mulholland

Author & Instructor

Joe Mulholland is an Associate Professor of Harmony and Interim Chair of the Harmony Department at Berklee College of Music. 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'n'b styles.

An accomplished pianist, recording artist, composer, and teacher, he has released three CDs of original music written for his sextet and has composed numerous 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 performs with his trio one hundred nights a year at the Top of the Hub, an upscale jazz venue in Boston, in addition to appearing as a sideman and vocal accompanist in numerous other concert and club settings. In his capacity as music director for the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts, he has composed and recorded sound design and songs for original productions of Peer Gynt and Dogtown Common. He also wrote eleven songs and three dance numbers for the original musicalBattle for Pigeon Cove Harbor, which received a three-week run in theaters on the North Shore of Boston.

Piano is his first love and main instrument, but he is equally comfortable on synthesizer and has an abiding love of Hammond B-3 organ. For enjoyment and variety, Joe plays guitar and percussion. He has recently divided his spare time between transcribing and playing Brazilian music and studying with the legendary jazz teacher Charlie Banacos.

Gaye Tolan Hatfield

Author & Instructor

Gaye Tolan Hatfield is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and an associate professor in the college’s Ear Training department. She has also taught in the Harmony, Voice, and Ensemble departments. 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.

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.

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 CD 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, recently, at the Fara Sabina Jazz Festival along side Jonathan Kreisberg, Kevin Hays, Rueben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson.

Danny Morris


Danny "Mo" Morris is a professor in the bass department at Berklee College of Music, working with students since 1988. He is known for his muted tone, warm personality, and ability to work with all level 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," says Morris. "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."

Danny gigs regularly with the band Calypso Hurricane and was the bass player for the James Montgomery Blues Band and Jon Pousette-Dart band. He has also performed with Bo Diddley, Robin Ford, James Cotton, and Paula Abdul. Danny is the author of Instant Bass and Essential Rock Grooves for Bass. He is an alumnus of Ithaca College and a graduate of Berklee College of Music.

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.

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.

More information:



None required

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

  • A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself playing along with a background track and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity (Windows) or GarageBand (Mac)

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Chrome (recommended), Firefox, or Safari

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Chrome (recommended), Firefox, or Edge

Hardware Requirements

  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


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