Music Theory 301: Advanced Melody, Harmony, Rhythm


Authored by Paul Schmeling


Course Code: OHARM-301

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Establish a toolkit of musical expertise that will prepare you for any musical endeavor or opportunity. This advanced music theory course provides you with a professional command of the mechanics of contemporary music. 

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You'll learn to write effective jazz, pop, and rock-influenced pentatonic and modal melodies as well as master anticipations and articulations that will give your music the necessary sound and "character" to fit these styles. You'll explore harmony related topics such as diatonic, natural/melodic, minor, and slash chords, which will help you to select the appropriate harmonic tensions to add color, character, and sophistication to your music. You'll also master triplets, swing eighths, and sixteenth notes in double time feel, as well as topics related to improvisation and melody including chord scales, avoid notes, approach notes, and modal and pentatonic scales. With this level of music theory, there will be practically no barriers between you and the music you want to create.

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

  • Read and write rhythms that include triplets and swing eighth notes
  • Write and analyze diatonic chord progressions in minor
  • Read and write rhythms that include sixteenth notes in a double time feel
  • Construct modal scales and identify by sound
  • Construct pentatonic scales and identify by sound
  • Write a pentatonic melody over a basic blues progression
  • Understand and use slash chords and bass pedal points
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Lesson 1: Triplets and Swing vs. Straight Eighths

  • Eighth and Quarter Note Triplets - Theory / Notation
  • Eighth Note Triplets as Basis for Swing Eighths
  • Swing Eighths vs. Straight Eighths - Musical Application

Lesson 2: Open Position Chords/Drop 2 Voicings

  • The II V I Progression in Two Positions of Drop 2
  • Extended Progressions Using Alternating Positions
  • Variations on the V7 Chord

Lesson 3: I VI II V I Progression; Root Motion/Bass Lines

  • The I VI II V I Chord Pattern
  • Voice Leading the I VI II V I Chord Pattern
  • Root Motion and the Bass Line

Lesson 4: Modal Scales

  • Lydian and Mixolydian - Comparison to Major
  • Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian - Comparison to Natural Minor
  • Writing Modal Melodies

Lesson 5: Chord Scales in Major Keys

  • Chord Scales as Chord Tones Plus Passing Tones from Key
  • Theory of Avoid Notes
  • Writing/Analyzing Melodies Using Chord Scales

Lesson 6: Approach Note Theory

  • Theory of Diatonic and Chromatic Approach Notes
  • Writing/Analyzing Melodies Using Approach Notes
  • Ear Training

Lesson 7: Diatonic Chords in Natural/Melodic Minors

  • Construction of Diatonic Chords in Melodic Minor
  • Construction of Diatonic Chords in Natural Minor
  • Recognition/Analysis/Ear Training

Lesson 8: II V I and I VI II V I in Minor - Mixing and Matching Scale Types

  • Theory of Minor Scale Type on Each Chord
  • Application of Theory in Variety of Keys
  • Recognition/Analysis/Ear Training

Lesson 9: Sixteenth Notes

  • The Sixteenth Note
  • Sixteenth-Note Anticipations
  • Double-Time Feel

Lesson 10: Pentatonic Scales

  • Constructing Pentatonic Scales
  • Fitting Pentatonic Scales over Chords
  • Writing Pentatonic Scale Melodies

Lesson 11: Slash Chords

  • The Dominant (sus4) as Slash Chord
  • Other Chord Types Written as Slash Chords
  • Recognition/Analysis/Ear Training

Lesson 12: Bass Pedals

  • The Tonic Pedal - Common Applications
  • The Dominant Pedal - Common Applications
  • Recognition/Analysis/Ear Training


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory 201: Harmony and Function or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.


  • No textbooks required


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


Paul Schmeling

Author & Instructor

Paul Schmeling (1938-2024) was a master pianist, interpreter, improviser and arranger who 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. He was chair of the piano department for 40 years, and he co-authored the Berklee Practice Method: Keyboard (2001) and Instant Keyboard (2002) and on his own he wrote Berklee Music Theory: Book 1.

Mark Zaleski


Internationally touring musician, Mark Zaleski, has distinguished himself as a uniquely dynamic soloist, multi-instrumentalist, and band leader.He has performed with a diverse group of notable artists including Dave Brubeck, Christian McBride, Ian Anderson, Connie Francis, Mahmoud Ahmed, Rakalam Bob Moses, the Either/Orchestra, Jason Palmer, and Matt Savage.  At the young age of 33, he has established faculty positions at Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and Longy School of Music at Bard College.

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In 2017, Zaleski released his second record, “Days, Months, Years”, a record where Zaleski performs on alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, and double bass; one of the first of its kind in the jazz genre.

Additionally, Zaleski is active in many musical projects including the Omar Thomas Large Ensemble, The Brighton Beat, the Either/Orchestra, Nyota Road, a duo project with Glenn Zaleski, Chris Hersch and the Moonraiders, The Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Mehmet Sanlikol and WhatsNext, and plays bass in a popular Boston-area soul band he founded called Planet Radio. Read Less


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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