Music Theory 301: Advanced Melody, Harmony, Rhythm

Author: Paul Schmeling | Course Code: OHARM-301

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. 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

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
  • 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.


    Completion of the Berklee Online course Music Theory 201: Harmony and Function or equivalent knowledge and experience.


    None required

    Software Requirements

    • PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higher
    • Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Safari
    • Flash Player: current version
    • Adobe Reader: current version
    • Noteflight Crescendo. Upon enrolling in the course, you will be offered an academic discount on this online notation tool.

    Hardware Requirements

    PC Users
    • Windows Vista SP2 or higher
    • Intel Pentium 4 or higher
    • 1 GB RAM
    • 500 MB hard drive space recommended
    • Sound card
    • Speakers or headphones for your computer

    Mac Users
    • OS X 10.7 or higher
    • Intel Mac
    • 2 GB RAM
    • 500 MB hard drive space recommended
    • Speakers or headphones for your computer


    Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

    Next Term Starts June 27

    • Level
    • Duration
      12 weeks
    • 3-Credit Tuition
    • or
    • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
      $1,200 + $25

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