Music Theory and Composition 3

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Authored by Tom Hojnacki, Kari Juusela


Course Code: OCOMP-210

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


The third of a four-semester curriculum, in Music Composition and Theory 3 you’ll explore everything from the rhythmic elements of Jamaican and Cuban music to the connection between South American guitar music and Bach. This course is designed to take you from a strong review of Music Theory and Composition 1 & 2 topics, including major key, minor key, blues, modal interchange, secondary dominants, approach notes, non-harmonic tones, voice leading, guide tone lines, hybrid chords, bass and drum grooves, and traditional harmony concepts. The course will then move into extended dominants, related II chords, substitute dominant chords, Neapolitan and augmented sixth chords, diminished seventh chords, modal minor, and a thorough look at modulation.

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This music composition course will continue to blend and explore both traditional and contemporary harmony in order to give you a historical understanding of current topics. Music Theory and Composition 3 features a topic called “Composers on Composing” that includes interviews with composers and other creative artists discussing their work and working methods. You and your classmates will use these interviews as a starting point for discussions about musical creativity, craft, and inspiration.

Each week, you will be asked to engage with your classmates and instructor as you work your way through the topics. Enclosed in each topic are a number of activities and exercises designed to help you more thoroughly experience and understand the material presented. Each week there will be a composition assignment, many of which will give you the opportunity to practice writing to short film cues.

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

  • Identify the basic vocabulary of polychord voicings and employ voicings in the context of a short arrangement
  • Understand the concept of the extended dominant series and be able to apply that in a composition and analyze it correctly
  • Understand the concept of substitute dominant chords and be able to apply them within the context of an arrangement or original composition
  • Differentiate between different non-chord tones in harmonic and melodic use and be able to analyze them in the context of a short piece
  • Identify and apply different approach tone patterns in jazz and popular music and be able to analyze them in a short piece
  • Understand the concept of modulation in short form compositions and be able to employ pivot, direct or transitional modulations in a composition
  • Differentiate between classical figured bass and contemporary lead sheet analysis techniques
  • Write variations in a standard theme and variations form in Classical style
  • Differentiate the rhythmic grooves between different Indian, African and Latin rhythmic grooves
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Review of Material from Music Theory and Composition 2

  • Why, That’s a … !: A Review of Notational and Analytical Nomenclature
  • The Right Stuff: A Review of Basic Diatonic and Diatonically Related Materials
  • Back In the Groove: A Review of Drum Notation, Grooves, and Asymmetrical Meters
  • Inside the Box: A Review of Form and Formal Analysis
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 2: Extended Dominant Series, Deceptive Resolution of Secondary Dominants, and Voice Leading

  • Sliding Home: Extended Dominants
  • Laying It Out: Expressing an Extended Dominant as a Chord Scale
  • Expect the Unexpected: Deceptive Resolutions of Secondary Dominants
  • Make it So!: 4 and 5-Part Voice Leading of Secondary and Extended Dominants
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 3: The Substitute Dominant, Related IIs, and Extended Substitute Dominants

  • The Slippery Slope: The Substitute Dominant Chord
  • Inside Out, Outside In: Related II Chords for Substitute Dominants
  • Laying It Out: Chord Scales for Extended Dominants and Related IIs
  • Riding the Express Train: Extended Substitute Dominants
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 4: Deceptive Resolution – Primary and Secondary Dominants

  • The European Connection 1: The Neapolitan 6th Chord
  • The European Connection 2: German, French, and Italian 6th Chords
  • Go Figure!: Advanced Figured Bass
  • Putting It Together: 4-Part Voice Leading of Augmented 6th Chords
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 5: The Diminished 7th Chord in a Diatonic Context

  • Up, Down, or Stay the Same: Categories of Diminished 7th Chords in Popular Music and Jazz
  • Laying It Out: Chord Scales for Diminished 7th Chords
  • Upholding Tradition: Uses of Diminished Triads and 7th Chords in Classical Style
  • Make It So!: Voice Leading Diminished 7th Chords in Classical Styles
  • Composers' Corner Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 6: Non-Chord Tones and Approach Tones

  • Embellishing the Harmony: The Phenomenon of Non-Chord Tones
  • Pattern Identification: Non-chord Tones Defined
  • Approaching the Target: Defining Approach Tones In Contemporary Harmony
  • Elaborating the Surface: An Introduction to Harmonizing Approach Tones
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 7: Upper Structure Triads and Poly-chord Voicings

  • Extending the Limits: Exploring Upper Structure Triads
  • Building the Tower: Building Extended Chord Voicings with Upper Structure Triads
  • This Over That: Building a Vocabulary of Poly-Chords
  • Mountains Rising: The Contemporary Classical Concept of Extended Chords
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 8: Modulation

  • Sunrise, Sunset: The Aesthetic Effects of Direct Modulation
  • Revolving Door to an Unexpected Room: Pivot Modulations Revisited
  • Walking on Air: The Transitional Modulation
  • A Fork in the Road: The #IV-7(b5) Chord and Other Paths to Extended Phrase Endings
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 9: World Music Concepts Music of South America and the Caribbean

  • Beats and Island Breezes
  • Panpipes and Hocket
  • Bach to Brazil
  • Rhythms of Cuba
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 10: Musical Forms 3

  • Form Redux: A Review of Common Musical Forms
  • Theme and Variations: T&V Form
  • Thesis and Antithesis: An Introduction to Sonata-Allegro Form
  • Old Bottles, New Wine: More Common Musical Forms
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 11: Minor Key Revisited

  • The Saddest of All Keys: A Review of Minor Key Functions
  • A Brighter Minor Key: Dorian Modal Choices
  • A Darker Minor Key: Phrygian Modal Choices
  • The Expanded Minor Universe: A Review of the Complete System of Minor Key Harmony
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers about Music Theory and Creativity

Lesson 12: Blues III

  • All Blues: A Review of the Basic 12 Bar Concept
  • The Thrill Is Gone: Exploring Further Options for the Minor Blues
  • So What: Modal Blues
  • Blues for Bird: The Bebop Blues
  • Composers' Corner: Interviews with Composers About Music Theory and Creativity


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory and Composition 2 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. In addition:

  • Ability to read notated music 
  • Ability to record MIDI in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • Ability to sync your compositions with various short video clips and export as MP4 file


  • No textbooks required



  • Printer
  • Scanner or digital camera to convert handwritten notation into PDF format
  • Recommended: MIDI keyboard controller
  • Recommended: One (or both) of the following studio monitoring options:
    • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as an audio interface and necessary cables
    • Over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, Sony MDR-7506, Philips SHP9500, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, etc.


  • Manuscript paper with 8 or 9 staves per page (printable template provided in the course)

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


Tom Hojnacki


Tom Hojnacki enjoys an unusually varied musical career. As a keyboard player, Tom has worked with the national touring productions of the Big Apple Circus, A Chorus Line, Altar Boyz, Beautiful!, Matilda, and Finding Neverland. He has appeared with the Prague Radio, the Claflin Hill, the Plymouth Philharmonic and the New Bedford Symphony Orchestras and as a chamber musician in performances of the music of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Bartok, Messiaen, and Shostakovich. 

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As a jazz pianist, he has performed with Billy Pierce, Joe Lovano, Jimmy Giuffre, George Garzone, Larry Coryell, the John Allmark Jazz Orchestra, the Kenny Hadley Big Band, the Cab Calloway Orchestra, and the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra and with the singer Aretha Franklin. As a conductor, he has led numerous performances of ballet, opera, musical theater, and symphonic repertoire. An award winning composer (GEMA, Telly), Tom has written works for musical theater, orchestra, band, jazz orchestra, chorus and various chamber ensembles. He has made a number of recordings, most notably, his Symphony No. 1 with the Prague Dvorak Orchestra and Julius Williams, conductor, on Albany Records. Tom has taught at Dean College and the New England Conservatory of Music. He is currently the assistant chair of the Harmony Department at Berklee College of Music where he teaches theory, composition, piano, and conducting. He is co-author of The Berklee Book of Jazz Harmony, with Joe Mulholland (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard, 2013). Read Less

Kari Juusela


Kari Henrik Juusela is a Finnish-American composer, performer, and educator who presently serves as dean of the Professional Writing and Music Technology Division at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to writing music in styles ranging from pop to contemporary classical, he enjoys playing and recording the cello, bass, guitar, piano, table, and the Finnish Kantele. 

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His compositions have won numerous awards from such organizations as the Vienna State Opera, the International Trumpet Guild, the London Chamber Music Society, the Composer’s Guild, GASTA, and ASCAP. He has also won the International Red Stick Composition Competition, the American Songwriting Awards Contest, the San Francisco Art Song Competition, and the Aliénor Harpsichord Composition Contest. His works have been performed at many important venues including Carnegie and Tchaikovsky Hall by internationally acclaimed ensembles and performers, as well as by numerous rock, pop, and jazz groups. He is the author of over 20 college-level courses and is the author of the Berklee Contemporary Dictionary of Music.

Dr. Juusela holds degrees from the University of Maryland, Georgia State University, and Berklee College of Music. His music is published by ISG Publications, MuusJuus Music, and Yelton Rhodes Music, and is recorded on ERM, Beauport Classical, Lakeside Records, Capstone Records, and MuusJuus Music. Read Less

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

Rick McLaughlin


Rick McLaughlin’s work has been heard all over the world. A band leader, side-man, and member of the Grammy-nominated jazz group Either/Orchestra, he has performed on stages and in recording studios in places ranging from greater Boston, MA to Los Angeles, CA; from Barcelona, Spain to Rome, Italy; and from Phuket, Thailand to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Dozens of CDs feature Rick McLaughlin, including his own debut as a leader, Study of Light, which garnered critical acclaim (“…illuminates your aural universe with singleness and sincerity.” – Marcel Polgar, Double Bassist Magazine).   He has shared the stage with a wide range of musicians, from jazz luminaries such as Don Byron, Steve Lacy, John Medeski, Danilo Perez, and John Zorn, to rock musicians Willie “Loco” Alexander, Morphine and Peter Wolf, and country music star Roger Miller. A frequent collaborator with musicians from all over the globe, McLaughlin has also performed with Ethiopia’s great singers Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayhu Eshete, as well as the innovator behind Ethio-Jazz, Mulatu Astatke. 

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Although primarily known as a bassist, McLaughlin is a highly regarded teacher, most notably as Associate Professor of Harmony at Berklee College of Music, but formerly in a variety of faculty, administrative, and clinician positions at other music schools as well. These positions capitalize on the work McLaughlin has done in addition to his bass playing, as a published author, composer, and arranger. 

McLaughlin graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA with both B.M. and M.M. degrees, the latter he received with Academic Honors and Distinction in Performance. Former endorsements include AlterEGO instruments, Gallien-Krueger amplifiers, and Hohner Melodicas.  For more information please visit Read Less


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