Music Theory and Composition 4

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Authored by Kari Juusela, Tom Hojnacki


Course Code: OCOMP-211

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


This core music theory course is the fourth of a four-semester curriculum that continues to build a foundation for your musical development. The materials covered here will help you express your musical ideas as applied to composition for film, TV, and video games.

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You will learn more about the essential elements of music theory and composition that will help you build your own musical language. You will further expand your knowledge of harmony and melody and expand your knowledge of scales, chords, and rhythms. 

This music composition course is designed to take you from a strong review of level 3 topics—the standard deceptive resolutions of V7, classical and contemporary analysis techniques, polychord voicings, non-chord tones, approach tones, and approach tone harmonization—to topics like deceptive resolutions of dominant function harmony, contiguous dominant patterns, modal melody and harmony, hybrid voicings, quartal and quintal harmony, exotic scales, 12-tone technique, minimalism and other important twentieth century compositional techniques. We will review the rhythmic elements of Indian, Latin American, and African music and delve into the musical intricacies of the music of Indonesia, China, Japan, and Korea.

We will also continue the unique feature of blending and exploring both traditional and contemporary harmony in order to give you a historical understanding of current topics.

Music Theory and Composition 4 also features a topic called "Rhythm Jam" that will introduce you to many new and exciting rhythmic concepts such as nested tuplets, the Fibonacci series, metric modulation, hemiola, phase, Jahlas, and additive rhythm. Through forum questions you and your classmates will engage in 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. Included 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, including many which will give you the opportunity to practice writing to short film cues.

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

  • Identify and apply minor and major modal melodic writing concepts with contemporary and classical approaches
  • Identify and apply advanced rhythmic and melodic concepts of nested tuplets, Fibonacci Series, metric modulation, hemiola, and Jahlas
  • Identify and apply advanced scales types of Lydian augmented, Lydian b7, Spanish Phrygian, Super Locrian of contemporary music and the whole tone and octatonic scale in classical music
  • Differentiate and analyze alternative progressions that include deceptive resolutions of the Dominant 7th chord and symmetrical divisions of the octave
  • Identify and apply advanced harmony concepts of non-tertian voicings, hybrids and Inversions, polytonal harmony, musical parallelism, and serial technique
  • Understand and apply the process for re-harmonizing a given melody in both contemporary and classical styles
  • Recognize and differentiate the musical elements various styles of world music
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Review Topics

  • This Over That—Revisited: A Review of Polychord Voicings
  • Review, Non-Chord Tones: A Review of Non-Chord Tones in Triadically Based Music 
  • Review: Approach Tones in Jazz and Popular Music  
  • Review of Classical/Contemporary Harmonic Analysis Techniques 
  • Rhythm Jam 1: A Review of Rhythmic Grooves in Indian, African, and Latin Music 
  • Assignment 1: “Buster and Billie” Composition Film Clip

Lesson 2: Modal 1

  • Minor Modal Melodic Writing 
  • Minor Modal Harmony 
  • Minor Modes in Medieval, Renaissance, and Early Baroque music 
  • Minor Modes in Early Twentieth Century Classical Music 
  • Rhythm Jam 2: Nested Tuplets 
  • Assignment 2: Phrygian and Dorian Modes Composition 

Lesson 3: Modal 2

  • Major Modal Melody 
  • Major Modal Harmony 
  • Major Modes in Classical Music 
  • Review: Sixteenth Note Syncopation Notational Practice 
  • Rhythm Jam 3: Fibonacci Series 
  • Assignment 3: Lydian and Mixolydian Modes Composition 

Lesson 4: Scales, Scales, Scales 

  • Scale Types 1 
  • Scale Types 2 
  • Scale Types 3 
  • Scale Types 4 
  • Rhythm Jam 4: Metric Modulation 
  • Assignment 4: Exotic Scales Composition 

Lesson 5: Deceptive Resolutions of the Dominant 7th Chord

  • Review of the Standard Deceptive Resolutions of V7 
  • Deceptive Resolutions of Secondary Dominant Chords 
  • Deceptive Resolutions of Substitute Dominant Chords 
  • Symmetrical Divisions of the Octave 
  • Rhythm Jam 5: Advanced Drum Grooves 1
  • Assignment 5: Scoring “Grave of the Vampire” using Chromatic 3rd 

Lesson 6: Non-tertian Voicings

  • Pandiatonic Modal Voicings 
  • Layered Ostinato 
  • Modal Interchange in a Modal Tonic System
  • Quartal and Quintal Harmony in Classical Music
  • Rhythm Jam 6: Hemiola
  • Assignment 6: Harmony Voiced in 4ths Composition   

Lesson 7: This Over That 

  • Review of V7(sus4) Hybrid Voicings 
  • More Hybrid Voicings 
  • Hybrids and Inversions 
  • A Brief Exploration of Polytonal Harmony 
  • Rhythm Jam 7: Phase 
  • Assignment 7: Hybrid Voicings and Inversions Composition 

Lesson 8: Reharmonization

  • Reharmonizing a Melody 1 
  • Reharmonizing a Melody 2 
  • Reharmonizing a Melody 3 
  • Reharmonizing a Melody using twentieth Century Classical Techniques
  • Rhythm Jam 8: Advanced Drum Grooves 2
  • Assignment 8: Reharmonization and Arrangement 

Lesson 9: Musical Parallelism 

  • Parallel 7th Chords 
  • Contiguous Dominants and Related IIs 
  • Constant Structure 
  • Debussy’s Use of Parallelism 
  • Rhythm Jam 9: Jahlas 
  • Assignment 9: Parallel and Constant Structure Composition

Lesson 10: Serial Technique 

  • Serialism 1 
  • Serialism 2 
  • Serialism 3
  • Serialism 4
  • Rhythm Jam 10: Serial Rhythm 
  • Assignment 10: Serial Techniques Composition 

Lesson 11: Modal Interchange 

  • Overview of Modal Interchange 
  • Unusual Modal Interchange 
  • Overview of Special Function Dominants 
  • Minimalism 
  • Rhythm Jam 11: Additive Rhythm 
  • Assignment 11: Final Project Sketch 

Lesson 12: World Music Week 

  • Music of Indonesia 
  • Music of China 
  • Music of  Japan 
  • Music of Korea 
  • Rhythm Jam 12: Asian Rhythms 
  • Assignment 12: Final Projects


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory and Composition 3 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


Kari Juusela

Author & Instructor

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

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

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


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