Harmony classes, in combination with arranging, ear training, and music technology courses, comprise Berklee's core curriculum. All students are required to take the four foundational harmony courses, as listed below under "Requirements," and will provide you with a broad-based musical vocabulary, important skills for your major studies, and a well-rounded musical background. You'll learn the fundamentals of music theory by examining and analyzing  contemporary popular music.

During your initial week at college, you will take a music placement test called the Entering Student Proficiency Assessment, and the results will determine the harmony course in which you will be placed.

The Harmony Department also offers a minor and several elective courses. See a full list of Harmony Department course offerings.

For more information about Harmony resources, see the Glossary of Terms Used in Harmony and Recommended Reading List.

Entrance Requirements

All students are required to take harmony courses, but entering students are placed into one of the four harmony courses based on the proficiencies, skills, and knowledge they demonstrate on the Entering Student Proficiency Assessment (ESPA).  

You may earn advance placement beyond the first course—Music Theory and Application (PW-111)—by achieving a satisfactory score on the Harmony and Arranging portions of the ESPA. 

What the Program Gives You

1. The student will be literate in the fundamentals of contemporary music theory (note identification, intervals, chord spelling to the 13th, scale construction including (diatonic scales, modes, non-diatonic scales).

2. The student will know and be able to recognize the basic chord progressions of contemporary popular music (major diatonic with chromatic embellishments, minor diatonic with chromatic embellishments, modal with chromatic embellishments) in written form.

3. The student will be able to analyze the chord progressions of popular songs in a variety of styles by employing Roman numeral and graphical analysis.

4. The student will be able to express harmonic functions as chord scales and notate them correctly.

5. The student will be able to reduce a written musical arrangement to a lead sheet using standard chord symbols.

6. The student will be able to realize harmony represented by standard chord symbols in written form through a variety of voice leading techniques (i.e. 4-way close, guide tone lines, spread voicings, hybrids, etc.).

7. The student will be able to analyze the harmonic implications of a given melody.

8. The student will be able to harmonize a given melody in a variety of popular styles.

9. The student will be able to compose an original melody and accompanying chord progressions in a variety of popular styles.

Required Courses

Every student must complete at least one harmony course and complete the curriculum through Harmony 4.

PW-111: Music Application and Theory

HR-112: Harmony 2

HR-211: Harmony 3

HR-212: Harmony 4

First semester students with advanced placement through the ESPA, are given credit for the preceding level(s) once they have successfully completed the level in which they are first enrolled. For example, a student with advanced placement in Harmony 2 is given credit for Harmony 2 and MAT upon successful completion of Harmony 2.

Besides the required four semesters of basic harmony, the department offers electives for those interested in furthering their studies:

  • HR-325: Reharmonization Techniques

  • HR-231: Harmonic Analysis of Rock Music

  • HR-261: The Music of the Beatles

  • HR-P351: John, Paul, George, and Ringo: The Solo Years

  • HR-335: Advanced Harmonic Concepts

  • HR-345: Advanced Modal Harmony

  • HR-241: Harmony in Brazilian Song

  • HR-251: The Blues: Analysis and Application

  • HR-355: The Music of the Yellowjackets

  • HR-361: World Music Elements for the Contemporary Musician

  • PW-165: The Creative Flame