The Harmony Department provides an essential foundation for every Berklee student. The courses that comprise our curriculum are at the very core of the Berklee experience and are the result of a realization that was revolutionary when Berklee was founded: that theory can be understood and taught by examining and analyzing  contemporary popular music.

The musical world is a much different place than it was then, but our commitment to giving students the tools to understand and create their music is as strong as ever. The radical increase in stylistic diversity since the 1950s gives us an ever-broader field to survey, but the Berklee harmony program provides the skills you will need to navigate a changing environment.

After learning the basics of music theory, students learn how to analyze the harmony and melody of contemporary music and how to use this knowledge to create their own compositions and performances. In addition to weekly assignments, students will write at least one project a semester that they record with student project bands, collaborating with their fellow students, or at a MIDI workstation.

There are four core (required) harmony courses at Berklee:

  • PW-111  Music Application and Theory
  • HR-112  Harmony 2
  • HR-211  Harmony 3
  • HR-212  Harmony 4

These courses cover the musical spectrum, from fundamentals such as scale knowledge and chord construction to more specialized topics pertaining to particular styles. Harmonic and melodic analysis, as well as aural awareness, are an integral part of all the courses. Rather than being dry or abstract, analysis helps students understand and retain the sound of chord progressions, and understand the underlying principles that make them compelling.

First-semester placement is based on how a student scores on a music placement test, which is taken during students' initial week at the college. Students who arrive at Berklee with extensive practical experience or study at another music school, including a Berklee-affiliated international school, may be placed in a higher level of harmony to start, but everyone who attends Berklee will have the benefit of some study in the Harmony Department.

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

Minor in the Theory of Jazz and Popular Song

The Harmony Department offers a minor in the Theory of Jazz and Popular Song. For more information, click here: http://www.berklee.edu/minors/theory-jazz-popular-song.html

Harmony Department Facilities and Resources

Professional Writing Division MIDI Lab

This lab consists of 12 fully configured workstations and a separate similarly equipped studio for live overdubbing to provide you with hands-on access to professional music technology.

For Further Information

For further information about the Harmony Department, please call 617 747-8468.