College of Music

University of Colorado Boulder

Theory

Welcome to Music Theory at the University of Colorado Boulder! Music theory forms an integral part of each College of Music student’s education, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate music majors take required courses in Music Theory (semesters 1-4) and Aural Skills (semesters 1-4), along with upper-division electives in tonal analysis, post-tonal analysis, counterpoint, jazz theory, composition and music technology. Graduate students may pursue study in advanced topics in music theory and analysis. The Master's degree in Music Theory equips students for theory teaching and original research and prepares them for advanced doctoral study.

Our faculty offer a broad array of research specializations that include analysis of the music of the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries; post-tonal theory; jazz theory; theories of rhythm and meter; pedagogy of music theory and musicianship; and popular music analysis. A flyer listing our faculty and areas of expertise can be found here.

Each year the Music Theory Department hosts presentations and classes by distinguished scholars. Guests have included Richard Cohn, Poundie Burstein, Charles Burkhart, Joel Lester, Kofi Agawu, Elizabeth West Marvin, Steve Laitz, Robert Hatten and Eugene Narmour.

Department Faculty

Associate Professor of Music Theory
Instructor of Music Theory
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Chair of Music Theory and Composition
Instructor of Music Theory
Professor of Music Theory

More Information on the Theory Department

The Master's Degree in Music Theory provides students with the opportunity to engage in deep analytical and interpretive study of music, in dialogue with performance, musicology, cognitive science, pedagogy, new media and other fields. The degree equips students for theory teaching and original research and prepares them for advanced doctoral study. Students benefit from the vibrant and collegial environment of the College of Music with access to elective courses in performance, composition, musicology, music education, music entrepreneurship, musician’s wellness and other fields. For more information about applying for the MM in Theory, click here.

Graduate Degrees >>

  • Master of Music in Theory

Muel 1081 – Basic Music Theory (for non-majors)

Instructor: Keith Waters
Mon/Wed | 4:00-5:15 p.m. | C-191
Description: Introduction to music notation, meter and rhythm, scales, intervals, triads, seventh chords, fundamentals of harmonic expression, voice leading, aural skills and composition. For non-music majors who have little or no previous background on the subject. For non-music majors only.

Muel 3051 – Basic Composition (for non-majors)

Instructor: Egemen Kesikli
Tue/Thurs | 12:30-1:20 p.m. | C-191
Description: Introduces the processes, materials, and forms of composition through the writing and performance of short musical works. Open to any student who already has rudimentary musical knowledge.
For non-music majors only.

Muel 4081 – Introduction to Music Technology (for non-majors)

Instructor: Brian Kelly
Tues/Thurs | 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. | N1B46

Instructor: John Merz
Mon/Wed/Fri | 12:00-12:50 p.m. | N1B46
Description: Surveys the various tools and techniques in the field of music technology. Topics include an introduction to basic synthesis, musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) sequencing, audio sequencing, digital signal processing, music notation, and a historical perspective on electronic music. For non-music majors only.

Muel 4121 – Topics in Music Technology (for non-majors)

Instructor: Herbert Lobel
Mon/Wed/Fri | 11:00-11:50 a.m. | N1B46
Description: Exploration of issues, techniques and tools of music technology. Topics vary from term to term and may include: interactive system for performance, teaching and learning; computer music instrument design; digital synthesis and signal processing; music in intermedia; sound design and analysis. Lectures and work sessions will support student projects. May be repeated up to 9 total credit hours. For non-music majors only.

Musc 1081 – Intensive Music Theory

Instructor: Mike Arnett
Mon/Wed/Fri | 8:00 - 8:50 a.m. | C-191
Description: Introduces tools used in notating, performing, creating and listening to music. Offered fall only.

Musc 1101 – Semester 1 Theory

Instructor: Kris Shaffer
Tue/Thur | 8:00-8:50 a.m. | C-199

Instructor: Philip Chang
Tue/Thur | 8:00-8:50 a.m. | C-125
Description: Introduces the fundamentals of diatonic harmony and voice leading, focusing on four-voice writing and analysis of excerpts from music literature. For music majors only. Offered fall only.

Musc 1121 – Aural Skills Lab, Semester 1

Instructor: Ashley Pontiff
Mon/Wed | 8:00 - 8:50 a.m. | C-125

Instructor: Yonatan Malin
Mon/Wed | 8:00 - 8:50 a.m. | N1B59

Instructor: Micheal Sebulsky
Mon/Wed | 8:00 - 8:50 a.m. | N180D

Instructor: Micheal Sebulsky
Mon/Wed | 9:00 - 9:50 a.m. | N180D

Instructor: Ashley Pontiff
Mon/Wed | 9:00 - 9:50 a.m. | C-125

Instructor: Philip Chang
Tues/Thurs | 9:00 - 9:50 a.m. | C-125

Instructor: Mike Arnett
Tues/Thurs | 8:00 - 8:50 a.m. | C-191
Description: Focuses on sight singing, rhythm and dictation of diatonic melodies in major and minor keys (treble, alto, and bass clefs). Covers identification of scale types, intervals, triads and dominant seventh chords. Studies harmonic dictation using chords from MUSC 1101. Offered fall only.

Musc 2101 – Semester 3 Theory

Instructor: Kris Shaffer
Mon/Wed | 9:00-9:50 a.m. | C-191

Instructor: Kris Shaffer
Mon/Wed | 10:00-10:50 a.m. | C-191
Description: Continuation of MUSC 1111. Reviews secondary dominants, secondary leading-tone chords and modulation. Covers dissonance and chromaticism, including modal mixture, seventh chords with added dissonance, Neapolitan sixth chord and augmented sixth chords. Provides structural analysis of musical excerpts. Offered fall only.

Musc 2121 – Aural Skills Lab, Semester 3

Instructor: Mark Arnett
Tues/Thurs | 9:00-9:50 a.m. | N1B85

Instructor: Mark Arnett
Tues/Thurs | 10:00-10:50 a.m. | C-125

Instructor: Elena Specht
Tues/Thurs | 10:00-10:50 a.m. | N180D

Instructor: Elena Specht
Tues/Thurs | 8:00-8:50 a.m. | N1B59
Description: Continuation of MUSC 1131. Studies sight singing of chromatic melodies in major and minor keys (in four clefs). Includes dictation of one- through three-voice examples. Studies harmonic dictation using vocabulary from MUSC 2101. Considers detection of pitch and rhythm performance errors. Offered fall only.

Musc 4021 – 18th Century Counterpoint

Instructor: Carter Pann
Mon/Wed | 4:00-4:50 p.m. | N1B85
Description: Provides a stylistic study of main contrapuntal genres of the period including invention, suite, and fugue. Provides a foundation in species counterpoint; stresses analysis and composing in the style. Offered spring of even-numbered years.

Musc 4031 – Jazz Arranging

Instructor: Paul McKee
Mon/Wed | 10:00-10:50 a.m. | Macky 117
Description: Study of notation, score layout, transpositions, basic harmonic and melodic analysis, basic chord voicings, and composition for a small and large jazz ensemble. Use of notation software such as Finale or Sibelius. Recommended prereq., MUSC 3081. Offered fall semester only.

Musc 4041 – Orchestration

Instructor: Kurt Mehlenbacher
Mon/Wed | 11:00-11:50 a.m. | C-125
Description: Studies advanced orchestration techniques through score analysis and student projects. Offered fall only.

Musc 4061 – Tonal Analysis

Instructor: Yonatan Malin
Tues/Thurs | 10:00-10:50 a.m. | N1B85
Description: Surveys tonal analytical techniques and forms of tonal music, including binary forms, sonata forms, ternary forms, rondo (and others) through study of selected works from the 18th and 19th centuries. Offered fall only.

Musc 4071 – Post-Tonal Analysis

Instructor: Daphne Leong
Tues/Thurs | 2:00-2:50 p.m. | N1B59
Description: Focus on theory and analysis of post-tonal literature pre-1945. Offered every other fall.

Musc 4081 – Introduction to Music Technology

Instructor: Kevin Olson
Mon/Wed/Fri | 1:00-1:50 p.m. | N1B46

Instructor: Kevin Olson
Tue/Thurs | 9:00-10:45 p.m. | N1B46
Description: Topics include basic synthesis, musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) sequencing and music notation by computer. Offered fall and spring. Same as CMDP 3860.

Musc 4111 – Composing at the Computer

Instructor: Brian Kelly
Tue/Thurs | 2:00-2:15 p.m. | N1B46
Description: Discover strategies and techniques for generating and manipulating sound at the computer. Student projects will include compositions, soundscapes, ambient environments, and soundtracks for multimedia. Available to students without prior experience with computer music or composition.

Musc 4121 – Topics in Music Technology

Instructor: Herbert Lobel
Mon/Wed/Fri | 11:00-11:50 a.m. | N1B46
Description: Exploration of issues, techniques, and tools of music technology. Topics vary from term to term and may include: interactive systems for performance; teaching and learning; computer music instrument design; digital synthesis and signal processing; music in intermedia; sound design and analysis. Lectures on work sessions will support student projects. May be repeated up to 9 total credit hours.

Musc 5061 – Advanced Tonal Analysis

Instructor: Steven Bruns
Mon/Wed | 9:00-10:15 a.m. | N1B85
Description: Surveys tonal analytical techniques. Department enforced prereq., passed general written theory and aural skills prelim exam or completed remediation. Offered fall only.

Musc 5071 – Post-tonal Theory and Analysis

Instructor: Daphne Leong
Tue/Thurs | 9:30-10:45 a.m. | N1B59
Description: Focuses on theory and analysis of post-tonal literature pre-1945. Department enforced prereq., passed general written theory and aural skills prelim exam or completed remediation. Offered fall and every other spring.

Musc 5081 – Applications in Music Technology

Instructor: John Drumheller
Tue/Thurs | 12:30-1:45 p.m. | N1B46
Description: Presents advanced strategies for applying computer technology in several musical disciplines. Emphasizes the use of technology in composition, music theory and music education. Offered fall only.

Musc 5151 – Topics in Music Analysis

Instructor: Keith Waters
Mon/Wed | 12:00-1:15 p.m. | C-121
Description: Readings in Music Theory. The course will focus on central topics and currents in the field of music theory, including Rhythm and Meter, Form, Chromatic Harmony, Performance and Analysis and Perception/Cogntion, as well as the historical development of tonality, with particular emphasis on the ideas of Fux, Rameau, Riemann, Schoenberg and Schenker. Grades to be determined from student presentations, reading synopses, final projects, as well as midterm and final exams.

Musc 5151/6801 – Topics in Music Analysis/Advanced Topics in Music Theory

Instructor: Philip Chang
Tue/Thurs | 2:00-3:15 p.m. | C-191
Description: Emotion and Meaning in Music. Understanding the relationship between emotion and music is an age-old question. Its complexity is reflected in those who have sought answers: theorists, aestheticians, critics, psychologists, philosophers and researchers have all spent centuries and tubs of ink suggesting causes and solutions for why music makes us feel emotions. How do sound waves do this? Are emotional reactions innate? Learned? Cross-cultural? Is emotion “in” the music or outside of it? Authors surveyed include Huron, Davies, Kivy, Hanslick, Meyer, Robinson, Juslin, Wheelock and Sloboda. We will read, research and knowledgeably engage the many angles and perspectives we will encounter. Assessment includes analysis, journaling, writing summaries and essays, rotating discussion leadership and short- and long-term projects.

Musc 5246 – Jazz Improvisation and Analysis

Instructor: Paul McKee
Mon/Wed | 4:00-5:15 p.m. | Macky 117
Description: A study of improvisation through melodic and harmonic analysis of jazz compositions, transcriptions, and the study of historic jazz solos as played by jazz masters. Recommended prereq., MUSC 3071. Offered fall only.

Current students can access and register for courses through MyCUInfo.

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