Syllabus for Music 3 - Fundamentals of Music

Harvey Mudd College, Spring 2020


Instructor: Bill Alves

Tuesdays/Thursdays 1:15-2:30
Shanahan B450

This course covers the basics of theory, notation, and composition of music of the European tradition. It is largely a skills based course, intended to give students tools to help achieve creative goals such as composing, reading music in performance, or analyzing scores. It is a prerequisite to more advanced music theory courses, such as MUS 101 at Scripps College and MUS 80 at Pomona College. Although students come to this class with a variety of backgrounds, from no musical experience at all to some years of experience reading music, all can benefit from learning or reviewing a consistent sequence of skills and applying them analytically and creatively.

The materials for this course will include the following:

Course Goals

Students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

Office hours

I encourage you to come by my office with any questions you have. I currently have scheduled office hours from 10:00-11:00 am weekdays, but please check the schedule posted on my office door. You can also email me for an appointment (alves at

Course Assignments


Melos quizzes35%
Other assignments40%
Final project15%
Class participation10%

Melos quizzes: Melos helps you practice your skills reading and interpreting musical notation and listening. A Melos "lesson," or sequence of several short quizzes will typically be due before each class. If you pass the lesson by the due date, you will get full credit for the assignment. If you do not pass some of the lesson quizzes by the due date, you will only get credit for those quizzes that you pass. If you have not passed any quizzes, I will give some reduced credit for late completion, but because each lesson builds on the last one, it's important not to fall behind. Each quiz should take only a minute or so. If you have prepared but you are still taking quizzes so many times that the Melos assignment is taking significantly more than half an hour, you should consult with Prof. Alves.

Other assignments: Before most classes, you will also have a brief assignment using the Musescore software or the Ultimate Fake Book. Late assignments will be penalized the equivalent of one letter grade for each class late. Although late assignments will always receive some credit, it's important not to fall behind on subsequent assignments. Unless otherwise indicated, these assignments are designed to take a half hour or so. If you are spending considerably more time, you should consult with Prof. Alves.

Final project: The final project will consist of a composition in the style of a song, with a melody accompanied by harmony. You must complete a final project in order to pass the class.

Class participation: Much of the learning in class will come from in-class group activities and discussions. Your attendance and conscientious participation will benefit not only yourself but others in the class. Therefore, unexcused absences after the first two will result in reduction in points of your final grade. Reasons for excused absences include illness (with documentation from student health), family death, and religious holidays. Reasons for unexcused absences include travel for clinic or athletics, grad school visits, and airline schedules for spring break. Also, in order to fully facilitate everyone's participation in discussions, there will be no open laptops during class except when required for an in-class activity. And please make sure your cell phones are switched off.

Accommodations: Harvey Mudd College strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you need accommodations for a documented disability, please talk to me or contact the Office of Disability Resources (ability@ You will find information about disability resources on the college website:

Course outline

Topics and dates may be revised depending on class progress.

DateTopicReading dueAssignment dueVocabulary to know
Jan. 21Introduction to the Class,
pitch notation
Jan. 23The Organization of PitchesChapters 13, 14, 15, 16, 191al'ottava/8va, bass clef, clef,flag, frequency, grand staff, interval quality, key, leap, ledger line, mode, notehead, octave, octave equivalence, pitch, scale,
scale degree, semitone, simple interval, solfege, staff, stem, step, tonality, tonic (tonal center, key center), treble clef, tuning system, whole tone
Jan. 28Rhythm notation 1Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 92bar line, beam, beat, down beat, duple meter, flag, measure, meter, metric stress, repeat sign, rest, simple meter, rhythm, tempo, time signature, triple meter
Jan. 30Rhythm and melodyChapters 20, 22, 23, 243accidental, courtesy accidental, enharmonic, flat, natural, sharp
Feb. 4Rhythm notation 2Chapters 7, 10, 11, 124anacrusis or pick up, augmentation dot, fermata, repeat sign, syncopation, tie, triplet, volta
Feb. 6Intervals5compound interval, consonance, dissonance, interval quality, interval inversion, non-diatonic interval
Feb. 11Melody6antecedent/consequent, cadence, contour, motive, period, phrase, resolution
Feb. 13TriadsChapters 25, 26, 27, 28, 347chord, harmony, inversion, root, seventh chord, triad
Feb. 18Harmony and MelodyChapters 38, 398anticipation, consonance, dissonance, neighbor tone, non-harmonic tone, passing tone, preparation, resolution, suspension
Feb. 20Harmonic ProgressionsChapters 34, 409circle of fifths, harmonic progression, harmonic rhythm, normal progression, plagal progression, transposition
Feb. 25Other Major KeysChapters 17, 18, 21, 3310key, key signature
Feb. 27Compound MeterChapter 811
Mar. 3The Minor ModeChapters 29, 30, 31, 3212natural minor scale, melodic minor scale, harmonic minor scale, parallel key, relative key
Mar. 5Other Harmonic Progressions13deceptive progression, elision, modulation, retrogression
Mar. 10Graceful Melodies14
Mar. 12Voice leadingChapters 35, 36, 3715contrary motion, parallel motion
Mar. 17Spring Break
Mar. 19Spring Break
Mar. 24Spring Break
Mar. 26Spring Break
Mar. 31Voice Leading Review
Apr. 2Accompaniments, dynamicsarpeggio, dynamics, articulation, crescendo, decrescendo, pianissimo, piano, mezzo-piano, mezzo-forte, forte, fortissimo
Apr. 7Other Diatonic ModesChapter 4316
Apr. 9Harmonic progressions and song form17
Apr. 14Song analysis18
Apr. 16Setting lyrics19
Apr. 21Song AnalysisFinal Project Proposal
Apr. 23Fun with RhythmFinal project interim
Apr. 28The Harmonic SeriesChapters 44, 45, 46
Apr. 30Final ProjectsFinal Project due
May 5Final Projects

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Updated on Mar. 23, 2020 by Bill Alves