Fall 2020

Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-241

Formerly listed as: MUSI-31

Moodle site: Course


Amy M. Coddington (Section 01)


How does music’s harmonic language work? What principles influence harmonic choices in different styles of music, and what do Amy Beach’s compositions, Rihanna’s songs, and Chopin’s etudes have in common? How do composers and musicians manage the intricate relationship between harmony and melody? In this course, we’ll develop a deeper understanding of conventions of tonal harmony in music from popular and classical traditions, among others. Students will learn how to recognize, categorize, create, and manipulate diatonic harmonies through composition, analysis, dictation, and other aural skills, and will learn how harmonic language contributes to our conceptions of musical style and genre. A portion of the musical examples will be drawn from the current repertoire of Amherst ensembles—including campus acapella groups, Amherst Symphony Orchestra, Concert Choir, student jazz combos, among others—and emphasis will be placed on improving students’ proficiency in connecting musical sound and musical notation.

This course is the first of the required music theory sequence for majors. Three class meetings and two ear-training sections per week. Students who have not previously taken a course in music theory at Amherst College are encouraged to take a self-administered placement exam available on the Music Department Website (https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/music/theoryexam). Students are also encouraged to discuss placement in music theory with a member of the Music Department.

Limited to 18 students. Professor Coddington. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible; online elements of the course will occur via the course website, and zoom.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to first-year students and sophomores


Artistic Practice, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022