Arranging and Composing Theory and Ear Training

Berklee Contemporary Music Notation

Learn the nuances of music notation, and create professional looking scores. Berklee College of Music brings together teachers and students from all over the world, and we use notation in a great variety of ways. This book presents our perspectives on notation: what we have found to be the most commonly used practices in today’s music industry, and what seems to be serving our community best.

Whether you are writing for a Nashville recording studio, Hollywood sound stage, concert hall, worship choir loft, theater pit, jazz club, or school auditorium, private teaching studio, or music publication, this book will help you to create readable, professional, publication-quality notation. Beyond understanding the standard rules and definitions, you will learn to make appropriate choices for your own work, and generally how to achieve clarity and consistency in your notation so that it best serves your music.

You will learn:

  • The meaning, usage conventions, and placement practices of basic notation symbols, such as notes, rests, clefs, time signatures, key signatures, and measure numbers
  • Where to set articulations and expressive/tempo markings
  • How to use repeat symbols and roadmaps, including multiple endings
  • Lead sheet notation, such as how to render chord symbols, conventions for indicating soloing and comping, kicks over time, and more
  • Specific notation practices for individual instruments, such as strings, brass, woodwinds, keyboard, harp, and rhythm-section instruments (including drum set notation, string “chop” notation, and more)
  • Guitar notation, including traditional PIMA notation, tablature, and chord frames
  • Score and part preparation standards, for orchestra, jazz band, and other large ensembles, as well as vocal ensembles, rhythm section, chamber music, and smaller groups, such as piano/vocal scores and solo instrument parts
  • Publishing “house style” guidelines and tips for music writers, such as for musical analysis, articles, articles, and pedagogical materials about music

Foreword by Matthew Nicholl, Berklee’s associate vice president for global initiatives and former long-time chair of the Contemporary Writing and Production Department.

Royalties for this book are contributed to Berklee’s Matthew Marvuglio Endowed Scholarship.

Theory and Ear Training

Contemporary Counterpoint

Use counterpoint to make your music more engaging and creative. Counterpoint—the relationship between musical voices—is among the core principles for writing music, and it has been central to the study of composition for many centuries. Whether you are a composer, arranger, film composer, orchestrator, music director, bandleader, or improvising musician, this book will help to hone your craft, gain control, and lead you to new creative possibilities. You will learn “tricks of the trade” from the masters and apply these skills to contemporary styles.

Online audio examples illustrate the principles being discussed, and many recommended listening lists point you to additional examples of how these principles have been used in music over the past thousand years.

You will learn how to:

  • Create strong and independent melodies
  • Develop motifs into larger melodic structures
  • Understand “species counterpoint,” and how to adapt it to contemporary writing
  • Develop your music’s internal textures and relationships between voices, to create interest and engagement
  • Use specific types of canons as the baseline architecture for works, such as in crab, inversion, and mensuration canons
  • Integrate contrapuntal techniques into your writing, such as ostinatos, melodic imitation, and rhythmic counterpoint
  • Explore counterpoint in contemporary practice, from jazz to aleatoric styles





Arranging and Composing Theory and Ear Training

Music Notation

Learn the essentials of music notation, from fundamental pitch and rhythm placement to intricate meter and voicing alignments.

Learn the correct way to subdivide rhythms and notate complex articulations and dynamics. This guide will teach you how to create professional manuscripts and is an excellent resource for both handwritten notation and computer software programs.

Arranging and Composing Theory and Ear Training

Reharmonization Techniques

Reharmonization is the musical equivalent of a new paint job on an old car.

When you reharmonize a tune, you give the melody new color by changing its underlying harmonics. Whether you write film scores, direct a band or choir, or play solo piano or guitar, you will find simple and innovative techniques to update songs and develop exciting new arrangements.

Learn reharmonization techniques such as:

  • Simple Substitution: substitute chords with others in the same harmonic family to vary tunes while maintaining their original color
  • Diatonic Approach: reharmonize with chords from a single key to create a harmonic change for most standard jazz and pop contexts
  • Adding Dominant and Subdominant Chords: use these chords, or their tritone substitutions, to create sophisticated harmonic sounds
  • Harmonic Displacement: relocate important cadential points in a phrase to create open space to fill with new chords
  • Modal Interchange: borrow chords from common minor keys to darken the harmonic color of phrases
  • Working with Bass Lines, Turnarounds, Extended Endings and Modulatory Interludes, Diminished Seventh Chords, Hybrid Chord Voidings, and other advanced patterns to give your music a unique sound
Arranging and Composing Theory and Ear Training

Music Notation

Make your music easier to read.

Whether you notate music by hand or use computer software, this practical reference will show you today’s best practices for how to render the details of your scores and parts. Improve your music’s legibility and express your ideas clearly to get the best possible representation of your music.

You will learn to:

  • Create scores that are easy to conduct and parts that are easy to perform
  • Understand the unique practices and standards for handwritten vs. computer-generated scores, such as those by Finale® and Sibelius®
  • Lay out scores with proper instrument order, measures per page, and common alignment practices
  • Understand the publication standards for orchestral, big-band, vocal, and rhythm-section–based scores
  • Use appropriate practices for different styles, such as pop, commercial, classical, and jazz
  • Master the details of setting notation elements such as measure numbers, rehearsal markings, chord symbols, dynamics, lyrics, and many more
  • Use specialized notation, such as measure repeats, col, slashes, hits over time, and others

Music Notation: Preparing Scores and Parts is used as a notation textbook by Berklee College of Music’s Contemporary Writing and Production Department. It presents the definitive word in score and part preparation, based on contemporary publishing-industry practice.

Theory and Ear Training

Latin Jazz Grooves

Learn about Latin jazz grooves and Afro-Cuban melodic phrasing techniques.

Latin jazz is a blending of Jazz and Afro-Cuban music. In this video, jazz great Victor Mendoza helps you harness all the passion and liveliness that the rhythms and harmonies of Latin jazz demand. He will take your musical vocabulary and knowledge of rhythm, scales, and common chord progressions to explore this rich musical style.

Learn basics of Afro-Cuban jazz to create sizzling Latin groove patterns including:

  • Son Clave
  • Rumba Clave
  • Cascara
  • Tumbao

Victor Mendoza will guide you through techniques with practice/play-along tracks featuring Victor and friends. Be sure to watch the included concert performance by Victor, Eguie Castrillo, Fernando Huergo, Rafael Alcalá, and Pablo Bencid.

Preview this DVD by watching the trailer. You need the Quicktime player from Apple to view the trailers. Download it from Watch the trailer: Low/Modem or Hi/Broadband

Click here for supplemental material for this disc.

Theory and Ear Training

Berklee Music Theory Book 2 – Second Edition

Learn the fundamentals of harmony by furthering your music theory background.

When you can read basic music notation and recognize common scales, as presented in the first book of this series, Berklee Music Theory 1, you’ll be ready to learn the fundamentals of harmony.

Berklee Music Theory 2 features hands-on exercises and ear-training activities to help you use chords effectively. You will learn basic triads and seventh chords, inversions, voice-leading, how to use chords to accompany melodies, and how to create melodies that grow out of chord progressions.

Learn to:

  • Interpret chord symbols so that you can create grooves, melodies, and accompaniments
  • Understand the harmonic building blocks of contemporary harmony, as used in contemporary, jazz, and popular music styles
  • Train your ear to distinguish between different chord types
  • Use different voicings to create professional-sounding harmonic progressions
  • Create singable, memorable melodies

The Berklee Music Theory series is essential for anyone who wants to play better, learn how to read, write and understand the elements of music, and create their own songs and arrangements. It is based on contemporary, jazz, and popular music styles.


Theory and Ear Training

Harmonic Ear Training

A vital introduction to ear training for songwriters and performers looking to improve their listening skills and become better musicians.

Starting with the bass line, you’ll learn a step-by-step approach to help you break down the hearing process, internalize the music, and then identify the elements of the progression.

Harmonic Ear Training will help you to:

  • Recognize chord progressions quickly and confidently
  • Incorporate chord progressions into your writing and performing
  • Learn to listen to music more analytically, and apply this knowledge to all your projects
Arranging and Composing Theory and Ear Training

Jazz Composition

Designed for classroom instruction at the college or advanced high school level.
Includes numerous jazz composition exercises which will help students develop writing skills and apply melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic concepts to the blues, song form, episodic composition, and multi-movement jazz works. Click here to download a free chapter from the book!
Jazz Composition: Theory and Practice covers these concepts:

  • Melodic rhythm
  • Interval patterns
  • Guide tones
  • Compound lines
  • Antecedent and consequent phrase structure
  • Pitch contour
  • Modal harmony
  • Chromatic harmony
  • Pedal point
  • Slash chords
  • Modulation
  • Reharmonization
  • Quartal harmony, and much more

Includes chapters on arranging considerations, motivic composition, and fusion. Each chapter concludes with an extensive list of related jazz compositions and other source material. Also included is a CD with more than 70 minutes of related music examples from the book.

Learn more at! Get in-depth information for educators and students!

Theory and Ear Training

The Berklee Book of Jazz Harmony

International Book Award Finalist

Learn the principles of jazz harmony, as taught at Berklee College of Music.

This text provides a strong foundation in harmonic principles, supporting further study in jazz composition, arranging, and improvisation. It covers basic chord types and their tensions, with practical demonstrations of how they are used in characteristic jazz contexts and an accompanying recording that lets you hear how they can be applied.

You will learn to:

  • Use the essential harmonies that create a characteristic jazz sound
  • Expand basic seventh and sixth chords with available tensions
  • Understand the theoretical relationship between chords and scales, and how to use that theory in the creative process
  • Understand the syntax of jazz chord progressions
  • Create within diatonic, blues, and modal contexts
  • Construct appropriate chord voicings to strengthen your progressions


Theory and Ear Training

Berklee Contemporary Dictionary of Music

A comprehensive reference to terms used in the performance, creation, and study of music today. Covering instrumental and voice performance, audio technology, production, music business, and other dimensions of the modern music industry, its 3,400+ entries include many terms that are common among practicing musicians, but are found in no other dictionary. At the same time, it incorporates traditional terminology from early music to the present and across diverse cultures, as well as clarifying customary instrumental abbreviations and foreign language terms. Comprehensive lists of scales and chord symbol suffixes are itemized in the appendices.

Featured areas include:

  • Performance practices (ad lib, belt, doit, staccato, zart)
  • Instruments (afoxé, drum machine, virtual instrument, zither)
  • Musical styles (acid jazz, EDM, flamenco, plainchant, zydeco)
  • Theory (aleatory, chord scale, drop-2, pre-chorus, Z-complement)
  • Technology (ADSR, stutter edit, XLR-connector, Yellow book)
  • Colloquial usage (A Train ending, groove, hepcat, phat, woodshedding)
  • Music business (AFM, copyright, royalties, Variety)
  • Notation practices (al segno, lead sheet, chord symbol, guitar tablature, Nashville numbering system, zusammen)
Theory and Ear Training

Berklee Music Theory Book 1 – Second Edition

Learn music theory based on over 40 years of music theory instruction at Berklee College of Music.

This book is perfect for anyone who wants to learn music theory, whether they already play an instrument, or are looking to expand the depth of their musical knowledge. This essential method features hands-on and “ears-on” practice exercises that help you explore the inner workings of music, presenting notes, scales and rhythms as they are heard in today’s music styles. The online audio examples will help reinforce lessons as you begin to build a solid musical foundation. Now available with an answer key!


Improvisation Theory and Ear Training

Berklee Practice Method: Teacher’s Guide

Add rock bands and small jazz combos to your school music program!

This method will show you how to develop a music program that broadens the appeal and possibilities of traditional music education.

The Berklee Practice Method is available for music students of more than twelve different instruments. The Berklee Practice Method Teacher’s Guide helps you bring them all together. Whether you are a school music teacher, the music director at a house of worship, or the leader of a band, The Berklee Practice Method series of books will provide you with a practical and productive way to develop your band’s skills. These thoughtful and provocative lessons will help you to improve your band’s overall sound, timing, cohesion, and sense of groove.

Teach your students the material that the Berklee College of Music faculty wish their students could master before arriving on our doorstep. It is a uniquely well-rounded approach to learning and practicing music, including ear training, improvisation, and timing exercises, in addition to topics of theory and instrumental technique. Field-tested on thousands of students, at Berklee and beyond, these teaching techniques are proven to be uniquely effective in helping musicians come together as a band.

Topics are prioritized differently in different volumes of the BPM series. With the BPM Teacher’s Guide, you will be able to see materials related to each instrument for each chapter. Your drum student might have an interest in chords and inversions; while the drum volume of this series does not discuss these topics, the keyboard and vibraphone volumes do. This teacher’s guide can then serve to help present supplementary materials as needed.

The BPM Teacher’s Guide serves as an index and overview to all the specific instrument volumes in the series. Inside you’ll find:

  • Tips for teaching bands
  • Discussions about how to guide musicians for each instrument for each song
  • Lists and descriptions of topics covered by books in the series
  • Extensive supplementary information
  • A complete score for each tune, including the complete parts for all instruments
  • Daily Practice Routines to help students practice more challenging material

The included CD contains sampling of tracks from all the different instrument volumes, giving you and your students the chance to hear a variety of sounds and possibilities.

Theory and Ear Training

Beginning Ear Training

These time-tested exercises will help you to play by ear.

Beginning Ear Training introduces the core skills of ear training. Step by step, you will learn to use solfège to help you internalize the music you hear and then easily transpose melodies to different keys. You’ll learn to hear a melody and then write it down, develop your memory for melodies and rhythms, and to transcribe live performances and recordings.

Listening is the most important skill in music, and this book will help you to listen better.

Learn to:

  • Learn melodies by ear
  • Sight-sing music notation
  • Internalize rhythms and melodies
  • Improve your pitch and timing
  • Transpose without using notation
  • Use solfège
  • Transcribe and notate recordings and performances
Theory and Ear Training

Essential Ear Training for Today’s Musician

Step-by-step introduction to the basics of ear training.

The ear training curriculum of Berklee College of Music is known and respected throughout the world, and now, for the first time, this unique method has been captured in one comprehensive book.

Every musician knows that ear training is the cornerstone of competent musicianship. This method teaches musicians to hear the music they are seeing, notate the music they have composed or arranged, develop their musical vocabulary, and understand the music they are hearing.

Ear training is crucial for developing an intuitive, natural ear, and provides the creative imagination with a musical lexicon. The lessons and workshops in this method make it easy to study on your own.


  • Complete course with text and musical examples
  • Rhythmic Studies that free the student from solfège and key signatures
  • Sight Recognition Studies focusing on solfège, removing the element of rhythm
  • Sol-fa Studies that focus on solfège without the added difficulty of note reading
  • Melodic Studies containing examples similar to those found in a musician’s daily work

Essential Ear Training is the result of years of performing, writing, and teaching music, providing a solid foundation for anyone interested in developing their ear naturally.


Click here for more info on Berklee’s Ear Training Dept.