SMA Study Day Video Podcasts

“Teaching Music Theory in the Digital Age”

Please scroll to view these podcasts or click the links to jump to a specific podcast.

Mark Gotham “Working in Harmony”

Sarah Moynihan “Sonata Theory Pedagogy: The Sonata Type Tree”

Daniel Elphick “Accessibility of Music Theory and Online Learning”

Ryaan Ahmed “Artusi and Computer-Assisted Music Theory Pedagogy”

Paul Robinson and Gerardo Gozzi “Overcoming the Tyranny of the Invisible Student”

Stephan Schönlau “Digital teaching of music theory worldwide: a German higher education perspective”

Barry Mitchell "Double beat Theory"

Mark Gotham
Universität des Saarlandes and
“Working in Harmony”

One defining development of the digital age is increased accessibility: more content is available to more people than ever. That situation presents opportunities for music theorists to reach out, especially if we produce material that works at scale.

Working in Harmony ( is a new app offering automatic feedback on users‚ Roman numeral analyses. I present and discuss this app in particular as well as the wider benefits to be had from projects of this kinds, which provide some assistance to anyone who wishes to develop their fundamental theory skills, whether or not they have access to formal education.

Developing that app’s infrastructure for storing and processing harmonic analyses enables a range of other pedagogically important tasks such as anthologising. Again, I illustrate this idea with a general discussion and a specific implementation: the anthology I have produced for the Open Music Theory textbook. This new kind of anthology harnesses computational methods to present a much larger collection of examples (deliberately including edge-cases), feature the work of many analysts, and provide links to full scores for all entries (

Computational, public-benefit resources like these need scores encoded in suitable formats and released under clearly permissive licences. Unfortunately, there are few collections of that kind and so this talk concludes by discussing those wider issues and the development of the OpenScore Lieder Corpus ( a collection of 1,000 songs amassed by an academic-community collaboration and released under a licence that enables all use-cases, including the two outlined above.

Mark Gotham is composer and computational music-theorist at the Universität des Saarlandes and director of the non-profit for democratizing access, He holds a PhD in music theory from the University of Cambridge, an MMus in composition from the RNCM, and a BA from the University of Oxford where he graduated at the top of his cohort. Before the Universität des Saarlandes, Mark held research and teaching posts at the Royal Academy of Music; University of Cambridge; Royal Holloway, University of London; and at Cornell University. The debut CD of Mark’s compositions – ‘Utrumne est Ornatum’, 2018 – received stellar reviews.

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Sarah Moynihan
Magdalen College, University of Oxford
“Sonata Theory Pedagogy: The Sonata Type Tree”

James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s Sonata Theory is taught almost ubiquitously across undergraduate theory and analysis courses. As yet, however, there is no visual representation of the ‘types’ of sonata theorised in Elements of Sonata Theory (2006), other than the ‘textbook’ Type 3 Sonata. In a short video essay, I propose to introduce the ‘Sonata Type Tree’, an interactive tree diagram that I have created to represent the rotationally defined Sonata Types 1, 2, 3 and 4. Musical time is represented from the top to the bottom of the diagram with tonic and non-tonic keys represented by black and white circles, respectively. This particular use of space allows for different ‘pathways’ through the types to be represented simultaneously as forking ‘branches’ of the tree. It requires a familiarity of terminology in Elements of Sonata Theory and of the formal musical features that define the repertory of late eighteenth-century sonata movements.

The Sonata Type Tree can be used as a pedagogical or research tool to investigate the alternative trajectories of each type, including the points they converge, diverge, and are realised. A type is ‘realised’ when it is confirmed to be prevailing over the other three by appearance of a particular theme and function in a certain formal position unique to that type. The diagram thus promotes an understanding of the mediation between an individual work’s unravelling form and the ‘constellation’ of generic sonata type expectations. My video essay will suggest ways to use the diagram, reflect on student use to date, and will consider its scope for development.

Sarah is a College Lecturer in Music History and Theory at Magdalen College, University of Oxford; an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, and trustee of the Society for Music Analysis. She has previously convened modules on Schenkerian theory at University of Nottingham and taught at Royal Holloway, as well as several Oxford colleges. Music theory and analysis are central to her research, which places a critical focus on form in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her doctoral thesis examined the history of analytical approaches to Jean Sibelius’s music to reformulate the accepted view of the composer as an early modernist.

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Daniel Elphick
Royal Holloway
“Accessibility of Music Theory and Online Learning: the Class Politics and Learning Strategies of teaching in lockdown”.

Music Departments across the UK are dealing with a similar issue: decreasing numbers of A-Level music graduates. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the music theory knowledge (or lack thereof) of new undergraduates. Many departments (my own included) have lifted the requirement for A-level music and have instead ran theory ‘catch-up’ courses. In September 2020, I was responsible for design and delivery of such a course in the middle of the pandemic. The result was an intersection of accessibility, both technological and social.
The Autumn 2020 term brought the curse of ‚blended learning‚: teaching in-person and online simultaneously. It was, in effect, the worst of both worlds. Group work was out of the question, as in-person students could not be within 2 metres of each other, while those online might be alienated from the group. I deployed a series of online solutions, most visibly in a video series which has now moved to YouTube. At the same time, I was trying to gauge levels of theoretical understanding and to judge what was ‘essential’ theory knowledge for new music undergraduates. Understanding student backgrounds and the limitations of blended learning threw the looming crisis of music theory teaching into relief. In this paper, I discuss the tools and strategies that HE teachers can explore to make theory more ‘accessible‚ in an equalities and class-based sense, and also in the learning technologies sense.

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Ryaan Ahmed
Technical Director, Programs in Digital Humanities, MIT
Artusi and Computer-Assisted Music Theory Pedagogy

Music theory classes are designed to teach musicians fluency with basic musical concepts so that they have a theoretical framework within which to express their creativity. However, students often find that music theory is detached from their musical practice. This detachment might arise in part because music theory constitutes a set of mechanical skills that require a great deal of drilling, and because teachers must create and grade time-consuming drilling exercises, they are often forced to sacrifice other exercises such as model composition, improvisation, or analysis of real music.

Artusi, a web application that allows music teachers to create self-grading, interactive music worksheets, was created to address this problem. There is no substitute for drilling the basic mechanics of music theory, but computers can be deployed to assess whether a student has correctly written a minor sixth, has avoided writing parallel fifths in a counterpoint assignment, or has correctly transcribed a melody by ear. The rote drilling no longer needs to be assessed by instructors. In addition, using digital systems dramatically improves student performance, as they receive more practice than a teacher has time to assess.

Our system is named for one of music’s great curmudgeons, the 16-17th century composer and theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi, who believed in strict, rote drilling of music theory. Artusi the program takes over drilling by automating the teaching of rote, mechanical skills, leaving teachers more time to spend on composition and other creative activities. Since 2018, we have worked with over 1,500 instructors, serving over 15,000 students at over five hundred institutions. This talk discusses lessons we have learned over three years of building tools to help music teachers teach music theory more efficiently and effectively.

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Paul Robinson and Gerardo Gozzi
Royal College of Music
“Overcoming the Tyranny of the Invisible Student”

This video essay documents online theory techniques developed by two staff members at the Royal College of Music. The challenge facing us was how to replicate the live interactive theory class where short periods of instruction would be followed by peering over students’ shoulders as they worked on given tasks. Online some of these classes could be quite large (up to 25 students) few of whom could be compelled to turn their cameras on so the burden of delivery was far more intense than normal. We discuss the use of some applications that helped us both. In particular ‘Notes’ for instruction in chorale harmonisation, Noteflight‚ for submission of student pastiche exercises in early 20C compositional styles and at its most basic, Pdf Expert for the marking up of study scores. In terms of the instructional part of teaching, we found it useful to pre-prepare PowerPoint slides with voiceover. This had a dual function. Firstly, to take the pressure off class delivery and secondly, to be made available to absent students (or for later revision) in a movie format link. We touch on some issues of fairness of access for students. For example, some of us chose to use ‘Noteflight’ since it is a notation software the College subscribed to and is available to all students through the College server. Lastly, we discuss some ways we have devised to make online assessments as fair and monitored as possible.

Dr Paul Robinson is a composer and director of the ensemble HarmonieBand. He studied at York University and Mills College California. At the Royal College he is Course Leader for Level 1 Historical Studies and contributes to various music theory and aural training units.
Dr Gerardo Gozzi is a composer, performer and co-artistic director of Ensemble Resilience (Amsterdam). He holds a PhD in Composition from the Royal Academy of Music, which focused on the three-dimensional perception of sound in the mind of the listener. Since 2018, he teaches musicianship, improvisation and stylistic studies at the Royal College of Music.

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Stephan Schönlau
Universität der Künste Berlin; Hochschule für Musik Dresden; Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
“Digital teaching of music theory worldwide: a German higher education perspective”

Restrictions arising from the Coronavirus pandemic have since early 2020 required almost everyone working in higher education to rethink their teaching methods and strategies, not least because of the majority of teaching moving online across Europe and much of the rest of the world. In this presentation, I discuss not only some of the challenges I encountered in delivering a wide range of online music theory courses at two conservatoires in Germany, but also outline the tremendous opportunities. By requiring us to become inventive, restrictions on face-to-face meetings have indirectly facilitated collaboration with scholars from around the globe, for the purposes of both research and teaching, not least because almost everyone working in higher education is now capable, if not well-versed, in using video communication software. Moreover, delivering music theory teaching online has the potential of widening access to music education around the world (provided internet access is available). For many lecturers, teaching students located in, for example, South Korea, Turkey and the US has become the norm rather than the exception.

We should see the restrictions as an opportunity to adapt and innovate by exploring alternatives that would otherwise not have been considered (cf. S & Serpa, 2020). Even if personal, face-to-face interactions cannot be replaced in a course run entirely online (Gilpin, 2020), we should nevertheless consider retaining some of these alternative teaching methods in the post-Corona age.

Stephan Schönlau was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He studied Music Theory, Musicology and Piano in Berlin and Cologne, Germany, before completing his PhD on ‘Creative Approaches to Ground-Bass Composition in England, c.1675–c.1705’ at the University of Manchester, where he was supervised by Rebecca Herissone. He currently lectures in Music Theory at the Universität der Künste Berlin, the Hochschule für Musik Dresden and in Musicology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, having previously taught in Cologne and Manchester. He also blogs on various topics relating to music theory, analysis and aural skills (

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Barry Mitchell
Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance
The Role of Social Media and Double Beat Theory

The double beat theory, or double beat tempo theory, is a theory about how the metronome has historically been used. The essence of the theory is that one metronome beat consists of a complete movement of the metronome from and back to its starting point. Crotchet equals 120 would therefore mean that a crotchet would last for 2 clicks of the metronome (the usual crotchet equals 60). Proponents of the theory maintain that the double beat theory represents normal use of the metronome in the period c. 1815-1920, but that the origins of the theory date back as far as the seventeenth century. The main implication of the theory is that historically tempi were much slower than would be the norm in performances today. The major promoter of the theory, the YouTube channel Authentic Sound, features performances of works such as Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 106, Beethoven’s Symphony No 5, Op 67 and Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat major, D. 899, all based on the double beat theory. These performances are described as historical tempo reconstructions. These performances, and related videos, have garnered considerable support for the theory. However, the double beat theory is dismissed by mainstream musicology and the evidence contradicting the theory is extensive. The theory also has several critics on social media, mainly other YouTubers. Just how this debate has played out on social media has significant implications for the dissemination of ideas about music theory in the age of social media, and particularly, the music video.

Barry Mitchell is a senior examiner for music for the International Baccalaureate Organisation and is an opera studies tutor at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. He is a director and founder of Theory of Music Ltd, a not-for-profit company based in the UK, which provides educational resources for the study of music (see

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