The Core Music Curriculum

The undergraduate core music curriculum at Berklee College of Music is comprised of courses in arranging, conducting, ear training, harmony, tonal harmony and counterpoint, and music technology. These subjects are the foundation of Berklee's educational offerings in music, and the entering student proficiency assessment and Introduction to Music Technology exam are designed to assess every entering student's knowledge base in each of these core curriculum fields.

First-year students can apply to take core curriculum courses on Berklee's Valencia, Spain, campus. Learn more about First Year Abroad.

Berklee’s core music classes are not required for students in the Bachelor of Arts in Music Industry Leadership and Innovation program.

The results of the proficiency assessment and Introduction to Music Technology exam allow Berklee to place each student in the appropriate first-semester arranging, ear training, harmony, and music technology courses. After successful completion of courses in these initial areas, students move on to additional studies in conducting and tonal harmony and counterpoint. 


Each of the courses in the arranging curriculum for entering students explores different arranging concepts and techniques, guides students in refining and enhancing arranging abilities, and provides opportunities for creating musical arrangements in various styles of contemporary popular music.

Arranging Core Curriculum


Through the conducting core, students will develop the basic knowledge and technique for conducting and rehearsing instrumental and vocal ensembles in a variety of styles, genres, and songs, including their own compositions. They will be able to evaluate and analyze scores in preparation for conducting rehearsals and performances.

Conducting Core Curriculum

Ear Training

The goal of the ear training core curriculum is to help music students master the basic components of musical craft; to assist music readers in hearing the music they are seeing; to aid writers in notating music they have composed or arranged; to help performers develop their musical vocabulary; and to assist listeners in understanding the music they are hearing.

Ear Training Core Curriculum

Watch a student discuss Berklee's ear training curriculum in the video below:


Through the completion of the harmony core curriculum, students acquire musical literacy, analytical skills, and the ability to incorporate the topics they have studied into their own music. A thorough understanding of common harmonic practice, melodic development, and the relationship between melody and harmony in contemporary styles is important. An understanding of harmony provides musicians with a rich palette for future creative choices in performing and composing.

Harmony Core Curriculum

Tonal Harmony and Counterpoint

Through the successful completion of the tonal harmony and counterpoint core courses, students will be able to analyze and compose music based on harmonic and formal models from the common practice period (baroque, classical, and romantic eras of European classical music), and understand and be able to articulate how the common practice period techniques form the basis for harmony and melody in the bulk of contemporary popular music. The tonal harmony and counterpoint series provides additional context for students in their MHIS-200 level series of courses, which explore the history of music in the European tradition.

Tonal Harmony Core Curriculum

Music Technology

A demonstrated competency in music technology is integral to each student's Berklee education. Technology plays a significant role in almost every aspect of a successful music-related career. Additionally, it is a powerful teaching and learning tool utilized in many of the courses offered at the college. Covering a broad spectrum of basic and music-related computer skills, the music technology core curriculum provides students with a strong technology foundation on which to build the necessary skills required by each major and field of interest.

Music Technology Core Curriculum


All Berklee students, regardless of major or career goals, will achieve proficiency on their principal instrument through the performance core. The performance core comprises a mix of private lessons, instrumental labs, and ensembles. Private lessons provide in-depth, individualized study of an instrument while labs give students an opportunity to workshop specialized instrumental or stylistic topics. Ensembles teach students how to play music with others, working together toward a performance. 

Performance Core Curriculum