Introduction to Music Cognition

MUSICCOG/PSYCH 2MP3  is a foundational course for music cognition students open to others meeting the (rigorous) entrance criteria.   Success in this interdisciplinary course requires a strong background in psychology typically met through PSYCH 1X03 and 1XX3 (or equivalent – this differs for students in some programs), for more information see the calendar entry.

This course is devoted to understanding the psychological basis of music.  Therefore the ability to read scores, understand harmonies, and analyze chord progressions plays an important role in success in this class. This can be demonstrated through completion of MUSIC 1C03 or the RCM Advanced Rudiments (formerly Grade 2 Rudiments).  Formal documentation in terms of RCM certification is not required, however, students will need a firm grasp of these topics to be successful in the course.  

In fairness to students who have the required background, class time will not be spent reviewing the following topics, which will serve as the foundation for more advanced discussions.

Students in this course are required to be comfortable with the following musical tasks: 

  • Clefs: Identify pitches and harmonies in either treble or bass clef
  • Rhythm: add rests to a passage (simple, compound, or mixed)
  • Intervals: write, identify, and/or invert harmonic or melodic intervals (including compound intervals)
  • Chords: write or identify major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads, in root position and/or inversions (open or closed position)
  • Analysis: analyze a short score (i.e., name chords, identify the key, etc.)
  • Scales: write and/or identify major, natural minor, harmonic, or melodic scales for keys with up to three sharps and flats

Note: This course is a requirement for all students in our music cognition specialization.  SOTA students who have successfully completed MUSIC I but have not taken PSYCH 1X03 and 1XX3 can alternatively enroll in MUSIC 2MC3: Psychology of Music.   That course assumes no prior background in psychology, and is focused heavily on the practical applications of music cognition to music performance, pedagogy,  and education.

This page offers some reviews of some topics on the harmony entrance exam at McMaster.  Skip around and choose which ever are useful:


Harmony basics

  • As part of the course, you will demonstrate and/or acquire the ability to recognize chords, scales, and intervals in notated music.
  • The resources below have been developed for students who would like to learn to read basic music notation, scales, and intervals (which are required for this course).
  • Students already familiar with this material can simply take the quizzes on Avenue to Learn
  • Each quiz can be taken repeatedly. Your last score for each quiz will serve as your quiz mark.
  • Together, these quizes count for 10% of your final mark


1) The basics: Clefs, Steps, and Key signatures

Demonstrate your knowledge of these topics in Quizzes 1-3.



Practices “quizzes” with feedback: 


2) Moving on up: Scales, Intervals, and Triads

Demonstrate your knowledge of these topics in Quizzes 4-6.

Now that you’ve done the lessons, use the practice links to prepare for your quiz:

Note: Augmented/diminished interval information is useful information, but quizzes will assess only major/minor intervals.


3) Have you “Got Rhythm”?

Demonstrate your knowledge of these topics in Quiz 7.


Now that you’ve done the lessons, use the practice links to prepare for your quiz: