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Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music Search

Micro­ton­al Lab

  • Duration: One semester, autumn or spring.
  • Final assessment: Assessment by the course instructor.
  • Language of tuition: English.

Course description

Microtonal Lab is aimed at students who are interested in the different microtonal approaches in composition and performing of modern and contemporary music.

This course is especially focused on the microtonal approaches based on the overtones series (Spectral) and techniques of just intonation, both in theoretical and practical ways.

The course provides knowledge and new aesthetics for the composition students and new horizons on performance for the performers.

Learning objectives

After one semester of Microtonal Lab på NMH, students could

  • be able to distinguish the difference between the different microtonal approaches
  • be able to create and develop scales and use them in their works (both in acoustic and electronic compositions)
  • have the basic skills to compose and/or perform microtonal music


During the 12 weeks of this course, students will be working with different microtonal methods, both theoretically and practically. They will also actively participate in aural training, as well as composition and performance skills, based on different microtonal theories.

The course is divided into 3 sections (4 lessons each). Students would learn the theory and aesthetics of each part, work on sketches and short compositions/etudes, and finally perform each other's music (learning, creating, and performing). Students will be obliged to compose short sketches based on the knowledge that they will gain during this course (the performers participating are strongly encouraged to try their compositional skills).

In the end, students will learn how to analyse different microtonal music and also be able to create or perform microtonal music.

In 12 weeks of Microtonal Lab på NMH, students will be introduced to the different approaches of microtonality, such as

  • an introduction to the different microtonal approaches (4 weeks)
  • spectral music – techniques and aesthetics (4 weeks)
  • just intonation – From Pythagoras to Harry Partch and more (4 weeks)


There are 12 weekly lessons, each 90 minutes long.

Tuition is given as lectures/discussions and workshops in groups. Discussions and study groups may also be organised. The students will be able to submit and obtain feedback on practice exercises.

There will be weekly assignments that have to be handed in or discussed during the lessons.

Course requirements

  • Active class participation is mandatory.
  • The student must take part in a final ear training test, concluding the lab activities.
  • The student must finish and present at least two small pieces/sketches (could be in any format or medium), based on the theories introduced during the semester.

Final assessments

Student assessment is based on the learning objectives. The final assessment will be given as a pass/fail mark, which will be determined by the course instructor based on each student’s level of achievement throughout the course period.

New assessment

In the case of re-assessment, the same procedures apply.

Published: Mar 19, 2021 — Last updated: Apr 7, 2021