Projects in Previous Years

1st Semester 2018/19: Grammatical models for musical harmony


John Ashley Burgoyne

If you are interested in this project, please contact the instructor(s) by email.

Registration through, using the course code: 5314GMFM6Y



Grammatical models for musical harmony have a long history, mot notably after Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s seminal A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (1983). Recent research in the field has been somewhat hampered by a lack of data, but there are some data sets, e.g., the McGill Billboard data set with 1000 transcription of American pop hits (2011), with enough information to improve the state of the art. Can you find a model that parses this data set better than existing models?


Each week, the students will meet with the instructor once to discuss their progress and get an assignment for the following week.

  • Week 1: Introduction to the problem and data set; assigned readings on harmony and grammar
  • Week 2: Implementation of baseline model(s) from previous work and plan for new model(s)
  • Week 3: Implementation and testing of new model(s)
  • Week 4: Refinement and further testing of new model(s)
  • Closing presentation

A basic knowledge of Western musical harmony and a basic knowledge of syntax trees: context-free grammars and their variants. 


Students will present their final model and results at the close of the project and submit a short technical report summarising their findings.