Music Theory Ph.D.

Program overview

This program supports original research in the analysis of music to foster deeper understanding of compositional works, performance practices, and the history of music theory. It stimulates ongoing discourse and meta-theoretical work in the field. Opportunities to explore interdisciplinary research topics in perception and cognition exist through collaborations with CIRMMTIt cultivates expertise in a range of analytical techniques and musical repertoires.

Students demonstrating academic excellence in their first year of the M.A. at McGill may be allowed to transfer directly into the Ph.D. program in theory, applying their first year of M.A. coursework towards the requirements for the Ph.D.

An option exists for specialization in:

Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies

This program option is open to doctoral students who are interested in cross-disciplinary thesis and research that focuses on issues centrally related to gender, sexuality, feminist theory, and/or women’s studies. The Music Theory Ph.D. requirements are augmented by participation in a Research Methods course and a Graduate Feminism Symposium that engages with a diverse array of critical and empirical perspectives. 

The program draws on the resources of the McGill Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies that includes faculty and graduate students from across the University. Supporting music faculty have interests in Opera, film studies, aesthetics, theory of performance, and popular/jazz studies.


Faculty members have a breadth of experience in early music theory, formal functions, Schenkerian analysis, mathematical models, theories of rhythm and meter, serialism, and popular music analysis.

Resources & Opportunities

Students benefit from:

  • Substantive pedagogical training through teaching assistantships and instructorships in undergraduate music history courses;
  • Cultivates breadth of expertise in wide range of historical and contemporary analytical methodologies, including new digital technologies;
  • Piano lab for refining pedagogical demonstration skills;
  • Comprehensive exams prepare for teaching careers, while laying the foundation for original dissertation research;
  • Opportunities to participate in ground-breaking interdisciplinary team projects and pursue performance applications of music theory;
  • Faculty mentoring, support, and preparation for presentations at leading international conferences;
  • First-class innovative concert programming.


Students in this program have received funding from sources such as: SSHRC, IPLAI, CIRMMT student awards, RA positions (supervisor support), the Graduate Student Essay Prize, International Graduate Student Research Competition.


Graduates of the McGill PhD program in music theory have obtained faculty positions at the University of Michigan, Oberlin Conservatory, McGill University, University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Loyola University, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Saskatchewan, Université de Montréal, and Université de Sherbrooke.

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