Getting Started

The best way to get started with LINEWAVES is to try it yourself:

Step 1: Get Python up and running

Download and install a version of Python.

Step 2: Install music21

It’s simple to install music21.

Step 3: Take a guided tour

Visit the Guides page to browse modules by topic.

Step 4: Integrate modules into your lesson plan

Once you’ve found a module or sequence, try coding through it yourself. Find related modules (and programming tutorials) by using the links inside of each module, or by clicking on the tags at the bottom of each module.

Step 5: Customize your repertoire

Many of the modules use specific works as models, but the focus on methodology means that the computational techniques covered in any given module can be applied to works of your choice. Click here for resources to help you build your own teaching repertoire.


See how easily LINEWAVES modules can be integrated into your lesson plan:

Melodic Skips and Steps (Fundamentals of Music)
  1. Begin by introducing the concept of melodic skips and steps.
  2. Compare the prevalence of skips and steps in different styles.
  3. Along the way, cover Python topics including for loops, if statements, and list comprehensions.
  4. Students can learn how to analyze more complex melodies in this advanced extension.
Post-Tonal Theory (Music Theory IV)
  1. Review mathematical operations in Python.
  2. Explore how to convert digital music files into numeric pitch sequences.
  3. Compare pitch and pitch class representations of a melody.
  4. Try transposing a melody.
  5. Create a function that will transpose any melody–or detect whether any two melodies are related by transposition.

Browse our Guides for more.

Guiding Principles

LINEWAVES is a platform for digital pedagogy. Digital pedagogy is more than simply using technology in the classroom. It is a novel approach to teaching and learning that employs digital technology to increase inclusion, collaboration, and participation.

One of the biggest obstacles to integrating digital methods in the classroom is connecting the content in dense programming tutorials with meaningful musical activities. LINEWAVES bridges that gap.

Among numerous benefits, like expanding access and equity and promoting code literacy, LINEWAVES also models critical inquiry for students’ future research. It demonstrates that theoretical knowledge can change over time, and that with the right tools, new knowledge can be approached empirically.

Critical inquiry using computer-based methods is a way to address those hard-to-answer questions that inevitably arise in the music theory classroom–from the concrete to the vaguely defined. Where have I heard this melody before? What is it that makes music sound cheerful? Mournful? Spooky? Majestic? Questions that consistently engage students, but that often fall by the wayside in traditional textbooks.

The methods found in these modules can be generalized and applied outside of the domain of music. Yet we must be careful not to overestimate the computer’s capacity and authority. Questions and claims must be tempered by critical reflection, and the researcher must acknowledge limitations and sources of subjectivity.

Other challenges abound, even though many are common to interdisciplinary work throughout the academy. For example, differences in disciplinary focus and methodology can often be reconciled through collaboration, even if the practice of conducting research with others is unfamiliar for many humanists.

Similarly, despite enormous advances in the field of music information retrieval (MIR) in recent years, the most developed and widely-used software focuses on the symbolic (i.e. notation-based) representation of music. This has serious implications not only for scholars’ access to particular canons of music, but also for what kinds of topics can be studied.

Despite these challenges—and to a large extent, because of them—there remains much good work to be done. In a recent interview in the journal Empirical Musicology, the music scholar David Huron—who has spent decades conducting computer-based musicological research and developing his own software—offered three pieces of advice for young scholars interested in doing computational research in music today:

  • First, make a long list of questions that interest you. Good research is motivated by questions.
  • Second, let your questions guide your research activities. Don’t be afraid to go wherever a question takes you… Disciplines are defined by the questions they ask, not by the methods they use.
  • A final piece of advice is to beware of the siren call of computers… The tools of course are important. If you want to do this sort of work, then learning about computers and statistics is essential. But don’t lose sight of your goals.


Drake Andersen
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music
Vassar College

info [at]