Unveiling The Mystery Of Harmony

Research project (2016-2021) lead by professor Tuire Kuusi, main researcher PhD Ivan Jimenez.


This research aims at clarifying the mechanisms by which personal factors such as musical training and aptitude interact with musical factors such as musical style, transposition, and melodic and rhythmic cues during the task of identifying a tune from its harmony.

About the research project

“Unveiling the mystery of harmony” is a postdoctoral research project of Dr. Ivan Jimenez (researcher) and Professor Tuire Kuusi (PI), with the collaboration of Professor Matthew Schulkind (co-researcher), Professor Christopher Doll (co-researcher), Professor Christoph Reuter (co-researcher), and Isabella Czedik-Eysenberg (co-researcher).

The project is funded by the Kone foundation, and affiliated to the Sibelius Academy. The project lasts from 2016 to 2021.

Identifying a tune from its harmony (“chord-tune recall”), is a strong indicator that a listener has been able to internalize a lasting mental representation of a chord progression partially disassociated from its original melodic and rhythmic features. Listeners’ ability to identify tunes from their chord progressions seems to be related to the listeners’ musical experience. Our previous research suggests that for listeners without extensive experience in composing, improvising, transcribing, or analyzing music, it is very difficult to connect two pieces of music by chord progressions alone, i.e., without the extra cues of rhythm and melody. This raises an interesting question: Is it possible to implicitly internalize lasting mental representations of chord progressions that lack rhythmic and melodic information? Our research aims to clarify the extent to which conceptually-based strategies and perceptually-driven mechanisms, length of chord progression, transposition, and melodic and rhythmic cues contribute to chord-tune recall. Our innovative experimental methodology, chord-tune recall, offers a straightforward way to expand our understanding of how different types of listeners experience music.


Jimenez, I., Kuusi, T., Czedik-Eysenberg, I., & Reuter, C. Identifying Songs from One Chord. Under preparation.

Jimenez, I., Kuusi, T., & Doll, C. Common chord progressions and feelings of remembering. Under review.

Kuusi, T., Jimenez, I., & Schulkind, M. Revisiting the effects of listeners and musical factors on the identification of music from chord progressions. Under review.

Jimenez, I., & Kuusi, T. (2018). What helps jazz musicians name tunes from harmony? The effects of work with harmony on the ability to identify music from chord progressions. Psychology of Music. (online first) DOI: 10.1177/0305735618793005.

Jimenez, I., & Kuusi, T. (2018). Connecting chord progressions with specific pieces of music. Psychology of Music, 46(5), 716–733. DOI: 10.1177/0305735617721638.

Jimenez, I., & Kuusi, T. (2017). The Challenges of Aurally Connecting Structurally Similar but Superficially Dissimilar Musical Events: Important Considerations in Analytical Listening. In Proceedings of the Ninth European Music Analysis Conference.

Jimenez, I., & Kuusi, T. (2016). Music Identification from Harmony. In Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition.

Interested to be a participant in the study?

We are currently looking for both musicians and non-musicians for various experiments related chord progressions. If you are interested in participating in any of our experiments, please contact Ivan at ivan.jimenez.rodriguez(at)uniarts.fi

Thank you very much!


Researcher Dr. Ivan Jimenez
See Ivan Jimenez’ website.

Principal Investigator Professor Tuire Kuusi

Co-researcher for the Beatles project Professor Matthew Schulkind
See Matthew Schulkind’s website.

Co-researcher for the project on memory for short chord progressions Professor Christopher Doll
See Christopher Doll’s website.

Co-researcher for the project on identifying songs from a single chord Professor Christoph Reuter
See Christoph Reuter’s website.

Co-researcher for the project on identifying songs from a single chord Isabella Czedik-Eysenberg
See Isabella Czedik-Eysenberg’s website.