Composition and Music Theory

You can study either composition or music theory as your main subject. After completing your education you can work as a music teacher or in other positions requiring creative artistic skills or special musical expertise.

In a nutshell

  • Target degree: bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, master’s degree in music
  • Scope of the degree: BA + MA 180 + 150 study credits (3 yrs. + 2.5 yrs.), master’s degree 150 study credits (2.5 yrs.)
  • Field of art: Music
  • Organiser: The Sibelius Academy
  • Next time to apply: January 2019
  • Studies begin: at the start of the academic year in August
  • Person responsible for the degree programme:  Department Head Minna Holkkola
  • Other responsible persons: Professor Veli-Matti Puumala (composition), professor Lauri Suurpää (music theory)


You can study either composition or music theory as your main subject. In composition studies you will focus on improving your personal compositional skills, which will be supported by harmony and music analysis courses and composition projects. You will develop control and awareness of your creative process.

As a music theory main subject student, you will acquaint yourself with tonal and post-tonal music analysis methods and deepen your understanding of music history by practising score writing based on historical knowledge. The studies focus on research. You can also focus on music editing or teaching and researching music theory and aural skills.

All students will complete the following studies:

  • Music theory, scoring and music analysis
  • Aural skills
  • Music history
  • Methodology and research
  • Instrument and vocal studies
  • Instrumentation
  • Pedagogy

The department also offers minor subject students versatile education in composition, music theory, music analysis, western music history, music philology, information search skills, and research.

The programme aims to give you such extensive knowledge of music, music theory and practical composition or research skills that you will be able to work in positions that demand creative artistic skills, particularly musical expertise and pedagogical skills, after you graduate. Many of the programme’s graduates work as composers or music history and theory teachers.

The Master of Music degree also qualifies you for doctoral study. At Sibelius Academy you can complete the licentiate of music (LMus) and Doctor of Music (DMus) degrees.

Satsioppi (Harmony, Counterpoint, and Stylistic Composition)

Satsioppi (Harmony, Counterpoint, and Stylistic Composition)

Harmony, Counterpoint, and Stylistic Composition
Presentation by Olli Väisälä, Marika Haapanen, and Andreas Metz

“Satsi(oppi)” or stylistic composition enjoys a long-standing and vibrant tradition at the Sibelius Academy. It may be broadly defined as the rigorous study of compositional resources as well as their relationships with musical effects, expression, and quality in any given stylistic context. At the core, satsioppi is about the interaction of analysis and stylistic composition. Satsi analysis usually involves multiple perspectives and can focus on any aspect of music that proves relevant to a particular compositional style. For example, satsi analysis may focus on aspects of harmony and voice leading at different levels of organization, motivic and melodic design, phrase structure, rhythm and meter, register, texture, and aspects of special expressive significance. Unlike the kind of analysis often practiced in analysis classes, satsi analysis is not biased toward specific conceptual perspectives but is holistic in nature and practically oriented. Satsi analysis can therefore address the issues and questions students encounter when attempting to compose music in a given style. In contrast to the model-composition approach sometimes taken at some music institutions, satsioppi at the Sibelius Academy does not rely on secondary sources nor does it encourage the imitation of large-scale structures of specific works. Instead, the satsioppi approach focuses on the exploration and composition in specific styles of music.


Satsi courses are a central part of the composition and music theory programs at the Sibelius Academy. Composition and music theory graduate students typically take several years of satsi courses. The course sequence suggests a progression from rule-oriented to more holistically and aesthetically oriented composition exercises. Students begin with Satsiopin Perusteet, a one-year course covering the basics of counterpoint, harmony, and voice leading; the latter two are also studied from multiple levels of structure. Satsioppi 1, the second course in the sequence, lasts two years and tends to concentrate on the musical styles of the Renaissance and J.S. Bach. Depending on the student’s needs and interests, Satsioppi 2 may last one or two years. This last course tends to focus on a wide variety of tonal, pre- and post-tonal styles such as those of Mozart, Schumann, Debussy, Bartók, and Schoenberg, to mention just a few examples. At any time, the program may be modified to accommodate students with interests in repertoires or style periods other than the ones previously mentioned. With the exception of Satsiopin Perusteet, the courses are offered as one-on-one private lessons and taught by instructors who specialize in satsi instruction and have years if not decades of teaching experience.


Satsioppi accomplishes two goals: (1) It helps students grasp the complexities of historical styles, but more effectively than through analytical observation alone. (2) It helps students explore and develop their creative abilities within the framework of well-defined stylistic contexts. To achieve these goals, the academy sets high artistic standards for stylistic composition. While satsioppi serves first and foremost to develop and enhance the students’ professional competency in analysis and composition, satsi concerts are occasionally arranged to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of the students. These concerts have proven to be enjoyable and rewarding for both composers and audiences.

Please find below a selection of score and audio samples from the 2016-2018 satsi concerts. The compositions are usually performed by volunteers from the music theory and composition department and without extensive rehearsals.

1. Maleena Linjama: Benedictus, Palestrina style Score (PDF) | Listen

2. Niilo Junnikkala: Fugue, Bach style Score (PDF) | Listen

3. Antti Korhola: Fugue, Bach style Score (PDF) | Listen

4. Cecilia Oinas: Sonata in F, Moderato, Haydn style Score (PDF) | Listen

5. Antti Korhola: Farewell, Schumann style Score (PDF) | Listen

6. Lauri Supponen: A Vendre, Debussy style Score (PDF) | Listen

7. Criostóir Ó Loingsigh: Bulgarian Dance, Bartók style Score (PDF) | Listen

8. Pekka Koivisto: Lydian or Mixolydian, Bartók style Score (PDF) | Listen

9. Sakari Kervinen: Kinderstück, Webern style Score (PDF) | Listen

10. Antti Viljanen: Aktaion & Diana, Stravinsky style Score (PDF)  | Listen


Department head
Markus Mantere, Music history
Part-time teachers
Fiona Chow
Niilo Junnikkala
Tiina Koivisto
Kai Lindberg
Veijo Murtomäki (professor emeritus)
Johan Tallgren
Niilo Tarnanen
Timo Virtanen
Mioko Yokoyama

More information about composition teachers also on the Music Finland website

How to apply

Composition and music theory main subject applicants are evaluated in different selection groups. You can apply for both main subjects during the same year. The programme will require you to have higher preparedness in music theory and aural skills and knowledge of western music in comparison to Sibelius Academy's other programmes. You will also be expected to have creative musical skills if you apply for composition as your main subject.

The University of the Arts Helsinki website includes earlier entrance examinations, which may give you an insight into the entry requirements.

Contact information

All University of the Arts Helsinki e-mail addresses are in the form firstname.lastname (at)

Head of Department Minna Holkkola

Vice-Head of Department Riitta Valkeila


siba.admissions (at)