Submission Guidelines

For questions, please contact the editor ( ).

MTO editorial policy

Article Topics. Music Theory Online (MTO) welcomes submissions on any topic of interest to the music theory community. The increasing diversity of theoretical and analytical endeavors opens the way for articles of interest to a wider online audience. In an effort to broaden the scope of ideas presented in MTO, we especially encourage submissions from authors whose knowledge of other disciplines can contribute to musical understanding.

MTO also encourages articles on any topic that takes advantage of the unique opportunities provided by MTO’s electronic format: either as an addendum to an otherwise “traditional” article, or in an article conceived using various multimedia formats. Among the possible technologies are:

Sound files (such as MIDI files of musical examples, digitized field recordings or experimental stimuli)
Color graphics (annotated analytic diagrams, new forms of musical visualization)
Animation (such as Quicktime or Flash movies illustrating musical processes, perhaps linked to audio)
Video (showing clips of performances or illustrating teaching techniques)
Non-linear presentation (such as articles with variable paths)
Interactive elements
Use of live hyperlinks to reference online resources

MTO editorial assistants and consultants can provide assistance in some of these areas. Potential authors are welcome to contact the editor to discuss their ideas.

Review topics MTO aims to publish brief, but timely reviews of scholarly books and textbooks. Here is some more information about reviews.

Length of featured articles. Submissions should be no longer than 15,000-16,000 words, although in exceptional cases we will consider longer submissions if the length is clearly justified. Length alone is generally not a factor in publication decisions, however. Innovative formats for longer articles or shorter communications are welcomed. In addition, we are happy to consider complete special volumes on a single topic.

Submission and review timetable. Authors may submit items for consideration at any time. Reviews are normally completed within eight weeks. Accepted articles typically appear within three to six months of final acceptance.

Blind review. All submissions to MTO are read “blind.” To ensure a blind reading, please submit your text to the MTO editor as described below.

Republication. Items published in MTO, particularly revised and expanded versions of works in progress, may be republished by their authors in a print journal or as a book chapter provided that one of the following statements is included in the republished version as appropriate:

This article was first published in Music Theory Online Vol/Issue (Year),

This article is based on an article first published in Music Theory Online Vol/Issue (Year),

Questions concerning the MTO editorial policy should be addressed to the editor ( ).

How to submit an article

Formatting requirements. MTO is published in HTML format. Authors may submit their articles in Word or other readable text format, as a PDF document, or in HTML. Submissions should be carefully proofread and submitted in the clearest, most readable format possible. In general, authors should be concerned with providing a clean and accurate text rather than with a polished layout with detailed web formatting—the details of HTML formatting and layout will be handled by MTO when a submission is prepared for publication. At the submission stage, authors may use author-date style, footnotes, or endnotes for references, but they should be aware that accepted articles will need to be formatted according to MTO style guidelines (author-date with explanatory notes as needed; see below). Authors do not need to create hyperlinks within their texts.

Graphics and musical examples. For initial submissions, notated examples and other graphics should be embedded as images within the text or submitted as a single separate PDF file. If the article is accepted, we will need individual high-resolution graphic files for each example.

Other file types. Appropriate use of media formats such as MP3 and MIDI audio files, streaming audio or video (e.g., QuickTime), animation (e.g., Flash), and the like is encouraged. Authors are welcome to discuss their ideas with the editor in advance. Short excerpts of copyrighted audio or video normally qualify as fair use. See, for instance, the use of video excerpts and movie stills in Frank Lehman’s article “Hollywood Cadences.” In the case of longer excerpts or entire works, we prefer that the example be transformed in some way, as with the addition of an analytical layer. For an example of transformed content, see the timeline diagram of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” in Mark Spicer’s article “(Per)Form in(g) Rock.”

Ensuring Blind Review. All article submissions to MTO are read anonymously (“blind review”). The author's name should be listed only in the indexing and author headers described below; these will be removed before the article is sent out for review. Authors are asked to avoid any references in the body of the text that might suggest their identity (e.g., first-person citations of previous work can be recast as third-person citations: “in a previous article, I suggest. . .” becomes “in . . . author suggests. . .”). These restrictions apply only to articles. Reviews and commentaries are not blind-reviewed.

Language. The Society for Music Theory has endorsed the principle that language that treats both sexes equally should characterize all its publications. Guidelines for Non-Sexist Language are available online at:

Headers. Every submission (articles, reviews, and commentaries) should include, on a separate page preceding the article text:

an indexing header
an author header (identifying authors by name, institution, and email address)
a list of accompanying files

Indexing Header. The indexing header should appear at the very beginning of articles, reviews, and commentaries, and should be in the following form:

AUTHOR: LastName, FirstName, MiddleInitial
TITLE: ArticleTitle
KEYWORDS: KeywordList
ABSTRACT: AbstractText
REFERENCE: ArticleTitle

In the KEYWORDS field, provide descriptive keywords separated by commas (e.g., KEYWORDS: form, sonata, Koch, C.P.E. Bach). Keywords should be either topical or the names of composers or theorists. If topical, they should be general in nature (e.g., rhythm, form, acoustics, etc.), or should identify a genre discussed substantively in the article (e.g., sonata, symphony).

In the ABSTRACT field, provide a brief (one- or two- paragraph) abstract of your work. The ABSTRACT field is not required for reviews or commentaries.

The REFERENCE field should be included only by authors of commentaries on MTO articles. It should be filled in with the filename of the article being commented upon, as listed in the issue of MTO in which the article appeared.

Author Header. The author header should appear in the following form:

FirstName MiddleInitial LastName
Institutional Affiliation
Departmental Affiliation
Street Address
City, State Zipcode
Email Address(es)

List of Accompanying Files. Provide a list of files that accompany your submission:

ACCOMPANYING FILES: Item1, Item2, etc.

The “ACCOMPANYING FILES” section should be used to list the names of files such as graphics, musical examples, audio files, videos, animations, illustrations, tables, etc. (see Graphics and musical examples above). The file names listed in the header should match the names of the files submitted. The text of the article should follow the list of accompanying files.

Example. Below is an example of indexing and author headers, with a list of accompanying files.

AUTHOR: Kraus, Joseph C.
TITLE: Coaching Mozart’s String Quintet in E-flat major: Finding the Rhythmic Shape
KEYWORDS: analysis and performance, rhythm, hypermeter, Schenker, string quintet, Mozart
ABSTRACT: In this paper I explore the use of rhythmic analysis in relation to performance decisions for a coaching of Mozart’s String Quintet in E-flat major, K. 614, first movement. The analysis proposes a “basic rhythmic shape” for this movement, addresses issues involving phrase rhythm (phrase structure in relation to hypermeter), and presents possible responses to these observations in performance.

Joseph C. Kraus
Florida State University
College of Music
132 N. Copeland St.
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1180

ACCOMPANYING FILES: kraus_example1.jpg, kraus_example2.gif, kraus_audioexample1.mp3,, [etc.]

Paragraph numbering. Since MTO items do not have page numbers, paragraph numbers are required for reference. Paragraphs should be numbered consecutively throughout the document in brackets: [1] [2] etc. It is acceptable, however, to group paragraphs into larger sections and to modify the paragraph numbers as follows: [1.1] [1.2] ... [2.5] [2.6] etc.

Example captions. References to musical examples and figures, along with identifying captions, should be included at appropriate points in the text. For instance:

Example 1. Chopin, op. 10, no. 6, mm. 1–8

Submitting your files. Files may be sent as attachments to:

(for articles and commentaries)

(for reviews)

For large files, please use Dropbox ( or a similar file delivery service.

What to expect after you submit your materials

After you submit your materials, you will receive a confirmation email within 1–3 days, acknowledging receipt of your materials and requesting any missing items or different formats. For initial submissions, fewer files are preferred, with notated and graphic examples embedded in the text or submitted in a single separate file.

The MTO editors will give the article a brief initial read to determine whether it will be sent out for review. We look for work that makes a new contribution to scholarship on theory and analysis, situates its contribution within the existing published research on the topic, and is well organized and clearly written. If the article is not relevant to music theory or analysis, makes no new contribution, or is not clearly written enough to be readily comprehensible, it will be designated a “desk rejection.” The editors will notify the author and make general suggestions for improvement.

If the article is sent out for review, identifying information will be removed and the anonymized files will be sent to two reviewers with expertise related to the article’s topic. The reviewers will provide detailed reports on the article, normally within 6–8 weeks, and make one of the recommendations below. If the reviewers do not agree, the editors will make a determination or in some cases commission a third review.

  • Accept and publish as is, or with only minimal copyediting (rare)
  • Accept contingent on revisions; the revisions will be evaluated by the editors and further revisions may be requested, but the article should be considered as formally accepted and may be listed on the author’s CV
  • Revise and resubmit (the most common designation); after the article has been revised according to the reviewers’ recommendations, it will be sent back to the reviewers for a re-evaluation, after which it may be accepted, accepted contingent on further revisions, or, if the reviewers’ concerns have not been adequately addressed, rejected
  • Reject; resubmissions to this journal will not be considered; the author should revise the article in light of the readers’ reports and submit it to a different journal

What to do if your article is accepted

  • Style guidelines. If your article is accepted, you will need to ensure that it conforms to our journal style guidelines below (if it does not already). We urge authors to carefully review these guidelines, as well as recently published MTO articles; for any questions not addressed there, please consult the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., or contact the editor. Ensuring that your work is properly formatted will help to speed the copyediting process.

    Copyediting. Accepted articles will undergo one or two rounds of copyediting. For copyediting, we will need editable files of the article’s text in .doc or .rtf format. We ask authors to review copyediting changes within 3–5 days, or within 5–7 days if the copyediting is substantial.

    Formatting. After copyediting, the article will be sent to the managing editor and assistants for web formatting. For formatting, we will need individual, high-resolution files of notated or graphic examples and a separate list of example captions as a text file. The examples should contain enough pixels to be able to be printed out crisply at 300 PPI. For example, if a graphic is intended to fill the page width when printed (7.5 inches), it should be at least 2250 pixels wide (7.5 X 300). PNG, GIF, or JPG files are strongly preferred. The background of notated examples should be white without distortion, the staff lines should be clear, and multiple beams distinct. Provide a logical name for each file, making sure each filename ends with its standard filename extension (e.g., .png, .gif, .jpg) so that we will know how best to open it. Audio and video examples need not be re-sent if they are unchanged from the initial submission.

    Proofreading. Once all of the articles for an issue have been formatted, they will be proofread by board members and the editorial staff, and corrections and suggestions will be collated and sent to the authors for review and any additions. Proofreading is the final stage just before a new issue is ready to go live, so we ask for a rapid turnaround time from everyone, usually 2–3 days.

    Guidelines for text

    Punctuation and other conventions. Here are some general guidelines for the formatting of text in MTO submissions.

    1. Quotations: Block quotations should be handled as discussed in the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), sections 13.9 and 13.20–22. Omit leading and trailing ellipses within quotations. For quoted material in the main text, the parenthetical author/date citation follows the closing quotation mark and precedes the final punctuation:

                “in conveying a trajectory of tension and stability” (Temperley 2008, 305).
    2. Commas: A comma is used to separate all items in a series of three or more (including the last item).

                “ . . . major, minor, and augmented . . .” (comma before “and”)
    3. Dashes and hyphens: Use the en-dash to indicate a continuous range (e.g., “in the years 1968–72” or “in mm. 52–53”). Use a 3-em dash and period for authors or editors named in the preceding entry of a bibliography. For proper usage of dashes, hyphens, em dashes, and 3-em dashes, see the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), sections 6.78–91.
    4. Ellipses: Use three spaced periods in addition to any existing punctuation. See Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), sections 13.48–56.
    5. Measure numbers: The terms “measure” or “measures” should be abbreviated “m.” or “mm.” When referring to a specific beat within a measure, use a period to separate the measure number from its subdivision. Thus, for a piece in common time, one may write:

                “The violas enter in m. 8.4 . . .”
    6. Numbers:
    7. Use words: twentieth century, sixties, eighth note, quarter note, chord fifth, five hundred years ago; see also Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), section 9.2.

      Use numerals: 26,000, pages 48–56, minor 6th, April 19, 1936

      Plurals: To make a plural out of a number, add an “s” but no apostrophe: (e.g., the 1960s, or “accented 32nds”)
    8. Note names: Flats, sharps, and naturals should be indicated by the conventional signs when referring to pitches: Eb or F#. (NOTE: MTO will substitute in the actual sharp, flat, and natural symbols when preparing items for publication.) When referring to the title of a work, the accidental should be spelled out: E-flat.
    9. Octave identification: MTO prefers the Acoustical Society of America’s convention for indicating specific pitches: middle C is C4. The number need only be used when needed to disambiguate pitches; if there is only one G in bar, for example, there is no need to refer to it as G5.
    10. Page numbers: Page numbers in citations and references should be abbreviated following the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), section 9.60.
      If the first number is . . .  the second number will . . . Examples
      less than 100
      use all digits1–8, 11–13, 76–99
      100 or a multiple of 100
      (numbers ending with two zeros)
      use all digits100–105, 700–778, 1200–1211
      101 through 109, 201 through 209, etc.
      (penultimate numeral is zero)
      use changed portion only101–8, 307–14, 2002–3
      110 through 199, 210 through 299, etc. use two digits unless more are needed
      to include all changed parts
      111–13, 245–46, 1789–802, 5067–68
    11. Quotation marks: In general, use “double” quotation marks; use ‘single’ quotation marks within double quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation. Place commas and periods (but not other punctuation) inside closing quotation marks.
    12. Special symbols: If your submission contains mathematical or other special symbols, you should provide MTO with any needed fonts and with a PDF file that correctly displays the appearance of those symbols. Scale degree carets and stacked figured bass may be submitted as below:
      can be given as ^3
      can be given as 4/3
    13. Spellings: British spellings should be “Americanized.”
    14. Capitalization, italicization, and music-specific terms:
      Example x
      Sonata, Nocturne, Prelude, etc. (when used as a title)
      Piano Sonata op. 2, no. 3 (opus not spelled out; no comma before “op.” unless the key is given as in Piano Sonata in C major, op. 2, no. 3) Sonata K. 545
      Symphony no. 35 (“Haffner”)
      All key and pitch-class names (E major, the flute’s C, etc.)
      Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classic, etc. (historical eras)
      German nouns (also, italicize Schenkerian terms such as Ursatz, Deckton, Vordergrund, etc.)
      Chapter 1

      Lower case: sonata structure, Mozart sonatas, etc. (general reference)
      stanza 1, level 2, section 3, etc.
      modifiers in prose (major 3rd, diminished 5th, minor 6th)
      Sonata in E-flat major (modifier and mode in titles)

      Italicize: Titles of larger works such as operas, musicals, ballets, tone poems, song cycles, some instrumental works, albums (e.g., Don Giovanni, Liederkreis, Abbey Road)

      In quotations: Song titles from individual selections within larger works (“Erstarrung” from Winterreise)

    Reference style

    MTO accepts submissions using any reference style. Submissions accepted for publication, however, must employ the author-date system of documentation as outlined in Chapter 15 of The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.).

    Author-date citations. Only author-date citations should appear in the body of the document, generally in parentheses and situated at the ends of sentences to cause minimal visual disruption to the reader:

    The former are called displacement dissonances and the latter are called grouping dissonances (Krebs 1999).

    When referring to the author in the sentence, only the date is placed in parentheses:

    Krebs (1999) refers to the former as displacement dissonances and the latter as grouping dissonances.

    When referring to the work in a sentence, neither is placed in parentheses.

    Krebs 1999 delineates the difference between displacement and grouping dissonances

    When two or more works published in the same year by a single author are referenced, both text citations and the list of works cited must use the letters a, b, and so on to disambiguate them. If specific pages or page ranges are being cited, these numbers should be listed following the year.

    (Hasty 1981a, 55)
    (Hasty 1981b, 272–89)

    Page numbers in citations and references should be abbreviated: see Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), section 9.60.

    Works Cited list. Complete references should appear only in the bibliography under the heading WORKS CITED. Some sample references are included below, but authors should consult chapter 15 of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) for more detailed explanations of bibliographic entries. MTO style departs from CMS style in that we no longer include cities of publication in the bibliographic information.

        Journal articles, one author:

  • Brothers, Thomas. 1994. “Solo and Cycle in African-American Jazz.” Musical Quarterly 78 (3): 479–509.

        Journal articles, more than one author:

    Brown, Matthew, and Douglas J. Dempster. 1989. “The Scientific Image of Music Theory.” Journal of Music Theory 33 (1): 63–106.

        Books, one author:

    Rothstein, William. 1989. Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music. Schirmer Books.

        Edited volumes:

    Beach, David, ed. 1983. Aspects of Schenkerian Theory. Yale University Press.

        Articles in an edited volume:

    Folio, Cynthia. 1995. “An Analysis of Polyrhythm in Selected Improvised Jazz Solos.” In Concert Music, Rock, and Jazz since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies, ed. Elizabeth W. Marvin and Richard Hermann, 131–45. University of Rochester Press.

        Two or more references by a single author published in the same year:

    Hasty, Christopher F. 1981a. “Rhythm in Post-Tonal Music: Preliminary Questions of Duration and Motion.” Journal of Music Theory 25 (2): 183–216.

    ———. 1981b. “Segmentation and Process in Post-Tonal Music.” Music Theory Spectrum 3 (1): 54–73.

    Footnotes. Footnotes should be reserved for prose annotation of references, discursive asides, or a relatively large number of references (more than three), and not merely for one or two references. Footnote reference numbers in the body of the essay should follow all punctuation at the end of a sentence or clause.

    Appropriate footnote:

    2. Groove is a slippery term, of course, embracing as it does a variety of connotations. Understood as a noun, a groove features “a steady, virtually isochronous pulse that is established collectively by an interlocking composite of rhythmic entities and is either intended for or derived from dance” (Iyer 2002, 397); the expression “groove-based music,” as employed here, emerges from this sense of the word. Ingrid Monson acknowledges this common usage, but her fieldwork with jazz musicians leads her also to emphasize groove’s meaning as an aesthetic quality characterized by a shared sense of beat, “a rhythmic relation or feeling existing between two or more musical parts and/or individuals” (Monson 1996, 68). Keil’s concept of engendered feeling aims in part to capture this aesthetic quality of groove, though it emerged from his research on groove-based musics such as jazz, blues, and polka. For other explanations or definitions of groove, see Keil and Feld 1994, 22–24; Pressing 2002, 288; and Pond 2005, 206n41. On “vital drive,” see Hodeir 1956, 207–9.

    Inappropriate footnotes:

    3. Butler 2006.
    4. Ibid.

    Citing MTO items. The proper form for citing items published in MTO is as follows:

    A. In a Works Cited list:

    Kraus, Joseph C. 2009. “Coaching Mozart’s String Quintet in E-flat major: Finding the Rhythmic Shape.” Music Theory Online 15 (2).

    B. In a footnote (citing, for instance, paragraph 2):

    Considerations regarding the analysis of a "basic rhythmic shape" are described in Kraus (2009, [2]).

    Requesting technical assistance

    MTO has staff who can assist authors with technical matters. Contact Brent Yorgason, Managing Editor (&).

    You may also contact the editor:

    Nicole Biamonte (McGill University)
    Editor, Music Theory Online