After reviewing the Submission Guidelines below, you may submit your items at mtosmt.org/ojs/


Submission Guidelines


For questions, please contact the editor ( ).

Last revision: February 2020.

For a PDF copy of this document, click here.


[1] MTO editorial policy

[1.1] We welcome submissions on topics of interest to a diverse music theory community. We look for work that makes a new contribution to scholarship, situates its argument within the existing published research, and is well organized and clearly written. Submissions must not have been published elsewhere nor be under consideration by any other journal while they are under review by MTO. The journal, in particular, encourages articles that take advantage of MTO’s online digital format. We also encourage submissions from authors of groups historically marginalized in our field. Authors might wish to make use of existing resources available for mentorship of articles prior to submission. These resources are administered through the Society for Music Theory’s Committee on Race and Ethnicity [link] and the Society’s Committee on the Status of Women [link].

[1.2] Items are published in the following categories: article, essay, commentary, review, report. An article is a presentation of scholarly research. An essay is an opinion piece on a general topic—for a good example, see Nathan John Martin’s “History for Theorists” in issue 25.3. A commentary is focused on a particular article or other published item, is generally short, and usually blends scholarship and opinion. MTO aims to publish timely reviews of scholarly books and textbooks. Here is more information. A report is description of an event, usually a conference—for a good example, see Timothy Koozin’s “Come Together: Fifty Years of Abbey Road” in issue 25.4.

[1.3] All items in a panel submission are expected to meet submission standards for peer-reviewed articles. Each item in the group will be treated as an individual submission and given a recommendation (accept, accept contingent on revisions, revise and resubmit, or reject). As per MTO's editorial policy for individual submissions, readers’ reports and recommendations for all items in a panel submission are not binding: the editors of MTO make the final determination.

[1.4] Length of featured articles. Submissions should be no longer than 12,000 words in main text and 3000 words in notes. Potential authors will find articles of greater length in recent issues; please be advised that MTO policy has changed. There is no specific limit on examples and works cited. Innovative formats are welcomed.

[1.5] Submission and review timetable. Authors are not required to be current members of the Society for Music Theory in order to submit items. There are no fees for submission or publication. At no time may single authors have more than one single-authored paper and one joint-authored paper (panel submissions included) under review, under revision, accepted contingent on revisions, or in press.

[1.6] Blind review. All submissions to MTO are read “blind.” See the paragraph “Ensuring Blind Review” in the next section for details.

[1.7] Disclaimer. Items published in Music Theory Online represent the positions, research, and views of their respective authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the Society for Music Theory, its officers, or its membership.

[1.8] 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), http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.XX.Y.Z/toc.Y.Z.html

This article is based on an article first published in Music Theory Online Vol/Issue (Year), http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.XX.Y.Z/toc.Y.Z.html

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


[2] How to submit an article

[2.1] Formatting requirements. Authors may submit their articles in a Word or PDF document. Be sure to include a keyword list and abstract in the main text file. For details of formatting, citation, etc., see the section “Guidelines for Text” below. Note that you are also asked to provide the abstract in the OJS submission under the “Metadata” tab.

[2.2] Abstract and Keywords. In addition to the main document and examples, prepare the following before submitting:

  1. A list of 5–10 descriptive keywords. 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).
  2. An abstract of no more than 250 words. Abstracts are not required for reviews or commentaries.
See current and recent issues of the journal for examples.

[2.3] Graphics, including musical examples. All graphics should be embedded as images within the text or gathered in a single separate PDF file. If the article is accepted, we will need individual high-resolution graphic files for each example and a file with the text for captions.

[2.4] Other file types. Audio, video, and animation are encouraged. When published, audio will be converted to MP3 and OGG formats and video will be converted to WEBM, MP4, and OGV formats. Flash is no longer accepted. 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, the example must be transformed in some way, as with the addition of an analytical layer, in order to qualify for the fair use exemption. 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.”

[2.5] Ensuring Blind Review. All article submissions to MTO are read anonymously (“blind review”). Authors should remove any identifying metadata and 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.

[2.6] Citation of scholars from historically marginalized groups. In response to growing awareness of music theory’s white racial frame, we encourage authors to consider whether their citations exclude the work of scholars from groups historically marginalized in music theory on the basis of gender, race, or ethnicity.

[2.7] 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: https://www.wmich.edu/mus-theo/nsl.html.

[2.8] 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.

[2.9] Example captions. References to examples, along with brief identifying captions, should be included at appropriate points in the text. For instance:

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

[2.10] Submitting your files. When you are ready to submit your files, go to the MTO submission site (https://mtosmt.org/ojs/), log in or create an account, and follow the instructions on-screen. The document "How to Submit to MTO" provides a step-by-step description of the submission process.

For files larger than 100 Mb, please upload your materials to Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com), Google Drive, or a similar file storage service, and share a link with the editor at .

Note: Reviews may also be sent directly to the Reviews Editor at

(for reviews)


[3] What to expect after you submit your materials

[3.1] After you submit your materials, you will receive a confirmation email, acknowledging receipt and requesting any missing items or changes in format. We hope to have a decision on your article in 12 weeks. We will try to communicate any delay to you, and we are happy to provide an update upon request at any time.

[3.2] The MTO editors will determine whether the article will be sent out for review. Authors are allowed and encouraged to let editors know if there are a small number of individuals who should not be contacted as reviewers; such requests should be made, through email or the online journal system, directly to the editor. If it is sent out, two readers will provide reports and make a recommendation in one of these categories:

  • Accept and publish as is, or with only minimal copyediting (rare).
  • Accept contingent on revisions. The revisions will be evaluated by the editors, who will decide if further revisions are needed.
  • Revise and resubmit (the most common designation). After the article has been revised according to the reviewers’ recommendations, the new version will be sent back to the reviewers who delivered a revise and resubmit recommendation for a re-evaluation. The revised version of the article may then be accepted, accepted contingent on further revisions, or rejected.
  • Reject. The author should revise the article in light of the readers’ reports and submit it to a different journal. Resubmissions to this journal will not be considered.

Please note: readers’ reports and recommendations are not binding: the editors of MTO make the final determination on whether to offer publication, require revision, or dictate rejection. Guidelines used by reviewers may be found here.

[3.3] As a publication of the Society for Music Theory, MTO’s work is overseen by the Publications Committee of the SMT. Authors who wish to redress editorial decisions or practices—for example, abusive tone, implicit or explicit bias, lack of justification or specificity for the criticisms, etc.—are encouraged to contact the chair of the Publications Committee listed [here].


[4] Guidelines for text

Style guidelines. For any questions not addressed here, please consult the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., or contact the editor. We reserve the right to return your article for further revisions if it does not conform to MTO style guidelines.

[4.1] Labeling for examples and figures. Use “Example” for all musical examples, tables, figures, audio and video. Number in sequence throughout the article (e.g., Example 1, Example 2; Video Example 1, Video Example 2; Audio Example 1, Audio Example 2).

[4.2] 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 (17th ed.), sections 13.9–10, 13.17, and 13.20–24. Do not use 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 (17th ed.), sections 6.75–94.
     
  4. Ellipses: Use three spaced periods in addition to any existing punctuation. See Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), sections 13.50–58.
     
  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 (17th 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 and chord names: Flats, sharps, and naturals should be indicated by the conventional signs when referring to pitches: Eb, F#, B-natural. (NOTE: MTO will substitute the 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. A style guide for chord symbols used in jazz and pop music is available here.
     
  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 the 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 (17th ed.), section 9.61.
    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:
    Capitalize:
    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, chapter 1, etc.
    modifiers in prose (major 3rd, diminished 5th, C minor)
    Sonata in E-flat major, op. 27, no. 1 (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)


[5] Reference style

Use the author-date system of documentation as outlined in Chapter 15 of The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.).

[5.1] 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 (17th ed.), section 9.61.

[5.2] Works Cited list. Complete references should appear only in a bibliography under the heading WORKS CITED. Some sample references are included below, but authors should consult chapter 15 of the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.) for more detailed explanations of bibliographic entries. MTO style departs from CMS style in one respect, in that we no longer include cities of publication in the bibliographic information.

    Journal articles, one author:

Beavers, Jennifer P. 2016. “Integrating Incompatibilities: Melodic, Harmonic, and Formal Dissonance in Ravel’s Duo and Violin Sonata.” Indiana Theory Review 32 (1–2): 120–60.

    Journal articles, more than one author: (NB: citation for MTO as 13 (4), not 13.4)

Reed, Jacob, and Matthew Bain. 2007. “A Tetrahelix Animates Bach: Revisualization of David Lewin’s Analysis of the Opening of the F-sharp Minor Fugue from WTC I.” Music Theory Online 13 (4).

    Online article, more than one author:

Sadler, Graham, and Thomas Christensen. 2001. “Rameau, Jean-Philippe.” Grove Music Online. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.

    Books, one author:

Schmalfeldt, Janet. 2011. In the Process of Becoming: Analytical and Philosophical Perspectives on Form in Early Nineteenth-Century Music. Oxford University Press.

    Edited volumes:

Marvin, Elizabeth W., and Richard Hermann, eds. 1995. Concert Music, Rock, and Jazz since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies. University of Rochester 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.

[5.3] Notes. MTO uses endnotes, along with pop-up windows at the point of citation. Endnotes 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. Reference numbers in the body of the essay should follow all punctuation at the end of a sentence or clause.

Appropriate notes:

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.

3. Considerations regarding the analysis of a “basic rhythmic shape” are described in Kraus (2009, [2]). [NB: Observe the method of citing an MTO article: here [2] refers to the article’s second paragraph]

Inappropriate notes:

3. Butler 2006.
4. Ibid.

Requesting technical assistance

MTO has staff who can assist authors with technical matters. Contact Brent Yorgason, Managing Editor ( mto-managing-editor@societymusictheory.org ).

You may also contact the editor:

SMT