My research interests are divided into music cognition, music and emotions, music and movement, and music and culture. The first one relates to my past work in music perception, and the second topic, emotion and music, is something that I currently spent the most of my research time on. However, all topic areas do overlap. For example, the movement and cultural aspects of music are relevant for both perception and emotions in music. In the following I will try to give an impression of these research interests.

> Music cognition

My overall area of research is music cognition. The questions that I have been interested within music cognition are how listeners parse together a coherent musical structure, how do we consider two melodies to be similar, how does the meter and beat sensation arise and how do we anticipate melodic and rhythmic elements in music? In studying these questions, I have typically employed computational models that emulate the processes involved and collected behavioural data to evaluate the models. A particularly interesting aspect of these basic perceptual processes of music is the degree of learning required. For example, listeners from completely different musical cultures may have radically different anticipation of how the music is structured whilst still similar expectations about the elementary aspects of musical continuations.

> Music & Emotions

Emotional aspects of music are crucial to the understanding of overall enjoyment and prevalence of music. However, emotions themselves are not an easy object of study and in aesthetic domain, such as in music, they are particularly complex, subjective and perhaps even elusive. I have carried out systematic comparisons of the most common emotion models (discrete, dimensional, music-specific) employed in music research. I am also curious to learn more about the musical ingredients of the emotions, and particularly, take the musical sound (audio signal) as a starting point for the extraction of the emotions in music. This has the advantage of putting the emphasis of texture and timbre of the sound, which, in my opinion, has been overlooked as most of the attention has been on tempo, articulation, dynamics and mode. Currently, we have constructed several fairly robust computer models capable of describing emotions nearly at the human decriptive level and we even have a nice realtime version of this software made by Petri Toiviainen. We would not have been able to make a progress in this without a close collaboration with Olivier Lartillot and his MIR toolbox for audio analysis of music. Regarding emotions and music, I think the large individual variation (personality, musical taste and expertise) in emotional experiences require more thorough studying which is something that my PhD student, Jonna Vuoskoski, has been focusing her work on.

> Music & Movement

Music is not just cognitive or emotional activity, it is fundamentally a motional activity. This can be witnessed easily in concerts (almost regardless of a genre) and in a more pure form by toddlers and infants, who are set into motion by almost any music or rhythm in a very natural way. For me, this is interesting also from the point of view of the basic perceptual processes, that is, how do we tap to the beat, for example, since the infants and toddlers are already attempting to carry out this fairly complex coupling of audio and motor activity.

> Music & Culture

As music is mostly a product of a complicated learning and cultural conventions, these cultural aspects bring essential information to the more primitive perceptual processing that can be studied without the cultural layer. To me, the patterns in the music of the Beatles or Schubert can serve as starting points for understanding interactions between purely emotional, cognitive or motional and cultural aspects of music. I have also tried to promote Finnish music culture by offering Finnish folk songs in digital format for a wider audience and we have used this large collection in our studies of meter, for example. Recently, social media has attracted my attention as it offers a fascinating perspective into music consumption habits and musical meanings of millions of users, which is something that one of the my PhD students, Rafael Ferrer, has been getting more involved in.

Appointments held

  • Full Professor, Musicology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2010-
  • Senior researcher, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2009-2010
  • Professor (non-tenure), MMT MA programme, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2007-2008
  • Professor (non-tenure), Musicology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2006-2007
  • Senior assistant, Musicology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2003-2006
  • Assistant, Musicology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2001-2003
  • PhD student in Graduate School, Musicology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 1999-2001

PhD students

Teaching 2013-2014

    On sabbatical leave 2013-2014.

Academic Biography

University of Jyväskylä (Present): I am a professor in the University of Jyväskylä Department of Music. I'm affiliated with the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research. The centre is directed by Petri Toiviainen and has a large number of other researchers.

In 2006-2009 I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the European Project called Tuning the Brain for Music, which was coordinated by Mari Tervaniemi at the University of Helsinki, Finland. I focused on comparing different models of emotions for music (particularly discrete and dimensional) and obtaining suitable stimulus sets for inducing music-related emotions and also worked on analysis of musical features linked with emotions. In this project, a wonderful colleague Olivier Lartillot produced the first version of the audio-based music analysis tools for Matlab called MIR toolbox.

In 2003-2006, I worked on several topics including meter estimation, visualization of folk tunes, melodic similarity and complexity and also devoted time and effort for research and teaching materials in my native language, Finnish. During the same period, I also developed an interest towards music therapy via the colleagues in Jyväskylä, particularly professor Jaakko Erkkilä, with whom we have collaborated on several projects (including gambling addiction and analysis of the clinical improvisations obtained in music therapy sessions).

In 2003, I finished my PhD at University of Jyväskylä in musicology with an emphasis on cognitive science. My research focused on melodic expectations and similarity and I particularly wanted to tease out the cultural and universal aspects of the expectations. This was achieved by running experiments on expectations with listeners from distinct backgrounds (North Sami listeners, Finnish, isolated South-African, etc.) and predicting the results with various computational models. My thesis supervisors were Petri Toiviainen, Jukka Louhivuori and Carol Krumhansl. During the thesis work, I spend some time in 2000 Cornell University and got help from Joel Snyder and Erin Hannon.

In 1998-1999, my pre-doctoral work concerned the issue of melodic complexity and I worked with Adrian North at the Leicester University.


Tuomas Eerola
University of Jyväskylä
Department of Music
P.O. Box 35
University of Jyväskylä, FI-40014
Office location
Room M 211, Department of Music
University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Office hour
Wednesday 15-16
Email firstname [dot] lastname [at]
Voice +358 40 805 4302