Esa Olavi Lilja

Førsteamanuensis i musikkteori

Fakultet for utøvende kunstfag
Avdeling for klassisk musikk
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Esa Lilja is a researcher, musician and composer in the fields of both euroclassical and popular music. His academic background is in musicology (PhD 2009, adjunct professor 2017, University of Helsinki), especially in music theory and analysis, and his academic publications and presentations are mainly concerned with music theory and analysis, guitar distortion, heavy metal and music education. Lilja has worked as a teacher/lecturer of e.g. music theory, analysis, transcription, music history and pop/rock ensemble work since 1997, and supervised dozens of master's theses in musicology.

Select academic publications

(for the free post-print versions and English translations, see


Articles and book chapters (peer-reviewed)

  • (in press) “Tonal Language of Deep Purple Mark II – Riffs, Modes, Chords, and Progressions.” Deep Purple Anthology. Equinox.
  • 2019 ”Harmonic Function and Modality in Classic Heavy Metal”. Metal Music Studies.
  • 2019 “SDT-sointukulun oppikirjamuoto suomalaisen musiikinteorian oppikirjallisuuden ja neljän ohjelmistoaineiston valossa [SDT-progressions in Finnish music theory text-books and four musical genres].” With Timo von Creutlein. Musiikki.
  • 2018 “Distortion and Western music chord processing – an ERP study of musicians and non-musicians”. With Paula Virtala, Minna Huotilainen, Juha Ojala, Mari Tervaniemi. Music Perception, Vol. 35 No. 3, February 2018, pp. 315-331.
  • 2015 “Dealing with the 3rd: Anatomy of distorted chords and subsequent compositional features in classic heavy metal” Modern Heavy Metal – Markets, Practices and Cultures, 8-12 June, 2015, Helsinki. Eds. T.M. Karjalainen & K. Kärki. Pp. 393-403.
  • 2014 ”Populaarimusiikin transkriptio ja analyyttisen kuuntelun kehittäminen” [Popular music transcription and developing an analytic ear]”. Etnomusikologian vuosikirja 26, pp. 162-191.
  • 2014 “Meaning in/of Janelle Monáe’s ‘Tightrope’ – Productional and formal aspects considered.” With Arns, F.,Chilla, M., Karjalainen, M., MaierhoferLischka, T., Valnes, M. Song Interpretation in 21st Century Pop Music, eds. Ralf von Appen, André Doehring, Dietrich Helms, Allan F. Moore. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • 2012 “Heavy Metal and Music Education.” With Ari Poutiainen. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 45. Eds. H. Ruismäki & I. Ruokonen. Elsevier. Pp. 517-526.

Select interviews

  • Vitenskapelige publikasjoner
  • Bøker og kapitler
  • Formidling
    • Tollefsen, Maria Medby; Lilja, Esa; Gorbe-Ferrer, Laura


      Opptaksprøven i teori og gehør i høyere musikkutdanning - et prosjekt i fire stadier.

      Skandinavisk gehørpedagogisk konferanse;

      2023-02-23 - 2023-02-24.

    • Tollefsen, Maria Medby; Gorbe-Ferrer, Laura; Lilja, Esa Olavi


      The entrance exams for higher music education in Norway - a project in four stages.

      Ways forward for higher music education;

      2023-11-02 - 2023-11-03.

    • Gorbe-Ferrer, Laura; Tollefsen, Maria Medby; Lilja, Esa Olavi


      Las pruebas de acceso en la enseñanza superior en Noruega. Primeros pasos hacia una revisión sistemática.


      2023-04-20 - 2023-04-22.

    • Lilja, Esa


      Music theory as a regulative system: A case of harmony analysis in entrance exams.

      Ear Training Pedagogic Conference;

      2023-02-23 - 2023-02-24.

    • Lilja, Esa


      The so-called ‘textbook cadence’ and other music theory fiction.

      Music and the University;

      2022-07-07 - 2022-07-09.

    • Lilja, Esa


      Improvising on a chord formula - A practical method linking music theory and ear training.

      Sentiamoci i Parma: Eartraining Workshop & Forum;

      2022-02-27 - 2022-03-02.

  • Kunstnerisk produksjon
  • Kommersialisering
  • Cristin hovedlogo, Cristin current research information system in Norway