• Study Guides

    Freshman Entrance Exam

    The entrance exam in theory for incoming freshmen consists of two parts: written theory and dictation.

    The written theory section consists of:
    • Notating key signatures-both major and minor
    • Notating meter signatures
    • Identifying intervals
    • Identifying traids
    • Chord spelling-triads in different positions (inversions)
    The dictation section consists of:
    • Identifying the quality of triads
    • Rhythmic dictation
    • Melodic identification

    Graduate Entrance Exam

    The exam consists of three parts: written theory, dictation and sight singing.

    The topics covered in the written theory section are:

    • Key signatures-major and minor
    • Chord spelling-triads and seventh chords in all positions (inversions)
    • Cadence identification
    • Meter recognition
    • Roman numeral analysis of a chorale passage (will include secondary chords, N6, and/or borrowed chords)
    • Four-part chorale realization-figured bass with Roman numerals (will include secondary chords, N6, and/or borrowed chords)
    • Identification of examples of late-19th and 20th century harmonies-quartal and quintal harmony, cluster chords, extended tertian harmonies, free atonal harmony, and 12-tone harmony.
    The dictation section consists of:
    • A single melodic line of 4-8 measures-tonal, including chromaticism.
    • A four-part chorale excerpt of 2 measures-diatonic

    The sight singing section consists of singing a tonal melody that contains some chromaticism.

    The undergraduate harmony text used at H-SU is Tonal Harmony by Kostka-Payne. The undergraduate sight singing texts are Music for Sight Singing by Ottman and A New Approach to Sight Singing by Berkowitz, Fontrier, and Kraft.

    Sophmore Comprehensive Exam


    • Exercises on music fundamentals (intervals, key signatures, etc.)
    • Harmonize a figured bass in 4 parts that contains secondary chords
    • Harmonize a figured bass in 4 parts that contains the Neapolitan 6 and Augmented 6 chords
    • Analyze a musical example from the literature using Roman numerals for the harmony and marking the cadences
    • Receive at least a 70% on the final exam in Harmony IV
      • This exam covers late 19th century harmony and musical developments of the 20th century (covers chord spelling, figured bass harmonization, and analysis)
      • For the 20th century, know the theory behind: impressionism, modal music, artificial and exotic scales (octatonic, harmonic, pentatonic, minor pentatonic, etc.), tall chords, quartal harmony, bichordal, planing, rhythm, elements of set theory (integer notation and normal form), 12-tone music, and pandiatonicism.

    Ear Training:
    • Receive at least a 70% on the final exam in Ear Training IV. The exam consists of:
      • Sight sing, using solfege, a melody that contains some degree of chromaticism, and sing a prepared melody
      • Dictation:
        • Melodic–up to 8 measures with some chromaticism
        • Harmonic–8 to 10 chords: students must dictate the bass line; includes some chromatic chords
        • Rhythm–includes triplets, duplets, and mixed meters

    Keyboard Harmony

    • Receive at least a 70% on the Keyboard IV exam
      • The keyboard will consist of the following exercises: (all in keyboard style)
        • Play a short diatonic chorale excerpt (from Chorale Handout)
        • Play perfect, imperfect and plagal cadences in various keys (from Morris book)
        • Play a modulation to a closely related key (use the modulations from the Solfege Exercises Handout, but in keyboard style)
        • Harmonize a short chorale melody (and figured bass) using one or more examples of chromatic harmony (secondary dominant and seventh chords, borrowed chords, the Neapolitan 6, and augmented 6 chords) if appropriate

    Summary: You take the harmony test on Friday of 15th week from 8-9 a.m. The dictation test will be during finals week at the normally scheduled final time. The singing and keyboard tests will be scheduled during finals week.

    Senior Comprehensive Exam

    30 minutes prior to the scheduled exam time the student will be given a set of 5 scores, 3 of which the student must discuss during the exam before the School of Music faculty. The student must analyze the scores without the aid of a recording and piano. The student must discuss elements of the following topics: (1) orchestration, (2) contrapuntal devices or voice leading, (3) form, (4) melodic line, (5) style and period, and (6) possible composer. A thorough analysis of topics 1-4 will inform answers to topics 5 and 6.

    For each area please consider the following:

    • Orchestration: the instruments used, instrument and vocal ranges, instrumental combinations, and textures (both background and foreground)
    • Contrapuntal devices or voice leading: imitation, fugal writing, canonic writing, invertible counterpoint, voice leading at cadences
    • Form: harmonic structure, harmonic vocabulary, cadences, thematic areas, standard forms (one-part, binary, ternary, rondo, sonata, and concerto), unique forms; formal adjuncts such as coda, codetta, introduction, and prelude and postlude; and internal formal elements such as transition, extension, episode, and sequence
    • Melodic line: conjunct and disjunct motion, non-chord tones (passing, neighbor, double neighbor, escape, appoggiatura) chromatic embellishments, ornamentation, and modal, non-tonal, and serial melodic writing

    The rhythm dimension of these topics must also be discussed: differing rhythmic levels, pace of harmonic and textural change, metric modulation, and rhythmic variety and complexity.

    An excellent source for the use of these topics in style periods is Music Theory Resource Book by Harold Owen. This book is used in the music theory review course. In fact, MUTC 4236, Music Theory Review, is an excellent course to take before the spring semester comprehensive exams. Please see the syllabus for more information about this course.

    Graduate Comprehensive Exam

    The exam has five sections: listening, term identification, analysis, theory pedagogy (dependent or the candidate's field of study), and a take home composition exercises. The test will be administered in the office of the Theory and Composition Department Head, currently, Cowboy Band Hall, Studio 4. You will have from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to complete the test. Upon completion of the test, you will turn in your work to the School of Music administrative assistant in the Hemphill Music Complex and pick up the take home composition exercises. You will be given two days to complete this portion of the test.

    Listening: There will be 6 examples and you will have to identify the genre and likely compose. You will have to describe the piece and give reasons for your answer. The following is a list of composers from which the examples will be drawn:

    Adams, John

    Franck, Cesar

    Puccini, Giacomo

    Babbitt, Milton

    Gershwin, George

    Purcell, Henry

    Bach, J.S.

    Glass, Philip

    Rachmaninoff, Sergey

    Barber, Samuel

    Gorecki, Henry

    Ravel, Maurice

    Bartok, Bela

    Grieg, Eduard

    Reich, Steve

    Beethoven, Ludwig

    Handel, G.F.

    Ruggles, Carl

    Berg, Alban

    Harbison, John

    Satie, Erik

    Berio, Luciano

    Harris, Roy

    Scarlatti, Domenico

    Berlioz, Hector

    Haydn, F.J.

    Schoenberg, Arnold

    Bernstein, Leonard

    Hindemith, Paul

    Schubert, Franz

    Bizet, George

    Holst, Gustav

    Schumann, Robert

    Bolcom, William

    Honegger, Arthur

    Schwantner, Joseph

    Boulez, Pierre

    Ives, Charles

    Scriabin, Alexander

    Brahms, Johannes

    Janacek, Leos

    Sessions, Roger

    Britten, Benjamin

    Ligeti, Gyorgy

    Shostakovich, Dimitri

    Bruckner, Anton

    Liszt, Franz

    Sibelius, Jean

    Cage, John

    Lutoslawski, Witold

    Stockhausen, Karlheinz

    Carter, Elliot

    Mahler, Gustav

    Strauss, Richard

    Chopin, Fredrick

    Maxwell Davies, Peter

    Stravinsky, Igor

    Copland, Aaron

    Mendelssohn, Felix

    Tchaikovsky, Peter

    Crumb, George

    Messiaen, Olivier

    Tower, Joan

    Davidovsky, Mario

    Monteverdi, Claudio

    Vaughn Williams, Ralph

    Debussy, Claude

    Mozart, W.A.

    Varese, Edgard

    Del Tredici, David

    Palestrina, Giovanni P.

    Verdi, Giuseppi

    Druckman, Jacob

    Part, Arvo

    Victoria, T.L.

    Dvorak, Antonin

    Partch, Harry

    Wagner, Richard

    Faure, Gabriel

    Penderecki, Krzystof

    Webern, Anton

    Feldman, Morton

    Prokofiev, Sergey

    Xenakis, Iannis

    The following is a list of terms for definition (you will be asked to define 5 and you will need to cite three pieces that exemplify these terms):

    aleatoric, formalized, and indeterminate music


    octave displacement

    bitonality and polytonality



    chance music

    metric modulation

    pattern music (minimalism)




    combinatoriality (hexachord combination)

    microtonal music

    quartal and quintal harmony

    electronic music and instruments (early and recent)

    multicultural music



    Musique concrete

    spatial and graphic noration

    expressionistic music

    modes of limited transposition





    improvisation in music


    tonal music

    In the analysis section you will be given two to three compositions: tonal, non-tonal, or a combination of each. You will be asked to supply an analysis of the harmony, phrase structure, form, rhythm, and melody. You should also mention topics such as texture, character, and tempo, and any significant compositional procedures.

    Even though the pedagogy section of the test will be focused on the candidate's area of study, general questions that concern teaching college theory will be included. These questions include: teaching philosophy, curriculum design, presentation of theory topics, textbooks, ear training, keyboard harmony, testing, and computer assisted instruction.

    The take home composition exercises will include the orchestration of a piano piece and the composition of an original work. Directions for this work will be given on the test. They could include a: contrapuntal piece, vocal piece, an aleatoric piece, a piece on a pre-composed theme, or a piece for a specific group of instruments. Both exercises must be completed (having a double bar) in the allotted time. During the oral exam meeting, the candidate will discuss his or her answers with the committee in addition to discussing the candidate's thesis project.

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