Music Theory Placement Exam

Incoming undergraduate music majors are expected to enter CWRU with a fundamental working knowledge of and proficiency in reading of treble and/or bass clef, key signatures, and major and minor scales, along with the ability to vocally match pitches played on the piano. These skills are necessary for music theory courses taught through the Cleveland Institute of Music, which are a significant part of the required music major curriculum.

What are the music theory requirements for incoming majors?
The music theory course assignment for each 1st-year student is determined by a music theory diagnostic exam that is administered both online prior to orientation and during orientation. 

MUTH 101 (Music Theory and Aural Skills I) is the music theory course designed for typical first-years students at CWRU. 

MUTH 101i (Intensive Music Theory and Aural Skills) is for students whose diagnostic exam results indicate the need to improve the skills and knowledge for placement into MUTH 101. MUTH 101i is bolstered by the co-requirement MUTH 101i Lab (Intensive Music Theory Lab), which augments MUTH 101i with an additional 20 minutes of coaching each weekday. 

What to Expect

The two courses cover roughly the same material, with MUTH 101i meeting an additional 20 minutes each day. The four main areas of study include written harmony, keyboard harmony, sight singing and aural training. 

Core Topics

The four areas are taught simultaneously. 

  1. Written harmony: Includes written harmonizations of chorale melodies, realizations of figured basses, and harmonic analysis of musical examples.
  2. Keyboard harmony: Illustrate all concepts from (1) at the piano keyboard. Emphasis is on chorale harmonizations using idioms as well as realization of figured basses. Also harmonization of folksong melodies and other keyboard exercises.
  3. Sight singing: Sight singing of melodies in treble, bass, and alto clefs using fixed-do solfège.
  4. Aural training: Melodic and harmonic dictation.

Ways to Prepare

  • Learn scales, key signatures and intervals. 
  • Knowledge of the keyboard and the ability to play scales, intervals and triads will help you considerably. Ask your private teacher to focus on theory fundamentals as well as learning pieces. 

During the placement exam, students should be prepared to do the following:

Written fundamentals

  • Read treble, bass, and alto clefs
  • Recognize, identify, and correctly write key signatures for any major or minor key
  • Be able to write major and minor scales using necessary accidentals rather than key signatures.
  • Identify and write major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads in root position
  • Write and identify intervals through the octave.

Ear training

  • Be able to identify triad qualities (root position major, minor, augmented, and diminished)
  • Identify intervals through the perfect octave by ear
  • Correctly write the soprano and bass lines of a short harmonic dictation. We ask for the Roman numeral analysis for placement purposes, not as a requirement for MUTH 101.

Individual sight singing placement evaluation

  • Students will be given the starting pitch and letter names for each of the following:
  • Sing a major scale (ascending and descending) with letter names
  • Sing a harmonic minor scale (ascending and descending) with letter names
  • Sing a major and a minor root position triad with letter names.
  • Sing three intervals (they can be ascending or descending) up to/including a perfect 5th.
  • Sight read two short, simple melodies. One is in treble clef, one is in bass. One is in a major key and one is in a minor key. The only skips in these melodies will be within the tonic triad.

Additional Resources