Music theory, aural skills, and music history placement exams are required of all incoming Master of Music students. Placement exams are offered on official audition days only. Students who are not able to attend the official audition dates may take the placement exams on the official dates in the following semester (thus potentially postponing their enrollment in History and Theory Topics courses and review classes) or may opt to take the review classes. Students who do not take placement exams or who do not achieve a passing grade (70%) on all components of the exams, are required to complete the appropriate review courses ( MUS 5003, Graduate Music Theory Review; MUS 5042 Graduate Aural Skills Review; MUS 5013, Graduate Music History Review. Students may attempt the placement exams only once. Students must successfully complete the placement exams or review classes in order to enroll in the corresponding graduate history, theory, and vocal pedagogy topics courses.

Graduate Placement Exam in Music History: Details and Study Suggestions

Students must demonstrate proficiency on the early half of music history (before 1750) and the later half (after 1750). A passing grade of 70% must be achieved on both portions of the exam.

In preparation for the exam, students are advised to consult one of the following texts:

  • Burkholder, Peter J., Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music, 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2014.
  • Wright, Craig and Bryan Simms. Music in Western Civilization. Belmont: Thomson Schirmer, 2010.
  • Bonds, Mark Evan. A History of Music in Western Culture, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2013
  • Barbara Russano Hanning. Concise History of Western Music, 4th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2014.

The exam will be divided into two parts: 1) unknown listening and 2) factual information. A multiple choice format will be used throughout. The unknown listening contains ten musical examples that embody the most characteristic styles and genres of Western art music. Students will answer questions about the salient musical features of each selected work. They may be asked to provide the names of likely composers, approximate dates of composition, and appropriate historical periods. Students will not be required to designate exact titles of musical works, but rather to speak to the historical movements and musical characteristics such works represent.

Examples of selected styles and genres to review for the unknown listening portion of the exam may include:

  • Medieval (Gregorian chant, organum, motet)
  • Renaissance (Mass, motet, madrigal)
  • Baroque (opera, trio sonata, concerto)
  • Classic (symphony, sonata, string quartet)
  • Romantic (piano character piece, lied, orchestral works, opera)
  • Twentieth-Century (impressionism, expressionism, serialism, electronic music)

In the factual section, students will demonstrate their knowledge of the historical and aesthetic movements that shaped musical life from the time of the Greeks to the present. In this portion of the test, questions will be drawn from each chapter of Hanning (or alternatively, Burkholder/Grout/Palisca). In studying for this portion of the test, students are encouraged to distill the wealth of detailed factual information in these by focusing on the socio-musical developments of the principal historical periods and the primary styles, composers, and genres encompassed by each.

The Graduate History Placement Exam will be given in the computer lab in the music department. Students are required to bring headphones to the exam.

For more details, please contact Dr. Drew Stephen.

Graduate Placement Exam in Music Theory and Aural Skills

The graduate placement exam in music theory and aural skills contains the following sections:

  1. Fundamentals – scales and modes, intervals, chord qualities, terminology, etc.
  2. Part-writing – Given a short bass line, use Roman numerals to show an appropriate harmonization using both diatonic and chromatic chords, then add the three upper voices to create an SATB, chorale-style texture.
  3. Harmonic analysis – Provide a Roman numeral analysis of a short excerpt that contains both diatonic and chromatic chords.
  4. Form – Draw a diagram that depicts the form of a short piece. The diagram should indicate phrases, cadence types, keys, motivic relationships, phrase groupings, and overall form.
  5. Melodic dictation – Notate a short melody that is mostly diatonic, but with some decorative chromaticism.
  6. Harmonic dictation – Notate the bass and soprano lines of a four-part harmonic progression that includes at least one chromatic chord. Label all chords with Roman numerals.
  7. Rhythm sight reading – While conducting the beat, sight read a short rhythmic pattern using some system of counting syllables.
  8. Prepared melody singing – While conducting the beat, sing a prepared melody using solfege. These are the melodies that should be prepared prior to audition day.
  9. Major melody sight reading – Sight sing a short melody using solfege. The melody will be mostly diatonic, but will include some decorative chromaticism.
  10. Minor melody sight reading – Sight sing a short melody using solfege. The melody will be mostly diatonic but will include some decorative chromaticism.

Any standard undergraduate theory and/or aural skills textbook will provide a good review of the material on this exam, but the following books have recently been used in the theory and ear training courses at UTSA.

  • Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis by Clendinning and Marvin
  • Tonal Harmon by Kostka and Payne
  • Music for Sightsinging by Ottman and Rogers

Please contact Dr. Laura Kelly with questions about preparing for this exam.


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