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Graduate Music Theory Diagnostic Exam

Preparing for the
Graduate Music Theory Diagnostic Exam:
Suggestions and Guidelines

(revised Summer 2013)

Music Theory and Analysis

1. Review the material from your undergrad theory courses, especially (but not limited to):

  • Choral-style (SATB) part writing: adding upper voices to a given bass; realizing figured bass; adding a bass line and inner parts to a given melody
  • Roman-numeral analysis
  • The analysis of non-chord tones
  • Chromaticism: secondary (applied) dominants, Neapolitan and Augmented Sixth chords, fully diminished sevenths, modal mixture
  • Modulation: methods of moving to closely and more distantly related keys

2. Be able to identify in a brief musical score

  • Phrases: similar and contrasting
  • Cadences: perfect and imperfect authentic, half, deceptive, plagal
  • Periods: parallel and contrasting

3. Be able to diagram common musical forms

  • Binary: rounded and simple
  • Ternary
  • Rondo: five- and seven-part
  • Fugue: be able to identify subject and countersubject entries
  • Sonata form: the parts of an exposition and their usual harmonic relationships; the usual harmonic profile of developments and recapitulations

4. Be able to re-notate a passage notated for common transposing instruments (e.g., Horn in F, Clarinet in B-flat or A, Saxophone in B-flat or E-flat, etc.) at concert (sounding) pitch.

Best study tips/practice:

1. Study with a friend.

2. Devote a set time each day to review and study. Five (5) twenty-minute sessions will do you more good than a single three-hour cram!

3. Books: We recommend any of the following undergraduate music theory texts as a review resource. Don’t try to re-learn undergraduate music theory all over again: look for Points for Review or Summaries at the start or end of each chapter, and use the Table of Contents and Index to help you outline a review strategy.

Undergraduate Theory Texts – Review Resources

A. Harmony, Part Writing, etc.:

  • Schachter, Carl and Edward Aldwell. 2011. Harmony and Voice Leading, 4th ed. Boston: Schirmer.
  • Laitz, Steven. 2011. The Complete Musician, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Clendinning, Jane and Elizabeth Marvin. 2004. The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis. New York: W.W. Nortion.

B. Tonal Form

  • Green, Douglass. 1979. Form in Tonal Music, 2nd edition. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Aural Skills

1. Be able to aurally recognize triads and seventh chords.

2. Be able to aurally recognize special harmonies (e.g., neapolitan, secondary dominants, augmented 6th chords, etc.) from sample progressions.

Best study tips/practice:

1. Study with a friend (taking turns with dictations).

2. An excellent way to improve your dictation-taking skills is to sight sing sing-line melodies and sing-and-play exercises at the keyboard.

3. We recommend any of the following undergraduate ear training and sight singing books.

Undergraduate Ear Training and Sight Singing Books
  • Berkowitz, Sol et al. 2011. A New Approach to Sight Singing, 5th ed. New York: W.W. Norton.
  • Ottman, Robert. 2010. Music for Sight Singing, 8thEd. New York: Pearson.
  • Clendinning, Jane and Elizabeth Marvin. 2011. The Musician’s Guide to Aural Skills. New York: W.W. Norton.