Music Theory


Keyboard Proficiency Requirement

All graduate students in the Jacobs School of Music must pass a keyboard proficiency exam or its equivalent. This page describes the keyboard proficiency requirements for MM and PhD music theory majors.

General information from the Music Graduate Office about the Jacobs School of Music keyboard proficiency requirement is available here.

Keyboard proficiency exams for music theory majors are heard by the theory faculty near the end of each fall and spring semester. Beginning in the fall semester 2015, theory majors are no longer required to complete a keyboard hearing for the secondary piano faculty.

Specific requirements are listed below. More detailed descriptions and sample materials are available from the department chair. The specific materials to be played for items 1–4 will be available in the theory office 48 hours before the exam.

Portions of the exam may be retaken as needed in later semesters, but students are encouraged to complete the entire exam by the end of the second semester of enrollment. When the exam has been completed successfully, the theory department will report the results to the Music Graduate Office.


Prepared items (specific materials given 48 hours in advance)
  1. Play at the piano a four-part open score including alto clef. This is typically a relatively homophonic quartet or string choir part from an orchestral score.

  2. Realize at the piano an extended and/or somewhat complex figured bass example. A melody line may or may not be given. Good voice leading and appropriate spacing and doubling will be expected.

  3. Harmonize a chorale melody in appropriate four-voice chorale style.

  4. Harmonize a common-practice melody with slow harmonic rhythm (e.g., a melody by Haydn or Beethoven), using a chordal accompaniment (probably not one chord for each melody note) or an accompaniment in another keyboard texture as appropriate.

Unprepared items
  1. Play at concert pitch single lines written for B-flat, A, and F instruments.

  2. Realize at the piano a short and fairly simple figured bass example. Good voice leading and appropriate spacing and doubling will be expected.

  3. Play chord progressions written out in Roman numerals, in both major and minor keys. These should be played in block chord texture, with good voice leading, spacing, and doubling.

  4. Demonstrate at the piano (in block chords or another keyboard texture) a modulation from any specified key to any other key, using a pivot chord.