UT Tyler

Admissions and Auditions

Music Theory Proficiency Exam

All incoming transfer students must also take the Theory Proficiency Exam. It is administered at the beginning of each long semester.

The theory exam assesses knowledge and fluency in the basic harmonic and melodic skills commonly taught in the four-semester freshman and sophomore theory sequence. Its purpose is to evaluate students' readiness for upper-division theory courses that require solid basic skills for success. Skills are isolated approximately by semester of study; a student who transfers to UT Tyler after only two semesters of theory will not be tested on the content of the sophomore courses.

There are two important considerations when reviewing for the exam. The first is fluency. Timed sections are designed to assess the student's speed and accuracy in rudiments, such as key signatures, scales, intervals, and chord spellings. Additionally, the exam is lengthy; a certain fluency will be needed to complete it in the allotted time. The second consideration is to understand the underlying reasons and concepts that shape the theoretical principles of tonal harmony. For example, why are second inversion triads commonly used only in certain, restricted ways? Or, why are the fourth and seventh scale degrees the key-defining tones? Or, how do the augmented sixth chords typically function? Specific questions will address these principles. No two theory programs will teach exactly the same approach to these principles; therefore, we are not seeking a particular "correct" answer in these cases, but rather evidence that the student has been exposed to and understands the principles.

Beyond that, the student should demonstrate capability in standard part-writing procedures, melody harmonization, figured bass realization, harmonic analysis (including modulation as applicable), and analysis of forms at the phrase level, as well as binary and ternary forms. Harmonic analysis must demonstrate an understanding of harmonic function; it must not consist merely of labeling chords. For example, a major II chord in a major key functions as a secondary dominant, and this functional significance must be reflected by an analysis that shows its dominant relationship to the V chord. Merely labeling it as a major II indicates only a spelling and quality change, but does not communicate its dominant function that tonicizes V.

UT Tyler is aware of the content and approaches of the commonly used theory texts, and we believe that students will readily adapt to the exam. To prepare, a student should review his/her text(s) carefully, making sure to always understand "why," and should polish rudimental skills as necessary.

The exam covers common-practice tonal harmony. There are no twentieth-century requirements.

The upper-division theory courses which require these proficiencies are listed below. Not all degree plans require all of these courses.

MUSI 4340: Counterpoint

A composition-based course on modal counterpoint in the sixteenth-century style. Students should demonstrate ease in recognition of intervals, both visually and aurally; should have a clear concept of consonance versus dissonance; should have a clear understanding of the standard nonharmonic tone devices; should be able to read up to six parts in open score with musical understanding; should be able to write effective, well-directed melodies.

MUSI 4342: Form and Analysis

A course in the analysis of larger forms, larger harmonic and melodic structures, and basic twentieth-century techniques. Students must have a clear understanding of basic binary and ternary forms; must demonstrate fluency in harmonic analysis on a large scale, particularly concerning key regions and remote modulations; must have a clear understanding of melodic phrases and larger melodic formal units; and must be able to recognize cadences and the keys they define. Literature for study spans the Baroque to the Twentieth Century, and includes various genres, requiring basic orchestral score reading abilities and a knowledge of instrument transpositions.

MUSI 4345: Arranging

A course on the use of orchestral instruments. Instrument transposition is covered, but students should have a rudimentary understanding of the process. Necessary theory skills include the ability to recognize musical structure at the levels of motive, phrase, and formal unit, as well as being able to recognize the structure of contrapuntal music. Students must recognize cadences and their articulation of form, and must have the ability to work with harmony, including realization of a figured bass and expansion of a harmonic texture. Scoring is related to the doubling principles taught in theory courses.


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