Music Theory and Musicianship Placement Exams

Music Theory and Musicianship Placement Exams

All incoming Freshman music majors and transfer students must take a music theory placement exam, which will indicate whether a student needs to take a remedial fundamentals of music course or can be placed into one of the four required quarters of music theory (16A-D) and musicianship (15A-C) offered by the UCI Department of Music. All students must take the brief fundamentals exam, which includes pitch notation and naming, rests, staves, the piano keyboard, simple and compound meters, minor and major scales, key signatures, and diatonic and chromatic intervals. Those who don’t pass the fundamentals exam will be required to take fundamentals at some point in their Freshman year, prior to beginning the Music 16 sequence the subsequent Fall. Qualified students are welcome to take further exams in the sequence. Below is a summary of topics covered by each successive quarter of Music 16.

Online resources to prepare for both the theory and musicianship placement exams can be found here.

Music 16A
• seventh chords
• chord spacing
• part-writing in four voices
• melodic figuration and embellishing tones
• harmonic function
• proper use of the dominant seventh chord
• first inversion chords
• species counterpoint
• cadences
• elementary phrase construction.

Music 16B
• thematic analysis (period and sentence)
• linear chords (64, dominants, and others)
• pre-dominant part-writing
• advanced melodic figuration and rhythmic devices
• secondary triad function
• secondary dominants and leading-tone chords
• modulation to I and III
• diatonic sequence

Music 16C
• seventh-chord sequences
• binary, ternary, variation and compound classical forms
• modulations to related keys
• introduction to chromatic harmony (modal mixture, the Neapolitan and the augmented sixth chord)
• analysis of extended excerpts.

Music 16D
• introduction to sonata form
• augmented triads,
• altered dominants
• common-tone sevenths
• extended harmonies (9th, 11th, 13th and added-note)
• chromatic sequence
• dominant prolongation
• foreign modulations


All levels of the Musicianship sequence (15A-C) instruct students in the use of moveable "do" for the purposes of sight-singing, in addition to transcribing (i.e., dictating) melodies, rhythms, and harmonic progressions. By the end of the sequence, students should be able to:

  • Sing any tonal melody from sight using solfege, including those that feature modulation, mixed meters, and complex divisions of the beat 
  • Transcribe melodies and harmonic progressions (notating outer voices and roman numerals) from a range of genres
  • Perform short harmonic progressions in the piano, in tempo and featuring proper voice leading

Each course in the series will focus on the following topics:

Music 15A

  • Identify and sing any ascending and descending interval within the octave, as well as major, minor, diminished, and augmented triads.
  • Transcribe and perform melodies and rhythms of moderate complexity in simple and compound meters.
  • Transcribe outer voices and roman numeral analysis of basic phrase model harmonic progressions.
  • Sight-sing diatonic melodies (major and minor) with limited rhythmic complexity.
  • Perform basic phrase model progressions (4-5 chords) on the piano.

Music 15B

  • Identify and perform intervals larger than an octave, as well as seventh chords (i.e., Mm7, M7, m7, o7, ø7) and their inversions.
  • Transcribe and perform rhythms and melodies that make use of syncopations and hemiolae and greater tonal complexity.
  • Transcribe outer voices and roman numeral analysis of harmonic progressions featuring tonic prolongation and inversions.
  • Sight-sing chromatically inflected melodies, including chromatic passing and neighbor tones, and moderate rhythmic complexity.
  • Perform 5-7 chord tonal progressions on the piano.

Music 15C

  • Identify, transcribe, and sing advanced chord progressions, including the Neopolitan and augmented sixth chords, and symmetrical scales.
  • Transcribe and perform two-part rhythms, including those that make use of polyrhythm, mixed and asymmetrical meters.
  • Transcribe melodies and harmonic dictations that make use of syncopation, tonicization, and modulation.
  • Sight-sing tonicizing and modulating melodies, including switching "do" mid-melody.
  • Perform 8-10-chord modulating progressions on the piano.