General Information 1.6 - 1.10

1.6.   How To Get Through the First Week as a Music Major at SJSU

  • Before classes start, sign up for ensemble placement auditions (instrumental or vocal) that take place several day before classes start. Your placement in ensembles will be determined by this audition: be prepared!
  • Before classes start, prepare for the music theory placement exam (see Section 1.10).
  • Before classes start, prepare for the piano proficiency exam  (see Section 1.10).
  • Review your class schedule. If necessary, visit the College of Humanities and Art Student Success Center for questions about General Education courses, and/or your advisor about music courses (see Section 1.5).
    • The schedule of classes is online at Know which courses are required for your specific degree, emphasis, and concentration. Make sure you understand all the requirements thoroughly because ultimately the responsibility for graduating is YOURS.
    • Obtain advising sheets for your degree and emphasis or concentration from the School of Music and Dance Forms page, or from the Music Office.
  • Pay your Music Use Fee in the Cashier’s Office in the Student Services Center. Bring the receipt to the Music Office to obtain the Music Use Fee Card that officially enrolls you in the School. Be aware that the card must have the signatures of your adviser, applied lesson instructor, and ensemble director. 

1.7.   Curriculum Advisories (see Forms)

  • Take Music 1AB, 2AB, 3AB, 4AB (core music theory courses) in sequence. Take the A and B courses together.
  • Take Music 12, 110, and 111 (music history sequence) preferably in sequence, after you've successfully completed Music 1AB - 3AB. Music 12 should be taken in the Spring semester of the sophomore year. Music 110 and 111 should be taken after completing Music 4AB.
  • Take Upper-Division Music Systems/Theory courses (electives) after Music 1AB- 4AB. Transfer students should see their music advisor regarding this process (see Section 1.5).
  • Those interested in seeking a teaching credential should make an appointment with the Music Education Coordinator, Dr. Diana Hollinger. Note that the waiver courses you must take prior to applying for the fifth-year credential program are listed on the emphasis advisement sheets. 

1.8.   Applied Lesson Codes

Enrolling in applied lessons requires additional steps: unlike most classes at SJSU, the "course number" for these classes are not listed by the Registrar. Music Majors must complete the following steps before obtaining their lesson and special study registration codes: 

  1. Pick up the Music Use Fee Registration Card from the School office.
  2. Complete the Applied Music Registration sheet (additional copies are available in the Music Office).
  3. Pay your Music Use Fee at the cashier’s office. Keep the receipt.
  4. Obtain ALL required signatures from the faculty. Applied faculty must sign the Music Use Fee card and Applied Music Registration sheet.
  5. Go to the Music Office with all the above materials, plus the Music Use Fee receipt.
  6. The Music Office will then assign you an add code for your applied lessons.
  7. After you have added your class, check your account online, then pay for your applied lessons. 

1.9.   School Attendance and Grading Policies

  • A grade below “C-” in any course in the major will not be considered a passing grade, and the course must be repeated. At the end of the semester, juries must be passed with a grade of C or better. For undergraduates, the university automatically allows "grade forgiveness" for any grade below a C- that is not repeatable for credit. Upon repeating the course, the first grade is automatically deleted from the student's record.
  • Class participation and attendance are vital components in your musical education; students are expected to attend all meetings of their classes.
  • Attendance at all rehearsals and performances of ensembles is absolutely mandatory. While each conductor institutes different policies, unexcused absences from rehearsals are unacceptable and carry grave consequences for the student’s grade.


1.10. Music Systems & Theory (Music Theory and Ear-training)

Music Systems & Theory is the study of musical structure: what makes musical compositions work. The goal of Music System & Theory studies is to provide a formal description of the musical intuitions of a listener who is experienced in a musical idiom. Or, to put it another way, the goal of Music Systems & Theory is to find a good way to hear music, and to communicate that way of hearing to other people.

Undergraduates at the School of Music and Dance complete a four-semester core sequence of music theory and of ear-training with further opportunities for advanced study in upper-level offerings. The focus of the four-semester core is musicianship, which is taught as an integrated approach consisting of three inseparable components: technique, knowledge, and expression. Aural Skills courses (MUSC 1B-4B) are an essential component of integrated musicianship, and students enroll in the four-semester Aural Skills sequence concurrent with the Music Systems & Theory sequence (MUSC 1A-4A). In addition, all undergraduate majors must complete a proficiency course in piano, which typically involves three semesters of class piano (MUSC 25A-C). The third semester comprises the proficiency exam period.

For questions regarding the Music Systems & Theory area, please contact Dr. Brian Belet. For questions regarding the Keyboard area, please contact Dr. Gwendolyn Mok

Information for New and Transfer Students:  

Music Systems & Theory Placement Examination

All new and transfer music majors are required to take a Music Systems & Theory Placement Examination, which determines the appropriate Music Systems & Theory course for each student.  

For Freshmen: In fall 2015, the examination will be given during the first meeting of MUSC 9 or MUSC 1A. Attend the first class meeting for either course, as the 45-minute exam is identical.

For Transfer Students:  In fall 2015 the examination will be given on Wednesday August 19 at 9:30AM-12:30PM in Room 250.  Click here to sign up for the exam.

Transfer Students:  Please be aware that your previous educational institution may have an "course to course articulation agreement" with SJSU. This agreement may determine your music systems placement level. Many agreements include the clause, "Subject to Completion of Theory Placement Exam." If you have questions about the articulation agreement between your previous educational institution and SJSU, please see the SJSU Articulation page.  

Students who miss the scheduled examination will have to wait until the following semester for advanced placement in the Music Systems and Theory sequence.


The purpose of the following is to help entering music majors better prepare themselves for freshman level music classes. While much of this material will be discussed and reviewed in classes, it is in the student's best interest to have a working knowledge and familiarity with some theory, terminology, and music history.

Entering students should be familiar with following tasks:

  1. Reading both treble and bass clefs;
  2. Understanding basic rhythmic notation for both notes and rests;
  3. Knowing major and minor key signatures;
  4. Understanding whole- and half-steps as they relate to scales (scale patterns);
  5. Understanding simple triads (three-note chords);
  6. Understanding basic musical terminology as related to tempo, style, and performance;
  7. Understanding a brief overview of musical periods and a basic knowledge of significant composers from each era.
  8. For additional references, please consult from among the following sources:

Text sources: 

Henry, Earl, Snodgrass, Jennifer, and Piagentini, Susan Fundamentals of Music: Rudiments, Musicianship, and Composition (6th Edition). Pearson; ISBN: 978-0205118335

Houlahan, Michael and Tacka, Philip From Sound to Symbol: Fundamentals of Music. Oxford University Press, USA; ISBN: 978-0199751914 

Electronic sources: 

eTheory: Music Theory Fundamentals in Four Weeks

eTheory is the Eastman School of Music's online course, which can be used by non-Eastman students for an introduction to 
theory fundamentals, including intervals, counterpoint, chords and figured bass, and phrase models. The online course
includes over 200 sets of writing, playing, listening, singing, and conducting exercises, and provides immediate feedback
on all new concepts. provides free content—lessons and exams—for the content listed in the numbered bullets (#1-6) shown above.

Online Music Theory Flash Cards are helpful with testing yourself on music rudiments.


All transfer students are required to take the Transfer Placement Exam, which is administered prior to the start of classes. For Fall 2015, this exam will be administered on August 19, from 9:30AM – 12:30PM, as listed above. No make-up exams will be offered; students who miss the exam will be placed into MUSC 1A & 1B by default. This exam evaluates analytical written and aural skills equivalent to the SJSU four-semester core sequence. There is no Pass or Fail, and no grades: rather, this exam is used to determine a student’s proper placement within our core sequence. A student who demonstrates mastery of all four levels will be advanced to upper-division status within the Music Systems & Theory Area.

The first hour of the exam is devoted to aural skills: Dictation examples are performed from each of our four courses (MUSC 1B, 2B, 3B & 4B). Examples include intervals, triads, seventh chords, melodies, and SATB harmonic phrases of increasing levels of difficulty. The final two hours address written analytical theory questions: interval and chord notation, scales, and tonal harmonic analysis.

For review, transfer students should consult the materials outlined in the most current edition of Koska, Stefan Tonal Harmony (Book & Workbook). McGraw-Hill Education; ISBN: 978-0078025143 or equivalent theory text.


Piano Proficiency Exams


All music majors must be enrolled in Music 25A or 25B until they have passed their piano proficiency exam. Instructors will determine student placement in 25A or 25B. For those students with a piano background who feel they are capable of passing the piano proficiency exam prior to enrolling in the class, the exam will be administered once each semester. For Fall 2015, auditions will occur Tuesday August 18 from 2:40-5:30PM. Please contact  Director of Keyboard Studies for more information. If a student has passed the piano proficiency exam, he or she does not need to enroll in 25A or 25B.

We encourage all lower-division majors to pass the piano requirement before reading upper-division status. Freshman in particular should inquire immediately about 25A, as the skills acquired will help in Music Systems. Upper-division transfer music majors must enroll in class piano each semester until their proficiency requirement has been passed.

It is possible to receive a passing grade in 25A or 25B and still not pass the proficiency exam. Often a student will make enormous progress during a given term but still not pass each area of the exam. You must complete the exam even if both 25A or 25B appear on your transcript. The complete piano proficiency exam sheet will be placed in your student file.

All students must be enrolled in 25A or 25B in order to take the proficiency exam. No proficiency exam will be held outside of normal 25A or 25B class time.



Play a composition of intermediate difficulty approved by the instructor. Suggestions include literature comparable to Easier Piano Classics (Hal Leonard Publishing), a Sonatina of Clementi or Kuhlau, a Bach Two-Part Invention, or other repertoire approved by the instructor or Area Coordinator. In order to pass, the student must demonstrate careful execution of the notation (dynamics, articulation, tempo, continuity, etc.), stylistic character, and musicianship. Correct use of the pedal must be demonstrated if appropriate.

Play a choral-style or four-part hymn, a Twentieth century composition provided by the instructor, or an accompaniment to a piece in your area (with instructor approval). Your choice should be appropriate with your degree objectives.


Technical Skills

  • Play major and harmonic minor scales, two octaves, ascending and descending, hands together (eighth-note = 80) with correct fingering. Speed is not as critical as consistency and continuity. The instructor will choose which scales are executed.
  • Execute natural and melodic forms of a minor scale chosen by the instructor.
  • Play an alternate scale system or mode (one hand is acceptable) such as whole tone, chromatic, octatonic, pentatonic, or mode.
  • Play major and minor chord progressions in keys chosen by instructor: I-IV6/4-I-V6/5-I (two-hand harmony). Instructors will provide handouts.
  • Play above progression in inversions (one hand only, see instructor).


Sight Reading and Harmonization

  • Sight read an elementary level piece.
  • Harmonize a simple melody at sight using I, IV, and V chords in the left hand.


Unless otherwise noted by the instructor of a particular course, the School of Music and Dance requires students to follow the writing style as outlined in The Chicago Manual of Style.