Applied Music Placement Auditions 2.7 - 2.9

2.7.  Major Ensembles

All undergraduate majors must enroll in a major ensemble each semester they are enrolled in Music. All students enrolled in applied lessons must be enrolled in a major ensemble. Graduate students may apply 3 units of ensemble credit to the graduate requirements of 30 units. For more information on each ensemble, see Performance Ensembles.

Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion

Wind Ensemble/Symphonic Band is the appropriate major performing ensemble. Sign up for an audition time outside the music office (Music Building, Room 179). The Orchestra conductor and the Wind Ensemble director will make Orchestra wind and percussion assignments in consultation with applied faculty. Students must play a prepared piece and sight read.


Orchestra is the appropriate performing ensemble. Students must play a prepared piece and sight read. Auditions take place the two days before classes begin each semester. No auditions are required for the spring semester:  please arrive ready-to-go at the first rehearsal, Jan. 28, 2016, in rm. 150!

Vocal Majors

Concert Choir is the appropriate major performing ensemble. Auditions take place the two days before classes begin each semester. Sign-up for auditions

Wind Ensemble/Symphonic Band

Sign up for the wind ensemble/symphonic band auditions. The auditions take place on Tuesday, January 26th 2016 sign up for auditions, and Thursday, January 28th 2016, sign-up for auditions.

Jazz Studies

The Jazz Orchestra and Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble are approved major performing ensembles.

Piano Students

Consult with the Director of Keyboard Studies for appropriate major ensembles. 

2.8.  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.

2.9.  Piano Proficiency Exam

All BM students are required to demonstrate proficiency on piano. This proficiency may be completed in three ways: a piano proficiency exam administered at the beginning of the semester, equivalent course work from other colleges or universities with current articulation agreements, or completion of MUSC 25A, 25B and 25C at SJSU.  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 on audition day. In Fall 2015, auditions will occur Tuesday August 18 from 2:40-5:30PM.  If you have passed the piano proficiency exam, you do not need to enroll in 25A, 25B, or 25C. A completed piano proficiency exam sheet will be placed in the student file.  Please contact Director of Keyboard Studies for more information. 

BM students have three semesters to complete piano proficiency: Musc 25A, 25B and 25C. All material will be covered in the first two semesters and the piano proficiency exam will be administered at the completion of Musc 25B. Students who do not pass all areas of the proficiency exam must enroll in MUSC 25C. It is possible for students to receive a passing grade in Musc 25B and not pass all sections of the proficiency. The completion of Musc 25C, equivalent courses at another university or community college, or the completed piano proficiency exam sheet (for students who have had piano before college) are the accepted demonstrations of achievement of this proficiency.

As shown on the four-year academic plans for each degree, students are advised to take piano concurrently with lower division music systems courses (Musc 1-4). Piano proficiency MUST be completed before level 6 of applied study and is a pre-requisite for enrollment in level 6.


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.

Make-up Ensemble Auditions

A student who misses his or her performance audition should contact the area coordinator for information on make-up auditions. Make-up auditions might not be scheduled in all areas, in which case the student's audition would be postponed until the following semester. Therefore, students should make every effort to audition during scheduled audition times.