Theory & Composition Area Advising and Examinations

This page includes important information about area advising and examinations for current students.

AREA ADVISING

Currently enrolled students should consult with their advisor regularly to be sure they are on track for graduation. The advisors in music theory and composition are as follows:

Degree Advisor
Bachelor of Music in Composition Clifton Callender
Master of Music in Composition Mark Wingate
Doctor of Music in Composition Evan Jones
Bachelor of Music in Music Theory Michael Buchler
Master of Music in Music Theory Nancy Rogers
Doctor of Philosophy in Music Theory Jane Piper Clendinning
Transfer Students Evan Jones
Specialized Studies in Music Theory Pedagogy Joseph Kraus

AREA EXAMINATIONS

Please consult the following links for important information.

Undergraduate Music Majors

First-Year (Freshman) Music Theory Placement Examination Information (Required)

All incoming first-year undergraduate music majors are required to take a short music theory placement exam. The exam tests fluency in music fundamentals to determine whether students need to take an introductory music theory course. Students who do not have sufficient knowledge of the material will be required to take Fundamentals of Music (MUT 1001) before beginning the four-semester music theory sequence. The course will help ensure students' success in subsequent theory classes. Students who take MUT 1001 during their first fall semester will take first-year music theory courses (MUT 1111, MUT 1112) during the following spring and summer semesters. They will then be ready to continue the second-year theory courses on track during their second year.

The exam contains timed sections, testing fluency in identifying:

  1. Notation
  2. Major and minor key signatures
  3. Scales
  4. Intervals
  5. Triads

The exam will take approximately 30 minutes. Please take it on a computer (not a phone) with a reliable internet connection. Some sections are timed and the timer begins as soon as you click on the section. The time limit for each section will be specified before each section begins. Once you have completed a section and submitted it, you will not be able to return to it. Although it is possible to pause between sections, be careful not to get "timed out" of the system because you will be prevented from taking the exam a second time. Please be sure that you have 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time, and have the password ready.  (The password was provided in an email from Dr. Ted Stanley sent on May 15, 2018.)

Take the Exam

The exam is available May 25 - June 4
and august 10-22

Remember that the purpose of this exam is to determine which theory class is best suited for you, and this should help you succeed in the theory sequence. Students without adequate mastery of the material covered on this exam typically do poorly in Music Theory I. You must therefore take this entrance exam without any form of outside help or assistance.

Exempting Freshman and/or Sophomore Theory and Ear Training

Exemption exams for Music Theory I and Music Theory II (MUT 1111 and MUT 1112) will be given on Friday, August 24, 2018 from 2:00-4:00 in KMU 206. Please be aware that these exams are intended for transfer students and mid-year admissions; students previously enrolled in Music Theory I and II are not permitted to exempt the courses by examination. There are no exemption exams for Music Theory III and IV (MUT 2116 and 2117).

Ear training exemption exams (MUT 1241L, 1242L, 2246L, and 2247L) will be offered on the first day of classes. Please attend any section.

If you have done well on the AP Music Theory Exam: we strongly recommend that you not simply assume you should exempt any of our music theory courses. In addition to going into greater depth, Music Theory I (MUT 1111) covers topics not typically addressed in high school AP courses. Students who avoid taking MUT 1111 often feel behind in MUT 1112. If you take our exemption exam, we will provide feedback so that you can decide what is best for you. These exams are hand graded, and we provide specific information that should be helpful (e.g., what grade your part-writing would receive using the standards applied on the MUT 1111 final exam).

All Graduate Music Majors

Graduate Music Classification Exams in Music Theory

Click on this link for information from the Graduate Handbook on the GMCE

All graduate students are required to take the Lower Division Music Theory Exam, which is given twice a year during the week prior to the Fall and Spring semesters. This exam includes four-part writing from a figured bass, resolving chromatic harmonies, harmonic analysis, and analysis of phrases. To prepare for the exam, review part writing procedures, figured bass symbols, types of chromatic harmonies, and basic phrase analysis (cadences, periods, phrases groups). Any basic harmony text should contain this information. Students who do not pass the Lower Division Theory Examination must register for MUT 5051.

Graduate Music Theory and Composition Majors

Examinations for Graduate Theory and Composition Majors

All graduate students in music theory must pass these three exams as part of their degree requirements. Both the keyboard harmony and part writing and melody harmonization exams are also required for the Specialized Studies Program in Pedagogy of Music Theory. All composition students are required to pass the Style Identification competency exam; doctoral students in composition may also be required to pass the other tests as an outcome of their diagnostic examination. Exams will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis and may be taken as many times as needed to pass. One or more of the exams may be taken any semester at the student's discretion, but students must attempt every exam at least once every year until they have passed it. The exams are described below.

A. Keyboard Harmony (required for graduate degrees in music theory and for the Specialized Studies Program in Pedagogy of Music Theory; recommended for composition majors)

This exam is normally conducted on the third Wednesday of Fall and Spring semesters, beginning at 2:30 in Dr. Rogers's office (Longmire 406). Each exam will last approximately 10 minutes, and at least three members of the theory faculty will be present. A sign-up sheet will be posted on the bulletin board outside Dr. Rogers's door (beside Longmire 406) the week prior to the exam.

You will be asked to play one or more examples from each of the components below. You may retake parts of the exam that you do not pass; you may also elect to take only portions of the exam at one time. The exam is performed entirely without notation. To pass a section, you must demonstrate appropriate harmonic progressions and voice-leading with adequate fluency. The exercises may be played slowly, but each should maintain a clear beat and meter. Obviously, you will want to maintain typical keyboard style (i.e., one voice in the left hand and three in the right).

You should prepare the following exercises in all major and minor keys up to four sharps or four flats. The examining committee may ask you to repeat a progression in a different key or mode. All progressions should be long enough to establish the tonic, illustrate the required feature, and end with a conclusive cadence. (Usually 7-12 chords is sufficient.)

  1. Establish the initial key, smoothly modulate either to the dominant or to the relative key (your choice), and end with a convincing cadence in the new key.
  2. Establish the initial key, smoothly modulate either up a tritone or up a half-step (i.e., to #IV or bII -- your choice), and end with a convincing cadence in the new key.
  3. Play short progressions that illustrate characteristic uses of common chromatic chords: secondary dominants, secondary leading-tone chords, mode mixture chords, augmented-sixth chords (all three types), and Neapolitan (bII) chords. You may incorporate two or more of these chords into a single progression (examining committee choice).
  4. Play some form of ascending sequence (your choice), leading to a suitable cadence.
  5. Play some form of descending sequence (your choice), leading to a suitable cadence.

To help you prepare for the exam, you may wish to consult the keyboard harmony appendix of Aldwell and Schachter's Harmony and Voice Leading, which is on reserve in the Music Library.

B. Style Identification (required for all graduate degrees in music theory and composition)

This exam is given during the seventh week of each semester. The exact time and location of the exam will be announced just prior to its administration. You will hear five excerpts one time each, then examine five scores (excerpts from ten separate works). You will be asked to identify the probable composer and date of the excerpts, and then, considering issues of style and genre, you will be asked to provide three thoughtful statements to support your assertion of composer and date for each excerpt. A masters level student will be expected to score approximately 60%, while a doctoral student will be expected to earn a score of approximately 80%. A sample exam may be downloaded at this link.

C. Part Writing and Melody Harmonization (required for graduate degrees in music theory and for the Specialized Studies Program in Pedagogy of Music Theory; composition majors should consult their adviser after taking diagnostic exams)

These two questions will be on the same exam, given on the tenth Wednesday of the semester from 2:30-6:30 pm; please contact Dr. Jones if you have a conflict with this timeframe. Exams will be distributed from Longmire 213B. A figured bass of approximately 10 measures in 4/4 time must be realized in SATB texture. The part writing must be error free. A melody of approximately 10-12 measures must be harmonized in SATB texture. The part writing must be error free and the progressions should be in the style of common practice tonal music. You may check your work at a keyboard.

M.M. Theory Comprehensive Exam

Before taking the comprehensive oral examination, you must pass the Graduate Theory Competency Exams (see above).

I. Thesis Program

For this program, the Master's Comprehensive Examination consists of an oral section that is usually administered immediately following the defense of Thesis. You must be registered for MUS 8966 (0 credit) during the semester in which you take the exam. You may expect some or all of the music theory faculty to be present during the oral comprehensive examination, and you may be asked questions related to your entire degree program.

There is no limit to the number of times that the oral examination may be retaken.

II. Non-Thesis Program

For the non-thesis program, a written examination is required, which consists of two analytical exercises: involving one tonal and one post-tonal composition.

This written part of the examination will be distributed on the Wednesday in the same week as Veterans Day and the Wednesday before Spring Break. The exams are closed book and must be completed by the Monday 12 days later. An oral follow-up to the written exam will be scheduled following the written exam

At the beginning of the semester you plan to take the examination, you should ask one music theory faculty member to serve as your committee chair. Two other faculty members will also be appointed to your committee by the music theory and composition area coordinator.

Note to students planning to stay at FSU for their doctoral studies: to avoid having to produce two more analyses as part of the Ph.D. diagnostic exam, students may request that the M.M. comprehensive exam be evaluated by the entire theory faculty instead of just a three-person committee. (The Ph.D. diagnostic exam would then consist of only an essay surveying the field of music theory and assessing the student's own areas of knowledge and curiosity.) Contact Dr. Jones by the end of January if this option is desired.

Ph.D. Theory Diagnostic Exam

The doctoral diagnostic examination is designed to determine your understanding of music theoretical concepts, your skills in formal analysis, and your familiarity with the field of music theory. The written diagnostic examination consists of:

  • An essay (approximately 5000 words or 8-10 pages) providing both 1) an overview of significant research areas and topics in the field of music theory and 2) a statement of your research interests in music theory, including where your interests are situated within ongoing research in the field.
  • Analyses of two short pieces, one tonal and one post-tonal, including a brief essay on each piece, scores with analytical markings, and any other illustrations suitable to convey your analytical insights.

Each of these three components of the exam is to be completed within a four-hour block of time; therefore the entire exam will take 12 hours to complete.

Ph.D. students will take the exam over spring break their first year in the doctoral program. The examination materials will be distributed the Wednesday before spring break, and the analyses and the essay on research interests will be due the Monday following spring break, allowing a twelve-day window to complete the exam components. An oral follow-up to the written exam will be administered prior to the end of spring term. All theory faculty will be present and you will be asked questions related to your written examination, your research interests, and your readiness to pursue the Ph.D. in music theory.

The doctoral diagnostic examination must be passed prior to enrolling in your third doctoral seminar. Students who do not pass the exam during spring semester of their first year in the doctoral program are encouraged to retake it in the fall semester of their second year in order to be able to take the third doctoral seminar spring of second year, but have the option to delay their third doctoral seminar to retake the exam during the spring semester of the second year. Students do not have to re-take any portion of the exam that they previously passed. For fall-semester examinees, the examination materials will be distributed the Wednesday before Veterans' Day and the exam will be due Monday of the following week, allowing a twelve-day window to complete the examination components. Failing to pass this exam by the end of the second year of the degree will constitute unsatisfactory degree progress, which may result in the loss of an assistantship or dismissal from the program.

Ph.D. Theory Preliminary Exam

Preliminary Exam Advising (the "pre-pre")
The Preliminary Exam Advising session represents the last opportunity for feedback on your proposed dissertation topic from the entire theory faculty. A meeting will be scheduled with the theory faculty during Finals Week, normally at the end of the doctoral student's second year. The student should deliver a Statement of Research Plan document (a prose statement describing the chosen dissertation research topic, including an extensive bibliography) to all theory faculty members no later than a week prior to the meeting. In addition to discussing the proposed topic, the faculty will identify certain areas of scholarship that you should investigate in preparation for your preliminary exams.

Prior to the advising session, each candidate will complete the College of Music Program of Studies form, listing his or her course work toward the doctoral degree, which is signed by Prof. Clendinning (as Doctoral Advisor) and reviewed by Prof. Jones (as Theory/Composition Area Chair), prior to submission to the Music Graduate Office, where it is signed by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and filed. This form requires the following information: the course number, title, instructor, grade, credit hours, curricular requirement met, and term taken. Any courses in progress or yet to be taken should be listed with as much of the above information as is available. As a part of the review of coursework, the candidate must show that he or she has completed the language competency and all skills competency requirements or provide detail of the plan for doing so.

The Examination
The preliminary examination, taken during or following the final semester of coursework, is a written and oral demonstration of readiness to proceed with the dissertation. It is tailored to the candidate's specific interests as they pertain to the dissertation, and engages an understanding of the discipline of music theory through topics in music theory, history, analysis, and literature that are relevant to the candidate’s dissertation.  The written examination will consist of three papers on topics or questions submitted by the committee.  The candidate will typically choose three questions from four submitted by committee members. The committee may designate questions as “open book”—where research materials and notes may be used, or “closed book”—to be written without reference to any notes or research materials. The candidate will have one week to complete the exam, a copy of which should be given to each committee member.

To schedule the Preliminary Exam, the candidate should contact his or her major professor who will then solicit questions from the examining committee members. Preliminary Exams will be administered between August 1 and March 15. The oral examination will be scheduled no sooner than 2 weeks after submitting the completed exams, and only during the Fall and Spring semesters. The candidate will schedule the oral examination in conjunction with the major professor.

M.M. Composition Comprehensive Exam

The Master’s Comprehensive Exam in Composition is normally taken after completing course work or during the final semester of course work. It is comprised of five questions. The take-home questions on the exam, outlined below, will be distributed on the Wednesday in the same week as Veterans Day and the Wednesday before Spring Break. Completed exams will be due 12 days later (Monday). Students should return four (4) bound copies of the exam and keep a copy for themselves. An oral follow up examination with the composition faculty will be scheduled on Wednesday two weeks after the exams have been turned in. In preparation, reread and critique your exam and bring a copy of the exam with you to the oral examination.

The exam will consist of the following questions:

Questions 1 and 2: Analysis of one tonal and one post-tonal composition, relatively short, using appropriate analytical methods and terminology. Your analyses may incorporate score annotations, graphs, diagrams, tables, and/or other analytical notations. As time permits, you are encouraged to approach at least one of the pieces from multiple analytical perspectives. Provide prose commentary to clarify your analyses, to speak to your choices of methodology, and to cite published precedent where relevant. The question is closed book. You may allot up to 4 hours to complete each of the analyses, total of 8 hours.

Question 3. Melody Harmonization: Harmonize a given melody in four-part chorale style; include a Roman-numeral analysis. You may allot up to two hours to complete this question. A keyboard may be used.

Question 4. Counterpoint: Complete counterpoint exercises as indicated. You may allot up to 2 hours to complete this question. The short exercises, in two-voices (apart from the fugue), will include: 1) first species tonal exercise; 2) first species modal exercise; and 3) 5th species tonal exercise.

Question 5. Twentieth-Century Composers: Write 2-3 paragraphs on five (5) composers from each of the groups listed—10 composers in all. You should include reference to their dates, major compositions, salient features of their style, and their significance as a composer. This question will be answered in the music library from 1-5 p.m. on the Monday when you turn in your other exam questions.

D.M. Composition Diagnostic Exam

Entering doctoral students in composition must take the Doctoral Diagnostic Exam in Composition in the fall or spring of their first year. It is comprised of five questions. The take-home questions on the exam, outlined below, will be given out the Wednesday prior to Veterans Day in the Fall semester, and the Wednesday prior to spring break in the Spring semester. Students should return four (4) bound copies of the exam and keep a copy for themselves. An oral follow up examination with the composition faculty will be scheduled on Wednesday two weeks after the exams have been turned in. In preparation, reread and critique your exam and bring a copy of the exam with you to the oral examination. Course recommendations will be made on the basis of the exam, which also serves as the final step in admittance to the doctoral program.

The exam will consist of the following questions:

Questions 1 and 2: Analysis of one tonal and one post-tonal composition, relatively short, using appropriate analytical methods and terminology. Your analyses may incorporate score annotations, graphs, diagrams, tables, and/or other analytical notations. As time permits, you are encouraged to approach at least one of the pieces from multiple analytical perspectives. Provide prose commentary to clarify your analyses, to speak to your choices of methodology, and to cite published precedent where relevant. The question is closed book. You may allot up to 4 hours to complete each of the analyses, total of 8 hours.

Question 3. Melody Harmonization: Harmonize a given melody in four-part chorale style; include a Roman-numeral analysis. You may allot up to two hours to complete this question. A keyboard may be used.

Question 4. Counterpoint: Complete counterpoint exercises as indicated. You may allot up to 2 hours to complete this question. The short exercises, in two-voices (apart from the fugue), will include: 1) first species tonal exercise; 2) first species modal exercise; and 3) 5th species tonal exercise.

Question 5. Twentieth-Century Composers: Write 2-3 paragraphs on five (5) composers from each of the groups listed—10 composers in all. You should include reference to their dates, major compositions, salient features of their style, and their significance as a composer. This question will be answered in the music library on Monday when you turn your exams in (after Veterans Day or after spring break) in the music library from 1-5 p.m.

D.M. Composition Preliminary Exam

The preliminary examination, taken during or subsequent to the final semester of the student's course-work, is a written and oral demonstration of the student's progress during his or her residency (at least one academic year). The exam will consist of questions and analysis on the repertoire given in the list of works shown below. There will be two basic types of questions in the written part.

1. Take Home: Specific analytic questions on the works listed in bold face. Students should study these scores closely. Faculty will give analytical questions on 4 different works, which the student has one week to complete. Students will get these questions on a Monday and will turn in their answers the following Monday. The student is permitted to use scores but no notes or reference materials.

2. Monitored: Thursday afternoon of the exam week, 1-5 p.m in the College of Music Library. Students will be given a list of 10-15 works from the study list and will write 2-3 paragraphs on each work. They should briefly address 1) salient stylistic features of the work; 2) the large-scale formal organization; 3) scoring; and 4) significance of the work historically or in terms of the composer's oeuvre. The student is permitted to use scores but no notes or reference materials.

Oral Exam: The oral exam will consist of 1) follow up questions on the written exams; and 2) questions about any of the works on the list including score identification.

Oral Exam Repertoire List

Composition Recording Composition
Machaut: Missa Notre Dame CD 354 M2010.G95 N7
Palestrina : Missa Papae Marcelli CD 345 M2011.P25.M38
Bach: Goldberg Variation CD 433 M27.B3 A5 1938
Handel: Messiah, part 1 CD 8806 M200.H35 M485
Haydn: String Quartet Op. 76, No. 2 CD 5413 M452.H3 H.III, 76, E8
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 CD 12123 M1001.M92 K.551
Beethoven: String Quartet, Op. 131 CD 8798 (*) M451.B3 Q821
Schubert: Die Schone Mullerin, 1-8 CD 1232 M1621.4.S37 S366
Chopin: Selected Preludes CD 11803 M22.C48 P74 1980
Liszt: Les Preludes CD 2139 ML1002.L57.P7
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Prelude CD 766 (*) M1500.W3.T75
Brahms: German Requiem CD 1926 M2013.B75 op. 45
Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B Minor CD 2610 M1016.D96 C6
Mahler: Symphony #4 in G major CD 3607 M1001.M3 S9 no.4, 1995
Debussy: Nocturnes (select 2) CD 1073 M1003.D4 N64
Stravinsky: Rite of Spring CD 5552 M1520.S9 S3 Bo2
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire CD 8960 M1625.S3 P5 Op. 21, U
Webern: Symphony, 0p.21 CD 2566 M1001.W39 S9 1929
Berg: Violin Concerto CD 5665 M1012.B47
Bartok: String Quartet No. 5 CD 12639 M452.B3 Q8 no.5, Bo
Britten: War Requiem, #2-3 CD 1477 (*) M2013.B86 W4
Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time CD 2292 M422.M48 Q3
Berio: Sinfonia CD 8917 M1528.B475 S56 (*)
Penderecki: St. Luke Passion Rec3160 SLP M2004.P46.P27
Lutoslawski: Livre pour Orchestre CD 2286 M1045.L975.L58
Boulez: Sur Incises CD 11720 M947.B68 S8 2001
Ligeti: Etudes for Piano, Nos 1 and 6 CD 10281 M25.L45 E78 1998
Crumb: Ancient Voices of Children CD 9218 M1613.3.C92 A5
Carter: String Quartet #2 CD 3129 M452.C377 Q82 no. 2
Reich: Octet (Eight Lines) CD1654 M885.R34 O37
Reich: Vermont Counterpoint CD 10068 M62.R453 V4 1982
Adams: Chamber Symphony CD 10009 M1001.A33 C4
Corigliano: Clarinet Concerto CD 756 M1025.C67 C6 1993

Language Requirements for M.M. and Ph.D. Music Theory

Master’s students in music theory are required to demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language prior to taking their Comprehensive exams (or be scheduled to complete the language requirement during their final term). Ph.D. students in music theory are required to demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages, and must have either completed the requirements or present a plan for doing so in a timely fashion prior to their Pre-Preliminary ("Pre-Pre") Advising Session with the faculty. All graduate music theory majors must speak with their academic advisor to discuss which languages are appropriate for meeting this degree requirement. Students may satisfy the language competency requirement in any of the following ways:

  1. Registering for and completing the appropriate graduate language reading course and passing the graduate reading proficiency test, or simply by registering for and passing the graduate reading proficiency test.
  2. Taking undergraduate classes through the 2200 level (usually three semesters) or showing completion of those courses on their undergraduate or graduate transcript.
  3. Taking the Classics Department (Latin) or Modern Languages department (French, Spanish, German) undergraduate placement tests (free of charge) and showing a score that would place them out of the undergraduate language requirement (2200 level or higher). For other languages, the Modern Languages and Classics Departments offer the opportunity to speak with a professor in that language to determine placement. Providing written (including email) documentation from faculty in those departments that shows placement past the 2200 level will satisfy our requirement.
  4. Taking a summer intensive language program and passing the Intermediate (2200 equivalent) level.
  5. CLEP credit is an option for student with no university language experience.
  6. Bilingual students may claim competency in their other (non-English) language, though they should be prepared to demonstrate reading and writing competency as well as spoken fluency.
  7. Students may propose other methods for demonstrating competency, but they must be approved by our faculty.

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