Music Theory Levels

Musician's ToolboxThe following level descriptions are a guide to the skills to be covered. Each 4-week session is tailored to the needs of the students based on their assessments. It is probable that students will remain in the same level in subsequent 4-week sessions for up to two years in order to cover different material for that level or to reinforce and build upon the skills introduced. Students can expect to remain in Theory levels 2 and 3 for two years.  Please keep in mind, however, that each class varies according to strengths and weaknesses of the class as a whole, and that class-to-class topics, plans, assignments, etc., are at the discretion of the teacher.

Theory 1
Beginner students develop basic note-reading skills, such as identifying pitches on the staff in treble and bass clefs and identifying note values that will lead to more rhythmic accuracy when playing their instruments. The inclusion of ear training will develop students’ aural recognition of these same concepts by matching pitch with their voices, singing intervals (the distance between two pitches) and imitating and creating simple rhythms. Students may explore the differences between major and minor. Students may begin to learn about time signatures and key signatures and the basics of scale structure, including whole steps and half steps.

Theory 2
Students will build upon their reading and aural skills acquired in Theory 1 by continuing to move through more complex rhythmic patterns and more challenging sight singing. They will begin or expand upon their knowledge of time signatures and key signatures, scale structure and intervals, and will work with listening for and identifying the difference between major and minor. Students may begin work with alto clef, triads, seventh chords, and cadences, both written and aurally. Students may begin to learn dictation of melody and rhythm. Students must have completed one full year of private study on their instruments before taking Theory 2. Students may remain in Theory 2 for 1-2 years.

Theory 3
Students will work towards fluency in all major and minor keys, seventh chords, augmented 6th chords, and diatonic church modes, both written and aurally. ​​They may look at the basic elements of diatonic harmony and functional analysis and begin working with four part harmony.

Students may remain in Theory 3 for 1-2 years.

Theory 4
Elective topics vary by session and by year. Students may take the Theory 4 elective as many times as they would like!