Musicianship Skills Placement Exam
All incoming students, both undergraduates and graduates are required to take a placement test in musicianship skills. The description below is intended to aid students in preparing for the tests. Separate tests with similar content are administered to undergraduate and graduate students. If it is determined that graduate students need work in musicianship skills to achieve levels necessary for graduation, they may be required to take a graduate skills review course or, alternatively, they may be placed at an appropriate level in the undergraduate skills course sequence.
The Undergraduate Skills Placement Test is required for all incoming students after taking at least the first module of the required Theory Placement Test. All students who are not placed into the course, Fundamentals of Music, by the theory test must take the Skills Placement Test at the scheduled time. Make-up tests are not scheduled. Students who do not appear will be placed into the first level of musicianship classes. Students should not take the Skills Placement Test if they have not taken the Theory Placement Test or have already been placed into Fundamentals of Music.
Of the many areas of musicianship skills, the concentration in this test is on visual identification, aural identification, and melodic dictation. (Students will not be asked to sight sing, or sing intervals or chords, or take harmonic dictation, except in unusual borderline cases.)
Visual Identification: A series of timed tests are given in which students are asked to rapidly identify intervals as to their likely name and quality and chords as to their quality and inversion—(using figured bass terminology).
Aural Identification: A set of musical motives is played including intervals played both melodically and harmonically, intervals played only harmonically, and triads and seventh chords played harmonically in root position and in inversions. Students are asked to ascribe a meaningful label for each.
Melodic Dictation: After providing a clef, a meter signature and a starting pitch—(but no key signature)—, short melodies of four to eight measures are played in three passes. Students are encouraged to determine more general characteristics on the first pass—(number of bars, placement of first and last events, general characteristics)—, to use the second pass to memorize the tune and transcribe it into Western notation, and the third pass to check the work.
The faculty believes that the results of this kind of a test provide enough indicators to make a determination about in which courses in the musicianship skills sequence students would be most appropriately placed. The faculty would prefer to see students being obliged to work very hard in more advanced and challenging levels than to be placed too low and insufficiently challenged to learn. Accordingly, new students who feel that they have been placed too high in the sequence can request the appropriate instructor to be re-evaluated and transfer to a lower level before the Institute deadline for adding and dropping classes in their schedule.
Mastering strong musicianship skills requires significant practice both in and outside classes. Such mastery is considered a very high priority for reaching success in the music curriculum and in professional careers to come.