Keyboard Skills Assessment (BFA students only)
Students must record and submit online a brief video of themselves playing stipulated scales (2 octaves ascending and descending, major and minor, hands separately), triads in inversions, I-IV-V-I progressions (major or minor) with 3 notes in the right hand and the root alone in the left hand, and reading one or two passages of provided music. If the student knows a piece from memory, they are invited to play it, but this is not required.
The video must comprise a single unedited take. It must first show the student's face, and then clearly show both of the student's hands at the keyboard while they play. An assistant or phone tripod may be useful.
The specific tasks to be demonstrated on this video keyboard assessment will be announced—please watch your CalArts email account.
The only students exempt from undertaking this keyboard assessment are (1) piano majors and (2) transfer students with college transfer credit for a keyboard class. All other incoming BFA students must undertake this keyboard assessment.
Music Theory Placement Exam
The Music Theory Placement Examination is two hours in duration and comprises four sections corresponding to four successive courses within CalArts’ undergraduate Core Theory Curriculum: MTHY-001, MTHY-111, MTHY-112 & MTHY-210. To exempt from a given course, your score on the corresponding exam section must be near-perfect.
A single textbook suitable for use in preparing for all four sections of this examination is Stefan Kostka & Dorothy Payne, Tonal Harmony with an Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music, 6th Ed. (or later), McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 2008. For the exam's MTHY-001 (Fundamental Musicianship) section, some students may benefit from preparation using the interactive online drills at teoría.com.
A PRACTICE version of the Music Theory Placement Examination is available for download here.
PRACTICE Music Theory Placement Examination
Although its specific content is different, this practice examination is intended to roughly indicate the level of difficulty of the various sections of the official placement examination administered during CalArts' Orientation Week. It does not, however, exhaustively represent every topic that may appear on that official exam. For a complete listing of such topics, and for a description of the separate Musicianship Skills Placement Exam, see below.
Exam Content: MTHY-001 Section (Fundamental Musicianship)
Writing Key Signatures: The examinee writes the key signatures of stipulated keys. Major and minor keys with up to seven sharps or flats are included.
Writing Intervals: The examinee writes notes that are stipulated intervals above or below a given notes using the correct enharmonic spelling. Intervals (perfect, major, minor, augmented and diminished) both ascending and descending between a Perfect Unison and a Perfect Fifteenth are included.
Writing Scales: This task involves the writing of major, melodic minor and harmonic minor scales with up to seven sharps or flats. The use either of appropriate key signatures or of accidentals without key signatures may be required.
Chord Identification and Construction: Examinees must be able to identify and construct any diatonic triad or seventh chord in any inversion with any given root or bass note.
Meter: The examinee’s understanding is tested regarding note and rest values, dots, ties, measures, duple and triple meters, simple and compound meters, time signatures, triplets, duplets, and syncopation.
Fluency with the following fundamental concepts and skills will also be tested: notation in bass and treble clefs, the circle of fifths, relative and parallel major/minor keys, and enharmonic equivalence.
Exam Content: MTHY-111 Section (Tonal Theory A)
- chord construction and independent voice leading
- phrase groups
- four-part harmonization starting from a bass or melody with or without specified harmonies (i.e., Roman numerals) and using all diatonic triads and seventh chords in all inversions
- diatonic pivot-chord modulations
- harmonic analysis using Roman numerals (including modulation to closely related keys) of music notated in a piano score or a lead sheet
- non-chord tones
- diatonic sequences
Exam Content: MTHY-112 Section (Tonal Theory B)
This section of the exam is not required for MTIID students, who should skip forward to the next section ('Non-Tonal Theories').
- analysis of chromatic tonal harmonies appearing in a piano score or a lead sheet
- 4-part chromatic voice-leading and harmonization
- secondary functions and tonicization
- extended and altered tertian chords
- tritone substitutions, augmented sixth chords, and Neapolitan chords
- mode mixture
- embellishing chords
- chromatic or enharmonic modulations to distantly related keys
- chromaticized sequences
Exam Content: MTHY-210 Section (Non-Tonal Theories)
- early modernist idioms (e.g., Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky) and associated techniques (planing, diatonic modes, pentatonic/whole-tone/octatonic/hexatonic scales, polyharmony, quartal and secundal harmony)
- free atonality
- pitch-class set theory (pc numbers, interval class, interval-class vectors, normal form, pcset transposition and inversion, set class, prime form)
- twelve-tone techniques (matrix construction, doing a “twelve-count”)
- integral serialism