Studying music at university is a wonderfully enriching cultural experience. It is also a challenging educational one. University-trained musicians are expected to have much knowledge of their art.
At Mount Allison we are committed to helping you reach the highest standards of today's professional musicians. Not surprisingly, our expectations of you are also high. We often find that the better a student’s preparation before coming to university, the greater the student's success while here.
Here are guidelines and suggestions in a number of areas that we consider important. Whether you find your knowledge of these areas is already far advanced or you are just beginning to explore them, we wish you to take these guidelines as encouragement to further your musical experience.
You should know the rudiments of music, at least up to the Advanced Rudiments standard of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto. You may find it beneficial to prepare for and write the RCM Advanced Rudiments exam.
We consider knowledge in the following areas important:
- Notation — fluency in reading music in treble and bass clefs; accidentals; note and rest values; duplets, triplets, and other “tuplets”; simple and compound time signatures and normal groupings of note values
- Intervals — the ability to name by sight, and to notate, all intervals from the unison to the octave in all qualities (major, minor, perfect, diminished, augmented); the inversion of intervals
- Scales and keys — all major and minor (harmonic and melodic) scales; the names of scale degrees (tonic, supertonic, etc.); all major and minor key signatures
- Chords — the structure of triads and seventh chords; triad qualities (major, minor, diminished, augmented); roots; inversions of triads and seventh chords and their figured-bass symbols
- Harmony — the functions of diatonic chords and their Roman-numeral symbols (I, II, III, etc.); types of cadences
Aural musicianship skills
Musicians are expected to have discerning ears for musical sound. The following abilities are important for students beginning their university study in music:
- Intervals — the ability to recognize all diatonic intervals, from the unison to the octave, in both melodic (ascending and descending) and harmonic form
- Rhythm — the ability to recognize rhythmic patterns of up to two measures in length, in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 metres, containing regular division and subdivision of the beat as well as duplets and triplets
- Melodic patterns — the ability to recognize a diatonic melody of up to two measures in length involving steps and leaps of no more than an octave
- Chords — the ability to recognize the quality (major, minor, and diminished) of triads played in four parts, close or open position
- Keyboard skills — even if you are not a pianist or organist, your study of music will benefit a great deal from having some ability at the keyboard. If you do not yet play keyboard at all, you should consider taking some beginning lessons
Music has its own body of fundamental concepts with which musicians should be acquainted. It also has a stock of common terms (most of them Italian) that appear in written music. You should attempt to familiarize yourself with the following concepts and terms:
- melody, range, phrase, cadence, climax
- rhythm, beat, accent, metre (duple, triple, quadruple, simple, compound), syncopation
- pitch, interval, consonance, dissonance, octave, scale, diatonic, chromatic
- harmony, chord, triad
- tonality, tonic, major mode, minor mode, key
- texture, monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic, imitation, timbre
- form, variation, binary, ternary, theme, sequence, motive
- tempo, grave, largo, adagio, andante, moderato, allegro, vivace, presto, prestissimo, accelerando, rallentando, ritardando, a tempo, tempo rubato, tempo primo, meno mosso, più mosso
- pianissimo, piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte, fortissimo, crescendo, decrescendo, diminuendo
- legato, staccato, tenuto, sforzando, fermata, arco, pizzicato, con sordino
- agitato, animato, cantabile, con brio, con espressione, dolce, espressivo, giocoso, grazioso, leggiero, maestoso, marcato, pesante, scherzando, tranquillo
- da capo, dal segno, fine, attacca
- alla, assai, ben, col/colla/con, e/ed, ma, meno, molto, non, più, poco, poco a poco, primo, quasi, secondo, sempre, senza, subito, troppo
The history of music
Music has a rich stylistic history and the study of music's evolution will be a core part of your university training. Some high school music programs include an introduction to notable composers and important music genres, many others do not. A basic acquaintance with the subject is a very valuable preparation for your university study.
A listener's knowledge of music
This may be the most important point of all. For a musician, there is simply no substitute for having some music "in the ears." The more music you are familiar with, the more meaning musical concepts will take on and the better you will be able to play, listen to, and enjoy other music.
Here are some music instruction websites that you might find useful:
- Ricci Adams' musictheory.net — a free online resource for learning the rudiments of music theory. It features lessons with clear explanations of pitch and rhythm notation, keys and scales, intervals, chord structure and function, and basic harmonic analysis. It also has interactive exercises and tools.
- Teoría: Practical Music Theory — an instructional site in music rudiments, basic harmony, ear training, and form. It includes interactive exercises, online instruction, analyses, a glossary, and other articles.
- ETheory — comprehensive music theory rudiments by Dr. Steven Laitz from the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. Registration (currently $97) is required.
- Big Ears Online Ear Trainer — a Java-based site for interval recognition training
- Aural Comprehension Guide — a guide to goals and practice techniques of university-level ear training