Department of Music

Graduate Diagnostic Exam Information

Two diagnostic examinations are required of all incoming graduate students.These exams will be administered during the orientation period prior to the first week of classes in Fall semester.

Guidelines for Preparing for the UAF Music Department Graduate Diagnostic Exam in Music Theory

The exam includes topics in Rhythm and Meter, Pitch and Key, Diatonic Harmony, Chromatic Harmony, Musical Form, and Score Excerpts. The written exam is divided into six parts. The exam is two hours and must be completed within a two-hour period.

Part I. Rhythm and Meter

1) Be prepared to clarify a given rhythm pattern by adding barlines, beams, and, where possible, replacing tied notes with dotted-note values. Examples may include instances of syncopation.

2) For a given beat unit at a specified rate (beats per minute), determine the corresponding rate for specified divisions or groupings of the beat.

3) For a given time signature, supply information regarding the indicated number of beats per measure, the normal division of the beat, borrowed division of the beat (grouplets), and the normal subdivision of the beat. Examples will include both simple and compound meters.

4) Provide the correct time signature for a given melody.

Part II. Pitch and Key

1) Notate a specified interval above or below a given note as directed. Notate and identify the inversion of a given interval.

2) Given an interval, notate an enharmonically-equivalent interval and identify the quality and size of both intervals.

3) Identify the specified Major or minor key from a given key signature. Indicate parallel and relative key relationships for given Major or minor keys.

4) Notate the indicated major or minor scale. Identify given modal scales by name (e.g. Dorian, Lydian, Phrygian).

5) Given a chord or melodic line, transpose as indicated for specified musical instruments.

Part III. Diatonic Harmony

1) Provide the harmonic analysis for given diatonic chords in specified keys.

2)   Given a melody line, complete a 4-voice texture (SATB) and provide the harmonic analysis according to the indicated type of cadence.

3) Given a melody line, complete a 4-voice texture (SATB) according to the given harmonic analysis.

4) For a given 4-voice chorale example, provide the harmonic analysis, locate and identify any non-chord tones ( or “non-harmonic tones”).

Part IV. Chromatic Harmony

1) Given an altered chord in a specified key, match that chord to the correct chord symbol from a given list of chord symbols.

2) For a given a 4-voice chorale phrase, provide the harmonic analysis and respond to questions about possible altered chords in the example the type of modulation that occurs within the phrase.

Part V. Musical Form

1) Refer to accompanying score excerpts to respond to questions regarding aspects of binary form, ternary form, and phrase and period structure.

2) Refer to accompanying score excerpts to respond to questions regarding aspects of sonata form and rondo forms.

3) Refer to accompanying score excerpts to respond to questions regarding aspects of orm in the concerto grosso and in the Classical-era solo concerto.

Part VI. Score Excerpts

A number of short score excerpts with audio examples will be presented here. Topics for response and analysis as represented by these excerpts include: 18th-century counterpoint (emphasis on fugue processes); extended tonality and modality (early 20th-century); and post-tonal theory (i.e. basic terms and concepts in set theory and twelve-tone serialism).

For a review of most exam topics, the following text book is recommended:
Stefan Kostka/ Dorothy Payne, Tonal Harmony (6th edition)

Additional resources for review could include:
Douglass M. Green, Form in Tonal Music: An Introduction (2nd edition)
Kent Kennan, Counterpoint (4th edition)
Joseph N. Straus, Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory (3rd edition)

Guidelines for Preparing for the UAF Music Department Graduate Diagnostic Exam in Western Music History

The exam includes the identification of standard repertoire, multiple-choice questions from each of the musical periods, musical terms, stylistic analysis (using listening excerpts and score examples), and an essay section. The written exam is divided into five parts. The exam must be completed in a two-hour time frame.

Part I. Recognition of Composers—Major Repertoire.

This matching section helps determine your exposure to principal repertoire. The works in question, generally speaking, belong in the top tier of the Western musical canon.

How to prepare: Review the names and composers of major works, particularly titled compositions: symphonies, tone poems, operas, song cycles, keyboard cycles, chamber music with specific and significant titles, titled vocal works (such as masses, cantatas, and oratorios). For example, does “Trout” Quintet bring Franz Schubert to mind? Does Music of Changes evoke John Cage? Do you connect La Traviata to Verdi and Death and Transfiguration to Richard Strauss?

Part II.   Multiple Choice Questions on the primary musical periods.

How to prepare: Look over old exams and Western music history data bank questions.   You should know the dates of each period, as well as significant forms, styles, composers, instruments, etc

Part III. Terminology.

You will be asked to define several terms: some relating to music before 1750, and some concerning music after 1750. You will have some choice of terms in each section. For full credit, each definition should consist of approximately three to five solid sentences that place the term chronologically, define it, and/or explain its importance. Where appropriate, please offer a composer and/or piece of repertoire that illustrates the term.

How to prepare: Study the terms from music history texts. Look for the kernel of meaning that characterizes a good definition. Then take a selection of basic terms and see how more extensive music dictionaries (e.g. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music) address these terms. Good definitions have a structure and manage succinctly to characterize a term.

Then, take a selection of terms from various eras (e.g. basso continuo, rhythmic modulation, pizzicato, parody mass, Neoclassicism) and methodically practice answering the basic questions: What is it? When was it? Used by whom? Applied how? With what importance or impact? Hint: Start each sentence with a noun—you’ll find it improves the quality of your definitions. For example:

“A style created by . . . ”

“A harmonic device first used by . . .”

“An instrument developed in . . .”

“An effort by composers in the 1880s to . . .”

“A reaction to the technique of . . . ”

Part IV. Stylistic Analysis Using Score Excerpts.

You will be shown short score excerpts of vocal and/or instrumental music from different styles and periods. You will be asked to place these excerpts historically and/or stylistically, to suggest one or more possible composers, and, most importantly, to explain the musical reasons for your answer. Your “reasons” should rest upon the basic ingredients of music: qualities you see in the harmony, melody, rhythm, texture, timbre, and, if applicable, text.

Should you recognize the piece, you must make certain you frame your answer in the requested manner. Saying “This is the opening of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony” doesn’t provide any information as to stylistic features and chronological placement. Such an answer will not receive full credit.

How to prepare: Take excerpts from very familiar pieces and ask yourself: “What would I write to describe and date this music if I had never seen it before? What aspects of the melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, timbre, or text would stand out?” What music features are apparent in the score? Who might have been a possible composer? When might such a piece have been written?

Part V. Stylistic Analysis Using Listening Excerpts.

This section follows the same format as Section IV. Automatically recognizing the piece, per se, does not fully answer the question and will not give you full credit. You need to pinpoint musical and stylistic aspects, describe them briefly, suggest possible composers, and thereby justify your answer.

Part VI. Essay Question(s).

You will be given a choice of several questions covering broad topics. Your answer should provide not only an overview of the topic, but provide some specific musical examples illustrating your points.

How to prepare: Practice preparing answers to broad questions by developing outlines and timelines, Typical questions:

“Discuss the development of polyphonic music beginning from Gregorian chant.”

“Discuss the origins of opera.”

“Discuss the significance and development of the tone poem.”

“Discuss significant developments in chamber music in the 19th century.”

“Discuss the development of the standard four movement symphonic form.”

Downloadable pdf of Theory Diagnostic Guidelines information

Downloadable pdf of History Diagnostic Guidelines information