Music Theory

Many students begin their study of music theory and Northeastern by taking Fundamentals of Western Music Theory (MUSC 1119), where they learn the basics of musical notation and fundamental concepts such as scales, intervals, and triads. After completing this course, students may continue their studies by enrolling in Music Theory 1 (MUSC 1201).

Students already familiar with the material covered in our fundamentals course take a placement exam, which gives them the opportunity to pass directly into Theory 1. The exam is offered at the beginning of the fall semester and during summer orientation sessions. Advanced students who have already mastered the material covered in Theory 1 (diatonic harmony, lead-sheet, and roman-numeral notation, etc.) will have the opportunity to pass out of this class as well.

The placement exam for Fall 2018 will be held on Tuesday, September 4, at 3:30 pm in Ryder 435, immediately after the music department welcome meeting for new students. You will have one hour to complete the exam.

There are many websites with free content that you may find helpful if you wish to prepare for the exam. is one of the most comprehensive, with a wide variety of tutorials, customizable theory and ear training exercises, and definitions of terms.

If you have questions, please contact Prof. Matthew McDonald, [email protected]

Sample Answers