Theory I Course Outline





Theory I

MUSI 1311




Course Outline




This is an organic document!  It will change. 

You are responsible for what is on this page, not a copy you made at the beginning of the semester.

The dates given in the right column are the due dates, not the day we will work on assignments in class.

If there is ever a problem with an assignment (technology problem, don't understand it, can't find it, etc.) do not wait until the due date (or time) to explain your problem.

If something is not clear to you, ASK ME.  My schedule is on my door (122) or email me at


Content for the week will be in this column. 


This column will show you what is due on which day.

Animated bullets mark each item.

Week 1   

Aug 27-Aug 31


  1. Roll check and advisor list

  2. Syllabus

  3. Theory placement exam will be tomorrow during Aural Skills for all who have not yet taken it

  4. A little advice from your friends



What is Music Theory?


bulletOvertone series

Overtone series and tuning 

Leonard Bernstein explains!


Tuning: beat frequency

More than you want to know about tuning

Harmonic series overview

Definitions:  pitch note music score

bulletNotation history

Musical notation can be understood as a set of instructions indicating to the performer how the composer wishes the music to sound.


How it all began

Origin of Music Notation


Why Middle C??


bulletStaff, clefs


Medieval example


Here is a very modern example of the same thing!


Clefs Combined to Illustrate Spatial Relationship

bulletOctave identification

We use the Acoustical Society of America Octave Designation System




bulletNotation basics

stem direction and length

beams according to beat

adjacent notes

dot placement

Notation Basics

Print this for your reference

bulletNames of scale degrees

Scale degrees




Exercise:  Board work - clefs, notes, accidentals, etc.

Friday:  1-minute paper


Who has not taken the theory placement exam?

Assignments Due:




Put this webpage link on your desktop

On the top of this page, File - Send - Shortcut to desktop



Bring 3x5 cards to class




Print it, read it, keep it



Print Notation Basics

Read it and be familiar with guidelines for notation


Note:  Every time I ask you to bring something to class, I will hold you accountable and it will affect your grade.







End of Friday, one minute feedback and 5 minute 3x5 drill.

Missing class

Learn to articulate

Get the "like" out





Timbre:  why different instruments playing the same note sound different


Week 2 

Sep 3-7


No class on Monday:  Labor Day!!



Scales and Keys


bulletMajor scales and keys

Major scales

bulletMinor scales and keys

Three types of minor scales


Key Signature Practice 

(If this doesn't work, switch browsers)





bulletCircle of 5ths



Pythagorus and the Circle of Fifths



Circle of Fifths


Blank Circle of Fifths


Harmonic progression around the circle of 5ths


bulletParallel and relative minor

Key Trainer




Note name game

Key Signature Game

Friday: 1-minute paper




Major scales Practice

Minor scales Practice



Assignments Due:



Major Scale

Minor Scales

Print it, read it, keep it




Scale degrees

Octave designation




Assignment #1

Print 1 copy of this Blank Circle of Fifths

Bring it to class on Friday for an explanation of your assignment.



from A Musical Grammar (1679) by Nikolay Diletsky


Week 3

Sep 10-14 


bulletIntervals p. 20-32  12-19


Intervals calculated by half steps

Diminished Unison - the black hole of music theory

Major scale method of interval identification


Diatonic interval speed drill


Avoiding enharmonic mistakes also p. 445


Interval drill

Interval inversions



Exercise: Interval ID

Interval Trainer

Dim and Aug Interval Drill



Interval Worksheets:  Generate a new one every time!


Practice identifying intervals with this interactive worksheet




Decreased by

one half-step

Interval in its

original state

Increased by

one half-step


o (d)




+ (A)






+ (A)


o (d)






Assignments Due:




Assignment #1

Circle of 5ths (you will fill out template in class without notes)




Assignment 2:

Major scales

Minor scales




FriIBring your level!

Interval game


  1. Play the game to your best score and level.  You can play multiple times to improve your score.

  2. While on the final score screen, press the Print Screen key on your keyboard (PrtScn)

  3. Open a blank Word document

  4. Right click (or press Ctrl V) and paste the image onto the Word Doc

  5. Bring the document to turn in at the beginning of class





Week 4

Sep 17-21


bulletMore scales

Scales that aren't major or minor  

Pentatonic p. 497

Whole tone p. 500

Blues p. 593

Modes (next week)

Octatonic p. 503



Pitch inventory and scale identification

bulletModes p. 8-10 1-11



"I Don't Particularly Like Modes A Lot"


Modes Review



with Scorch files

Modes Made Easy


Improvising with Modes



board work:  construct modes on given pitches


Scale Trainer


Practice sheets:






Assignments Due:



Assignment #3

Interval Construction A

Interval Construction B





Print it, read it, keep it

Modes  print this, too!  (to study for your quiz on Friday)




Quiz #2

Modes (names and color tones)




Bring your levels!

Note name game

Key Signature Game


  1. Play each game to your best score and level.  You can play multiple times to improve your score.

  2. While on the final score screen, press the Print Screen key on your keyboard (PrtScn)

  3. Open a blank Word document

  4. Right click (or press Ctrl V) and paste the image onto the Word Doc

  5. Bring the document to turn in at the beginning of class




Check Note name and Key signature Proficiency for your name!

Deadline for completed proficiencies is Sunday midnight


Week 5 

Sep 24-28

bulletMeter and Rhythm p. 631-639 455-465


Counting Music


Simple and Compound Meter Flash


Metric Examples


Exercise:  Group work - Score excerpts for meter ID  also p. 458, 460, 464


All You Need Is Love

Listen (YouTube) and identify the meter


Board work:  Meter drills




Four quarter notes worth of music fit into each measure


Note:  Check list below for those who need to complete proficiencies


Assignments Due:



Assignment #4








Also on p. 22 of Hall Studying Rhythm book illustrates when to use ties. (in General Theory folder)



Week 6

Oct 1-6  

bulletChords p. 35-47 20-26

Count in 3rds - practice naming letters in triad form


How to build a chord

Diatonic triads

Triad Trainer



Triad inversions

Voicing chords 




Practice building chords at the board

Exercise:  Triad identification


Spell It In Thirds Worksheet



Remember these from Aural Skills?


Lead sheet symbols p. 48-53  32-37



Roman Numeral analysis p. 63-66


Note:  Monday is the deadline for Note Name and Key Signature Proficiencies







Assignments Due:


Assignment #5

Meter Identification A

Meter Identification B




Print this


Figured bass

Print this





Play some Chord Basketball

Basketball Music Quiz



Week 7

Oct 8-12   


Review for MidTerm Exam with Practice Test (distributed Monday)

MidTerm Exam Friday

Midterm Evaluation


Exercise:  using 'Spell it in Thirds' worksheet, random student name the chord and type (work for speed)


Note:  the following answers will be graded

  1. Name of major key

  2. Name of lead sheet chord

    Spell the chord in thirds; put the name of the chord above the staff; if the bass note is not the root, add it below a slash

  3. Name the Roman numberal

    Identify the number of the chord in the key (Ex: in Bb, a Cm chord is a ii)

  4. Add the figured bass

    Root= nothing; 6=3rd in the bass; 6/4= 5th in the bass




Assignments Due:



Assignment #6

Triads A

Triads B



Deadline for Note Name and Key Signature Proficiencies



Quick Facts Sheet

Print this

Notice that definition for IAC is incorrect



MidTerm Exam

Bring a page of staff paper with a keyboard on it







Week 8 

Oct 15-19  


Go over MidTerm Exam when graded


Nonharmonic Tones  p. 139  p. 79



Nonchord tones in video


Nonharmonic tones

flash demo

Nonharmonic tones

listed in a table according to movement



Demonstration of non-harmonic tones (charades)


Cadences  p. 80-87


Melodic Organization

Benward p. 119 (doc cam)

  1. Motive

  2. Sequence

  3. Phrase

  4. Period


Phrases and cadences

Phrases and cadences II


The Period:  Two Phrases Become One Structure



Plagal - "Let It Be" (Beatles)


Assignments Due:



Assignment #7

Spell It in Thirds Worksheet



Print these:

Nonharmonic Tones




Send me a melody

Choose a song that contains an excellent melody (not 'lyric-driven')

Send me a YouTube link to by 8:30am




Week 9 

Oct 22-28  



Melodies:  Song List


Aspects of Melody


Melody Overview



Principles of Voice-leading


How to Write a Bad Melody





Introduction to Finale (in 118)

Go through Finale in lab (self-paced)


QuickStart Videos:

     Simple Note Entry


Finale Page


Assignments Due:



Quiz #4:  Nonharmonic tones and cadences

Nonharmonic tones    Phrases and cadences





Interval Review


Week 10

Oct 29-Nov 2


Wed/Fri melody composition critiques






Extra credit if you wear a costume on Halloween.

Note:  If you have to explain it to me, it doesn't count.


Assignments Due:



Composition first draft

Bring to class a first draft of your melody, written on staff paper ready to transcribe to Finale.  Melodies must be complete.  You will receive a grade for this.


You must be able to sing your melody to me! Use solfege.


NOTE:  Please  refer to the Compositions page for requirements and how the assignment will be graded!




Before class, watch the Simple Note Entry video under QuickStart Videos

The more of these videos you watch, the better prepared you will be to use Finale in the lab



Composition #1

Please follow the instructions for this assignment that are listed on this Composition link


Save the Finale file as “YourNameComposition1” (Please save exactly like this, not by the title you have given your piece - this is for my file organization to grade Composition #1 and #2 separately and to be able to find your file to listen in class)


E-mail your completed Finale file as an attachment to by 8:30am on the due date.  The subject line of the email should also read "YourNameComposition1"

Turn in a printed copy of your score at the beginning of class on the due date



DO NOT disturb the 8:00 piano class to work on your composition or to print your file.  Plan ahead.




Week 11 

Nov 5-9


Harmonic progressions

Circle progressions


Harmonic Analysis


Analysis #1


Harmonic Analysis Practice sheet

copy for Assignment #8



Bach Chorale Chord Progressions


Another way to look at it

Textbook p. 214 - 219


Accompaniment patterns




How to harmonize a soprano line



Accompaniment patterns

More patterns


Wed/Fri:  Work on Composition #2 in computer lab


Workbook p. 77 analysis exercises



Piano Man

example of descending bass line


Harmonic Progression

Sweet Home Chicago

Mr. Postman


Assignments Due:



Assignment #8


Harmonic Rhythm

  1. Determine harmonic rhythm

  2. Place lead sheet symbols above

  3. Place harmonic analysis below

When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras!

In other words, don't pick a strange chord just because it will fit.  Use a traditional harmonization for these traditional songs.











Composition Assignments

Week 12

Nov 12-16



Composition #2 critique

Assignments Due:



Composition #2

Review all requirements for Composition #2 on the link below before sending me the file

Composition Assignments

E-mail your completed Finale file as an attachment to by 8:30am on the due date.  The subject line of the email should also read "YourNameComposition2"


DO NOT disturb the 8:00 piano class to work on your composition or to print your file.  Plan ahead.




Week 13

Nov 19-21







No class on Thursday or Friday:  Thanksgiving holiday



Assignments Due:



Assignment #9

Turn in completed Harmonic Analysis Practice Sheet

Download here

Include both lead sheet symbols (above) and Roman numeral analysis (below).







Week 14

Nov 26-Nov 30



Exercise:  Construct at the board

  1. nonharmonic tones at board

  2. cadences

  3. sequence  Example:  The Ash Grove

Course Reflection Discussion



Assignments Due:



Composition #3

Composition Assignments





Course Reflection Discussion Assignment


For those of you who doubt the importance of establishing tonality in your compositions, here's a Christmas funny

Week 15

Dec 3-5  Last class day Wednesday, Dec 5


Review for Final Exam



Final Exam: Monday, Dec 10 3:00 - 5:30am



Study Guide


Circle of Fifths template for practice


Practice tests:

Version A

Version B

Version C

Version D

Version E



Use this grade calculator to estimate your final grade

It really is!





Theory I Game Scores


Note Name Game

Key Sig Game

Interval Game






Abe 655701

Tyler 4985113

Courtnie 89541


Courtnie 27394

Abe 1357281

Colin 68566


Ashley 25353

Colin 346811

Deon 65556


Jacob 17608

Deon 56330

Ashley 42230


Sarah 10465

Courtnie 51909

Francheska 27846


Colin 7459

Kayla 39911

Sarah 23678


Kayla 6594

Matt 32492

Jacob 18525


Tyler 6416

Gwen 22181

Gwen 13994


Zach Z 5597

Savanna 16542

Maegan 16618


Stephanie 4250

Zach Z 12907

Gunnar 12145










Proficiency List


Still need to complete Note Proficiency:

(you must make a 98)


Still need to complete Key Signature Proficiency:

(you must make a 95)



Proficiency Links

Key Signature Drill #1

Key Trainer

Note Trainer

Bass Clef speed drill

Note reading Drill

Note speed reading Drill

  3Note Game    







Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson

The job of teachers is "arranging the conditions of learning" (Chickering 2000, 25)

Neurons that fire together, wire together.


Music:  sound with intentional parameters as prescribed by the intender