Your music theory level

Depending on your choice of courses and degree, you may be expected to have a certain level of musical theory or ability before starting your course of study.

For three of the BMus majors—Classical Performance, Jazz, and Composition (instrumental and vocal), prior knowledge of musical theory is required. The first-year courses MUSC 164 Jazz Theory, or MUSC 166 Classical Theory and Musicianship are basic courses for most Music majors. CMPO 101 Introduction to Composition and Sonic Arts and CMPO 130 Instrumentation are compulsory courses for the Composition major. Admission to these courses requires students to have already passed either the NZSM theory placement test, Grade V Theory, or the course MUSC 160 Basic Musical Techniques with a grade of B+ or better. For MUSC 166 the alternative prerequisites also include NCEA Module 3.6 (AS91421).

MUSC 160 Basic Musical Techniques

To help prospective students meet this requirement MUSC 160 Basic Musical Techniques is offered in Trimester 3, 2014 (January—February 2015). Applications for Trimester 3, 2014 close for new students on 1 November 2014. This is offered again in Trimester 2 of 2015.

MUSC 160 is designed to bring prospective music students who do not already have the required minimum level of theory knowledge up to the level required for entry into their first year of music study. The level of MUSC 160 is approximately that of Grade V Theory from Trinity Guildhall, ABRSM or AMEB.

Year 13 students

Current Year 13 students can apply for Discretionary Entrance to MUSC 160 in Trimester 3 of 2014. You must apply online and also complete the Discretionary entrance application form. Please look at the admission page for Discretionary Entrance.

However, if you are applying for a Summer Trimester preparatory course (CHEM 191, MATH 132, or MUSC 160) before your NCEA results are available, your admission for 2015 will still depend on your getting University Entrance and meeting the Guaranteed Entry Score.

MUSC 164 Jazz Theory 1

To be eligible to enrol in this course, you must either pass a diagnostic entrance test in theory, or have completed MUSC 160 Basic Musical Techniques with the minimum passing grade of B+.

Course Requirements MUSC 164 Jazz Theory 1

At the beginning of MUSC 164 it is assumed that students have a knowledge of, and quick facility with:

  • all note names in treble and bass clefs
  • all major key signatures
  • the order of sharps and flats as they appear in a key signature
  • modern chord symbols for major 7, dominant 7, minor 7, half-diminished 7, fully diminished 7
  • modes of the major scale (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian)
  • other scales including the chromatic scale, whole-tone scale, half-whole diminished, whole-half diminished.

MUSC 164 Study Guide

To help you prepare for the Jazz theory entrance test, you can download the following Study Guide, which covers all of the theory concepts in the test.

Download MUSC 164 Study Guide (PDF 145KB)

Sample placement test

The following self assessment test is intended to give students practice material of a level similar to the MUSC 164 entrance test. The answers are available here also, so that you can judge your preparedness for MUSC 164.

Download MUSC 164 Self Assessment Test (PDF 54KB)
Download MUSC 164 Self Assessment Test Answers (PDF 63KB)

MUSC 166 Classical Theory and Musicianship 1

To be eligible to enrol in this course, you must either pass a diagnostic entrance test in theory, have attained Grade V Theory, NCEA Module 3.6 (AS91421) or have passed MUSC 160 Basic Musical Techniques with the minimum passing grade of B+.

Course Requirements MUSC 166

At the beginning of MUSC 166 it is assumed that students have a knowledge of, and quick facility with:

  • major and minor key signatures up to four sharps and four flats
  • transposing tunes in these keys
  • triads and their inversions in these keys
  • intervals found in these keys and an ability to distinguish between major, minor, augmented and diminished versions of these intervals when written down
  • simple and compound time signatures, use of note values and rests including beaming of tails or grouping of notes
  • the technical names for degrees of the scale (tonic, supertonic, etc.)
  • musical phrases and the recognition of perfect, imperfect, plagal and interrupted cadences in written music
  • reading with ease the treble, alto, tenor, and bass clefs.

Sample placement tests

The following self assessment tests are intended to give students practice material of a level similar to the MUSC 166 entrance test. The answers are available here also, so that you can judge your preparedness for MUSC 166.

Download Self Assessment Test 1 (PDF 173KB)
Download Self Assessment Test 2 (PDF 173KB)
Download Self Assessment Test 3 (PDF 171KB)
Download Self Assessment Test 1 Answers (PDF 180KB)
Download Self Assessment Test 2 Answers (PDF 179KB)
Download Self Assessment Test 3 Answers (PDF 186KB)

For further details, please contact us—music@vuw.ac.nz, regarding making arrangements to sit the NZSM theory placement test.

Courses without Music theory prerequisites

There are a range of Music Studies courses that can be taken by interested students without musical theory or ability. Please refer to the online course finder for details of prerequisites.