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Department of Music
Phone: (509) 963-1216
Fax: (509) 963-1239
music@cwu.edu

Undergraduate Music Theory Sequence

The undergraduate music theory sequence at Central Washington University is a two-year, six quarter sequence. The theory curriculum is comprehensive and integrated incorporating the following six components:

  • Written Skills (Includes some historical elements)
  • Ear Training Exercises
  • Melodic/Harmonic/Rhythmic Dictation
  • Keyboard Exercises
  • Singing Assessments
  • 1 & 2-part Rhythmic Reading Skills

Sheet music being edited by hand.As a CWU Music student you you are expected to be proficient in music theory. Entering Fresman are required to take a Music Theory Fundamentals Exam. Entering transfer students take the Tranfer Theory Diagnostic Exam.

The written curriculum encompasses basic fundamental skills in MUS 144 (Theory 1) and culminates with an introduction to late Romantic, post Romantic, and Post tonal concepts and compositional techniques in MUS 246 (Theory 6).

The ear training courses at CWU use the scale degree system. While many systems exist, and there are positives and negatives with each system, it is important to choose and focus upon one system so the primary purposes of “training the ear” and enhancing structural understanding can be achieved. Singing is essential to “training the ear.” It allows us to internalize, audiate, and recognize aurally on a more cognitive level. Singing enhances ones ability to transfer concepts to their own instrument and become higher level listeners. If you cannot sing it, you cannot hear it, therefore you cannot play it at the highest possible level.

Keyboard skills reinforce: aural skills, concepts of voice-leading, structural understanding, and enhance any musician’s practicality and marketability. It is recommended that students use the piano as often as possible to further develop their musicianship skills. In addition, to recommended supplemental exercises, there is a keyboard component on all skills tests.


Dr. Martin Kennedy
Coordinator of Music Theory
Music Department
Central Washington University
400 East University Way Avenue
Ellensburg, WA 98926
tel: 509-963-1216
fax: 509-963-1239