Music Theory

Music theory at the Community School of Performing Arts is a singing-based curriculum designed to enhance and support instrumental and vocal study through active engagement and kinesthetic exploration. From pre-reading exposure classes to 20th century atonality, music theory classes deepen understanding of the musical process and strengthen artistic expression and performance.

Music theory and Dalcroze classes are designed to be taken simultaneously or one at a time to accommodate each individual’s pace and progress. In the same way, upper level music theory classes are compatible with simultaneous compositional study as well as advanced Dalcroze Rhythmic Solfege study.
 

Music Theory Group Classes

Prior to enrollment, students complete an assessment test to determine which class(es) would be most appropriate. Evaluations are normally done in the fall, and enrollment is assumed to be a year-long commitment. At the end of the year, continuing students are reevaluated so that faculty can advise them on appropriate choices for further study.

Music Theory Assessment

Email the completed assessment to cspa@colburnschool.edu.

Perfect for beginning music theory students, this year-long class allows students to gain a firm grasp of the core skills of ear training, sight singing, and rhythmic concepts.

The curriculum includes:

  • Basic note and rest values, including dotted notes and rests
  • Performance and dictation exercises in simple meters
  • Rhythm exercises with unison action and vocalization
  • Naming, reading, writing notes in treble and bass clef
  • Singing, hearing, and writing diatonic intervals
  • Beginning solfege, starting with numbers and transitioning to solfege syllables

Elementary Music Theory focuses on establishing scales as the building blocks for understanding music. In this level, both physical movement and vocalization exercises are utilized to express rhythmic ideas.

Classes offered: Elementary IA, IB, IC, and I

Elementary Music Theory covers:

  • Singing, writing, hearing, and analyzing major and minor scales, keys, and key signatures
  • Diatonic and chromatic intervals
  • Qualities and inversions of diatonic triads and seventh chords
  • Beginning functional analysis and figured bass
  • Rhythmic concepts including simple meters other than quarter note based time signatures, compound time, and some polyrhythms

Students in this level are ready to tackle more complex elements. During the Intermediate level, students begins singing fixed do solfege, and practice singing in four parts. Students focus on simultaneously performing and hearing two or more complex rhythmic lines.

Classes offered: Intermediate I and II

Intermediate Music Theory covers:

  • More complex diatonic analysis
  • Non-harmonic tones
  • Four part figured bass
  • Chord progressions
  • Beginning chromatic harmony
  • Beginning modulation

With their considerable knowledge, students use composition as well as analysis to explore musical form, late romantic harmony, and early 20th century harmonic and rhythmic developments.

Classes offered: Advanced I, II, and II

Advanced Music Theory covers:

  • Motive, subphrase, and phrase relationships
  • Small forms: period, sentences, and phrase groups
  • Large forms: binary, ternary, and sonata-allegro
  • Advanced chromatic harmony: Neopolitan sixth chords, augmented sixth chords, chromatic mediants, and altered dominants
  • Early 20th century harmonic development: use of modes, pentatonic, whole tone, and synthetic scales.

 

Dalcroze

The Dalcroze philosophy relies on solfege, eurhythmics, and improvisation which lay the foundation for students serious about instrumental and vocal study. Class activities include vocal awareness, ear training, and sight-singing as well as rhythmic movement. Improvisational works unlock students’ innate musicality and develop musical security while a kinetic approach builds up “muscle memory”, a trait key to the spontaneous musician. Students’ own discovery in music brings joyful and powerful musicianship.

Dalcroze Placement

In-person assessments are required for younger students between the age of five and seven to determine readiness for Dalcroze Eurhythmics/Beginning Musicianship class as well as placement into Dalcroze II, III, or IV.

Please contact Mari Izumi at mizumi@colburnschool.edu to schedule an assessment.

This class is for students to learn beginning musical concepts through a variety of kinetic activities with parents. The Dalcroze approach encourages students’ spontaneity and attentiveness. Students train their whole body to respond to specific musical subjects including, but not limited to beat, subdivision, rests, phrase, simple and compound meter. Songs will be used as musical examples. One parent must participate with a student.

In this introductory Rhythmic Solfege, fixed “Do” syllables are used to indicate pitch, and numbers are used to indicate function. Furthermore, students explore simple vocal improvisation in order to develop a keen sense of pitch. The following subjects include, but are not limited to diatonic scales, triads, measure shape, and syncopation. Specific examples will be taken from musical literature.

This class is designed to focus on “Rhythmic Solfege” — the study of inner hearing. Students will deepen their musicianship through Dalcroze solfege, rhythmic movement. Furthermore, the class focuses on vocal/instrumental improvisation based on materials learned in class. Advanced topics include augmentation/diminution, complementary rhythm, unequal beats, modes, and the pentatonic scale.

Students need access to the piano or their musical instrument for ear training and improvisation.

This advanced Rhythmic Solfege is designed to complement music theory study and instrumental/vocal study. Through structured activities for improvisation, students gain a solid understanding of modes, scales, intervals, meter shape, and musical forms. Further advanced topics will be added including, but not limited to modulation, harmonic analysis, metric transformation, hemiola, irregular meter, and the octatonic scale.

Students need access to the piano or their musical instrument for ear training and improvisation.

This class is specifically designed for Community School Suzuki string students to develop musical awareness through experience-based activities. Students gain active listening skills, rhythmic vitality, and a keen sense of pitch as well as coordination. Over the course of study, students internalize music which promotes confident and accurate music learning experiences. Specific examples will be taken from musical literature including the Suzuki repertoire. One parent must accompany a student.

Dalcroze methods engage students in interactive dynamic learning experiences that can help them develop analytical listening skills and open them up to their own innate musicality. This series of progressive lessons will enable participants to experience Dalcroze methods directly and show how they may apply these methods in their own teaching. Each session will feature a 70-minute session exploration of Dalcroze Rhythmic Solfege and a twenty-minute Q&A session. Designed specifically for music educators regardless of their prior exposure to Dalcroze methods.

 

Composition

Composition lessons provide students with an outlet to explore their knowledge of music and create works of their own. These lessons are available to students who have completed the Intermediate II level of Music Theory, or its equivalent. Students work one-on-one with our accomplished faculty and have opportunities to share their work in studio classes and with Colburn ensembles.

Trombonist Elijah Alexander
I want to be able to effectively match my compositional voice with my technical voice on the trombone. Colburn has helped me with this especially, with the teachers helping me on gaining a stronger understanding of what I need to work on and what directions I should head in. Trombonist Elijah Alexander

Composition students at the Community School of Performing Arts have been recognized for their achievements, including being accepted to the Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
 

Private Lessons

To study composition with a private teacher, submit an inquiry form.