Music Theory

The core to any music educational program is music theory. The Community School faculty incorporates elements of theory into all lesson plans. Beginning students learn to read pitches and rhythm. As students become more sophisticated in their musicianship, they delve deeper into music theory such as complex analysis of ultra-chromatic harmony of the 19th century.

To make the most of individuals’ existing musical knowledge, new students are evaluated for proper placement. Evaluations usually take place in the fall, based on a year-long commitment. At the end of the year, continuing students are reevaluated so faculty can advise them on which classes to sign up for in the coming year.


Prior to enrollment in theory classes, students are evaluated to assess their level of knowledge. Evaluations are normally done in the fall, and enrollment is assumed to be a year-long commitment. All students must complete a Music Theory Placement Evaluation prior to enrollment. Download the Music Theory Placement Evaluation and email the completed evaluation to

This year-long class allows students to gain a firm grasp of the core skills of ear training, sight singing, and rhythmic concepts. Students use this knowledge to expand their appreciation and analysis of music, and elevate their performance abilities.

Elementary Music Theory focuses on establishing the building blocks for understanding music. The curriculum starts with major and minor keys, key signatures, scale degrees, and intervals, followed by functional analysis of triads and seventh chords. Simple and compound meter are incorporated along with alto and tenor clef. Students engage weekly with the material through sight singing, solfege, and dictation exercises.

Students in this class are ready to tackle more complex elements. Instruction incorporates diatonic harmony, functional analysis, and recognition of all non-harmonic tones. They’ll also learn about four-part harmony and analysis of simple Bach chorales. They’ll continue progressing in simple binary and ternary forms and concomitant ear training.

Once students have a firm understanding of diatonic harmony and elementary chromatic harmony, they’re ready to explore music theory at a deeper level. Class instruction centers around Neapolitan 6th chord, the augmented 6th chord, and altered chords. Teachers also discuss modulation to distant keys and enharmonic modulation. Students analytical skills are challenged with larger forms, such as sonata, theme and variations, and rondo and sonata-rondo form.

Individualized instruction with our experienced faculty is available for students at various levels. In order to assign incoming students to the instructor who will best match their needs, we require a Music Theory Placement Evaluation.