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.
 

Music Theory Placement

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.

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

Dalcroze classes offer students dynamic music learning experiences. Students train their whole bodies to respond to specific musical subjects. Music is the center of the class activities and intellectual analysis follows after interactive experiences. 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.

Beginning Musicianship is a creative and joyful approach to introductory musical concepts including the musical alphabet, the steps of a major scale, and basic music notation. This interactive approach helps to familiarize students with the fundamental musical building blocks through body action and singing. This class is designed to prepare students for, and enhance their first years of instrumental training.

Dalcroze I (Eurhythmics) requires strong cognitive function which cultivates the attentiveness of young musicians. The class consists of movement, solfege, and improvisation in order to attain well-rounded musicianship. In this introductory Dalcroze class, we focus on “quick reaction”. Students respond to basic musical subjects including, but not limited to binary beat and ternary beat, rests, phrase, intervals, two voice listening, simple meter and compound meter, five note singing improvisation, and canon. One parent must accompany each student.

This class is designed for musicians to continue developing collaborative skills as well as spontaneity followed by musical analysis. The class materials are also relevant for older musicians as they help make a strong connection between music theory study and instrumental study. The following subjects include, but are not limited to diatonic scales, triads, complementary rhythm, unequal beats, syncopation, the pentatonic scale.

This class is designed to focus on “rhythmic solfege”—the study of inner hearing. In order to develop listening ears, the class uses fixed “Do” syllables to indicate pitch, and numbers to indicate function. Students who are comfortable with all of the basic coordination of eurhythmics will explore further subjects including, but not limited to augmentation and diminution, singing modulation, melodic and rhythmic dictation, modes, the chromatic scale, and singing/piano improvisation.

This class is designed for students who are comfortable with all of the materials in Dalcroze 1–3. Students will continue focusing on “rhythmic solfege” which cultivates a keen sense of pitch and analytic listening. Kinetic training sinks into the body as “muscle memory” which is linked to physical and mental flexibility as musicians. Further advanced topics will be added including but not limited to trichords, metric transformation, canon improvisation, hemiola, and the octatonic scale.

 

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.

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.

To study composition, submit an inquiry form.