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Music Fundamentals & Skills Assessment

All students who audition for the music program are required to take the Music Fundamentals & Skills Assessment (MFSA) in order to be placed correctly into our music theory and aural skills curricula. The assessment is now given online, typically in late May or early June.

Students of any declared major who are interested in adding Music Theory I to their schedule must also take the MFSA before they are allowed to register for the class. The MFSA primarily assesses two areas of music learning: music fundamentals and aural skills. A cumulative score of 70% must be made on the exam before a student can enroll in Music Theory I (MUS 111) and its co-requisite course, Aural Skills I (MUS 113). A student who earns less than 70% on the examination will be required to enroll in Fundamentals of Music (MUS 101). A grade of 'C-' or better in Fundamentals of Music is required before the student can continue on to Music Theory I. Students who are transferring in AP Music Theory scores and transfer students who have already taken college-level theory and aural skills courses are still required to take this assessment.

The written theory portion of the MFSA assesses the student's knowledge of basic elements pertaining to rhythm and meter, pitch and intervals, key signatures, scales and chords. The exam also includes sight singing, melodic dictation, and a short composition exercise.

An excellent online preparation course for music fundamentals is eTheory from Eastman School of Music. It is a four-week, guided course that you can take from home. For self-study, a good text to aid your review is William Duckworth's A Creative Approach to Music Fundamentals along with the first twenty lessons of Ricci Adam's Musictheory.net. If you have not already done so, we recommend that all prospective and incoming students take private piano lessons before entering the music program.

Policy on AP Music Theory

Incoming music majors and minors who have taken AP Music Theory may be considered for advance placement in the written theory and aural skills curricula.

  1. A subscore of 4 for written theory (nonaural) on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 111.  
  2. A subscore of 4 for aural skills on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 113.
  3. A subscore of 5 for written theory (nonaural) on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 115.
  4. A subscore of 5 for aural skills on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 117.

The Music Department does not accept an AP Music Theory score lower than 4.  Students who have taken AP Music Theory are still required to take the Music Fundamentals & Skills Assessment on the day of their audition, or during New Student Orientation in the Fall if they were not able to come to the campus for and audition.

For specific questions about the MFSA and AP Music Theory, students may contact:

N. Lincoln Hanks, Associate Professor of Music at lincoln.hanks@pepperdine.edu