Department of Music

Aural Skills

About the Program

At Missouri Western, all music majors take four semesters of aural skills classes. Music students study a range of subjects in these classes, including conducting, sight-singing, sight-counting, rhythmic and melodic improvisation, two-part rhythms (“count and claps”), and two-part melodies (“play and sings”). Additionally, students are taught how to write down rhythms, melodies, and harmonic progressions they have never before seen (this is called taking “dictations”).

The aural skills program at Missouri Western has several unique strengths. First, all aural skills classes are taught by a full-time professor, not a graduate student or adjunct faculty member. Second, classes are small (typically 10 to 20 students) in order to encourage close student/faculty discussions and engagement. Third, every music major at Missouri Western takes the full sequence of aural skills classes. These classes include Aural Skills I, Aural Skills II, Aural Skills III, and Aural Skills IV.

Faculty

Aural Skills courses are taught by Dr. Chelsey Hamm.

Course Descriptions

All music majors take Aural Skills I, II, III, and IV.

Aural Skills I

Rhythmic topics in this class include the study of non-divided beat values in simple and compound meters, including more unusual meter signatures. You will learn to sing major-mode melodies at sight; initially, these melodies will be conjunct (i.e. they won’t leap), but later we will focus on leaps within the tonic triad. In this class you will begin rhythmic and pitch improvisation, and will learn the basics of taking rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic dictations.

Aural Skills II

Aural Skills 2 is the second course in a multi-semester sequence. Rhythmic topics in this class include the study of non-divided and divided beat values in simple and compound meters, including more unusual meter signatures. You will learn to sing minor-mode melodies at sight. All of the melodies you study will be disjunct (i.e. they will leap); in this class we will focus on leaps within the tonic and dominant triads. You will begin the study of alto and tenor clefs in this course, and will continue to study rhythmic and pitch improvisation, as well as rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic dictations.

Aural Skills III

Aural Skills 3 is the third course in a multi-semester sequence. Rhythmic topics in this class include the continued study of non-divided and divided beat values in simple and compound meters, including unusual meter signatures and syncopations/hemiolas. This semester we will focus on chromaticism—first chromatic passing and neighbor tones, then tonicizations of the dominant and relative major. Finally, we will modulate to closely related key areas. You will continue your studies of alto and tenor clefs, rhythmic and pitch improvisation, and rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic dictations.

Aural Skills IV

Aural Skills 4 is the fourth course in a multi-semester sequence. Rhythmic topics in this class include the study of advanced syncopation and Hemiolas, triplet and duplet divisions of the beat, changing meter signatures, unusual meter signatures, slow tempi meter signatures, and additional 20th-century rhythmic topics. This semester we will focus on advanced chromaticism, especially modulating to distantly related key areas. We will also study the diatonic modes and melodies of the 20th– and 21st-centuries. You will continue your studies of alto and tenor clefs, rhythmic and pitch improvisation, and rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic dictations.

Diagnostic Exam

Incoming first-year students—especially those who have undertaken an A.P. music theory/aural skills course—may choose to take a diagnostic examination to pass into Aural Skills II or III instead of Aural Skills I. Students attempting this diagnostic examination should be familiar with sight-counting, sight-singing, two-part rhythms, two-part melodies, and with taking melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic dictations. The diagnostic examination is offered before the first week of classes in January.