Department of Music

Music Theory

About the Program

Music theory is an integral part of Missouri Western’s music program. Music students study a wide range of subjects in music theory classes, including the study of writing music (stylistic composition), the analysis of existent musical compositions, and the situation of music within its historical, cultural, and expressive contexts. MWSU music students are not only provided with an excellent foundation for composition and music analysis, but they also engage with music as an artistic discipline contextualized within other subjects and the world at large.

The music theory program at Missouri Western has several unique strengths. First, all music theory 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 music theory classes. These classes include Music Theory I, Music Theory II, Music Theory III, Music Theory IV, Form and Analysis, Arranging, and Musical Techniques of the 20th/21st Centuries.

Faculty

Music Theory courses are taught by Dr. Chelsey Hamm.

Course Descriptions

All music students take Music Theory I, Music Theory II, Music Theory III, Music Theory IV, Form and Analysis, Arranging, and Musical Techniques of the 20th/21st Centuries.

Fundamentals of Music

Fundamentals of Music is designed to provide students with fundamental music skills, including written, keyboard, and aural. These include the ability to translate sounds into musical notation (dictation), the ability to translate musical notation into sound (sight singing), and the ability to play keyboard. Additionally, you will learn the basics of music notation, including pitch elements (scales, intervals, chords), time elements (meter, rhythm), and other notational conventions (dynamics, articulation, tempo, etc.). This course will be the foundation for any other studies in music theory you may undertake and is a prerequisite for Music Theory and Analysis 1.

Music Theory and Analysis I

Music Theory and Analysis 1 is the first course in a multi-semester sequence. In this class you will review advanced topics from Fundamentals of Music, including key signatures, triadic chord construction, and inversions. You will undertake the study of species counterpoint, learning how to write first, second, third, and fourth species exercises. A study of characteristic bass and melody lines in the 18th-century style and will be undertaken, and students complete several idiomatic compositions in two voices. Finally, you will begin the study of phrases, cadences, function theory, common practice root progressions, and tonic and dominant functioning harmonies as well as their inversions.

Music Theory and Analysis II

Music Theory and Analysis 2 is the second course in a multi-semester sequence. In this class you will continue to study harmonic topics including function theory, common practice root progressions, and tonic, dominant, and predominant functioning harmonies, as well as their inversions; melodic topics such as embellishing tones and motivic analysis; and formal topics including phrases and cadences.

Music Theory and Analysis III

Music Theory and Analysis 3 is the third course in a multi-semester sequence. In this class you will continue to study harmonic topics including function theory, common practice root progressions, and tonic, dominant, and predominant functioning harmonies, as well as their inversions; melodic topics such as embellishing tones and motivic analysis; and formal topics including phrases, cadences, sentences, and periods. You will begin learn about diatonic and chromatic sequences, secondary dominants and leading-tone chords, and will begin modulation techniques to closely related keys.

Music Theory and Analysis IV

Music Theory and Analysis 4 is the fourth course in a multi-semester music theory sequence. In this class you will study advanced harmonic topics including modal mixture, Neapolitan Sixth chords, Augmented Sixth chords, chromatic modulation, and other chromatic harmony and voice-leading chords; melodic topics such as embellishing tones and motivic analysis; and formal topics including vocal forms and forms found commonly in popular music.

Form and Analysis

Form and Analysis is part of the multi-semester music theory sequence. In this class you will focus on formal topics including phrases, cadences, sentences, periods, binary forms, ternary forms, inventions, fugues, contrapuntal genres, variation sets, sonatinas, sonatas, concertos, rondos, sonata-rondos, and large ternary forms.

Arranging

Arranging is part of the multi-semester music theory sequence. In this class you will learn about the technical possibilities and characteristics of different musical instruments and vocal types. Basic techniques of arranging music for elementary and secondary school choral and instrumental ensembles are presented and score analysis of characteristic repertoire will be undertaken to reveal idiomatic approaches to scoring.

Techniques of the 20th/21st Century

Techniques of the 20th-21st Century is part of the multi-semester music theory sequence. In this class you will study analytical and compositional topics relating to 20th– and 21st-century compositional idioms. Topics will include the study of modes, scales, rhythmic and metric topics, sets and pitch-class set theory, serialism, musical borrowing, tonal idioms and Neoclassicism/Jazz-influenced styles, postmodernist techniques, aspects of musical minimalism, facets of electroacoustic analysis, and more recent trends.

Diagnostic Exam

Incoming first-year students—especially those who have undertaken an A.P. music theory course—may choose to take a diagnostic examination to pass into Music Theory I instead of Music Theory Fundamentals. Students attempting this diagnostic examination should be familiar with topics pertaining to music notation, including pitch elements (key signatures, scales, intervals, triads, seventh chords, and inversions), time elements (simple meter, compound meter, counting, notes, and rests), and other notational conventions (dynamics, articulation, tempo, etc.). The diagnostic examination is offered before the first week of classes in August.

After College

Missouri Western music students are well equipped for graduate studies in music theory. They will be prepared for graduate entrance examinations at top tier music schools and conservatories, and will be able to undertake graduate classes and special topics courses in a variety of musical theoretical topics. Students choosing to pursue advanced music theory degrees may consider careers as a professor, music publisher, or music editor.

Students immediately pursuing a career after college will reap the benefits of their music theoretical studies in almost all of their musical activities. Performers will grasp musical patterns faster, making practice time more efficient. Performers, music educators, and music industry workers will be better able to communicate precisely having mastered standardized musical terminology and language. Music educators will be well equipped for score study and conducting, having studied scores and musical structures extensively throughout their seven-semester sequence.

Some students of music theory may not pursue a musical career. Nevertheless, the lives of these students will be enriched by their music theoretical studies. Such students will have engaged closely with the music scholarly discipline, learning a variety of analytical and interpretive techniques in the process. Students will better understand music’s place in society, and will be better able to contextualize music and the other fine arts within our ceaselessly changing world. Additionally, studying music theory also leads to the development of better writing and critical thinking skills, which easily translate to many different fields.