Music Theory Sample Assignments

Essential basic skills

  • Recognise the pitches in the following musical example as quickly as possible. Pianists and orchestral instrumentalists: check also the extreme registers in the piano part (the bass and bars 23–27). Listen to how these pitches sound in relation to the vocal part.
  • Make sure that you can write the key signatures of all major and minor keys fluently in at least two clefs. (See Music Theory 1 page 1) Evaluate how you can practically work in different musical keys. Can you, for example, play a familiar melody in different keys on your instrument by ear? (Singers: try playing familiar melodies in different keys on the piano.)
  • Recognise the harmonic intervals (i.e. between simultaneously sounding pitches) in the top two parts in bars 1–4 (until the rest) in the following example. Also recognise intervals between notes written in different clefs: i.e. between the bass and the melody in the same measures. Can you find intervals that are particularly important for the progression and character of the music?
  • Identify triads and seventh chords in written music as quickly as possible. For example, name the chords out loud by yourself or with a partner without writing anything down on the score. Use the type of chord symbols that you find easiest. Study at least two of the following examples, preferably more:
  • Make sure that you know how to construct triads and seventh chords using chord symbols or chord degree symbols. Make sure you know at least the basics of both analytical systems (more information). At first, you can practise chords using the system you are most familiar with. Learn to sing and play the following sequence. (Original key F major. Try also in another key.)


      The chord sequence is from Papageno's aria "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" from the opera The Magic Flute K. 620 (W. A. Mozart). Sheet music.

Recommended skills

Read subpages in Music Analysis and Harmony and choose a few assignments for closer inspection.

  • Reflect on what kind of music analysis from sheet music or by ear you find most natural. What kind of skills should you develop further to strengthen your musicianship?
  • Make sure that you know at least some practical approaches to the study of harmony, such as the use of chords and harmonic functions or the composition of lower parts or polyphonic textures by playing and writing. What kinds of approaches to harmony do you find most natural and practical?
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