Music Theory, Ear Training & Piano Proficiency Guidelines

Undergraduate  Music Theory and Ear Training Guidelines

Please read on for important information on placement, enrollment restrictions, scheduling and advising for all students taking basic Music Theory classes (Fundamentals of Music/MUSI UN1002; Music Theory I, II, III & IV/MUSI UN2318, UN2319, UN3321 & UN3322), and for students planning to enroll in Ear Training at any level (Intro, I, II, III & IV/MUSI UN1312, UN2314, UN2315, UN3316 & UN3317) in the fall semester.

If you are a music major, minor or concentrator, or otherwise planning to enroll in Music Theory or Ear Training courses this year, please familiarize yourself with these policies.

Please note that in the document below, the acronym MMC stands for "Music majors, minors and concentrators,” and ET stands for “Ear Training.” 

Music Theory Contact Info: 

Prof. Joseph Dubiel
Director of Undergraduate Music Theory
jpd5 [at]

Ear Training Contact Info:

Peter M. Susser
Director of Undergraduate Musicianship
pms3 [at]

Music Theory Registration Guidelines

  • Registration priority for all Music Theory and Ear Training classes will be given to MMCs.
  • All MMCs are required to take Music Theory I, II, III & IV (UN2318, UN2319, UN3321 & UN3322).
  • An online entrance exam must be completed before the first day of class (see below). Failure to place into Music Theory I generally results in a recommendation to take Fundamentals of Music (UN1002).
  • Students who pass the Theory I placement exam and are interested in passing into Music Theory II should contact the Director of Undergraduate Theory to schedule a separate placement exam.

Music Theory I Entrance Exam: 

Students who successfully passed Music Fundamentals (MUSI UN1002) are exempt from taking the online entrance exam.

All other students wishing to take Music Theory I, including those who are on the wait list, are required to take the exam before the first day of class (September 8 for Fall 2020).

The online entrance exam will be available in late July. Check this space for updates.

To take the test, students must register with their Columbia or Barnard email.

The exam consists of 5 sections, each one assessing your mastery of fundamental music-theoretical knowledge: (1) identifying pitches by name in treble, bass, alto, and tenor clefs; (2) writing ascending and descending major and minor scales; (3) key signatures, including relative and parallel keys; (4) intervals and interval inversions; and (5) triads in close position. Each section is timed, and you will need to devote around 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to complete the entire test. The test cannot be paused, and it may be taken only once per semester on an electronic device of your choice (smartphone, tablet, or computer; please make sure your technology is in working condition prior to starting the test).

Registration priority for Fundamentals of Music/UN1002 will be given to freshmen and sophomores who are registered as MMCs or who are considering becoming a MMC.

Ear Training (ET) First Day of Class, Registration and Placement Guidelines

  • All students who were enrolled in previous ET classes, and who received a grade of C- or better, advance to the next level in the next semester.
  • Students new to the ET sequence, regardless of experience, must attend one of the Intro ET or ET I sections below, to take a diagnostic exam, for placement into the appropriate ET level:

1.     Tuesday, January 21, 3:10-4:00, INTRO ET, 620 Dodge

2.     Tuesday, January 21, 3:10-4:00, ET I, 803 Dodge

3.     Wednesday, January 22, 12:10-1:00, INTRO ET, 404 Dodge

4.     Wednesday, January 22, 12:10-1:00, ET I, 405 Dodge

  • Attend one of the the classes above, even if the class is listed as full.
  • All MMC students are required to enroll in the ET sequence and complete up to ET IV.  Your placement test, taken prior to your very first ET class, will tell you where you will start the ET sequence.
  • All MMC students and students considering a MMC in Music who have enrolled in any level of Music Theory I–IV and Fundamentals of Music are required to enroll in an ET class, unless they have completed the ET sequence (up to ET IV).
  • Due to the placement exam process in both ET Intro-I and Theory I–IV, class rosters will not be finalized until the end of the first week of the semester.
  • Non-MMC students are placed in Theory and ET classes only if space permits and by permission of the Director, Peter Susser, not the section instructor.  This pertains to ALL levels of Theory & ET.

Piano Proficiency Registration and Placement Guidelines

Proficiency at the piano is required of all MMC students enrolled in the Music Theory sequence.

  • The Piano Proficiency Exam will be given on Friday, January 24, 8:30-11:00 am, 808 Dodge. Students will be asked to play a piece of their own choosing and two short compositions––a chorale and an accompanied melody. The exam is given on a first-come, first-served basis. Students will be notified immediately if they have passed the exam.
  • Not passing the piano proficiency exam requires students to register for Keyboard Harmony/MUSI UN1518 and is required for registration in Music Theory I.

Note for Non-Major/Minor/Concentrator Students

If you are not a Music Major/Minor/Concentrator (MMC), and expect to enroll in Ear Training levels II, III or IV, please contact Prof. Susser as soon as possible at pms3 [at]