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Music Theory Faculty

Music Theory Faculty

Ciro Scotto 
Chair of Music Theory

Allyn Reilly
Professor Emeritus of Music Theory  

Jennifer Smith
Lecturer of Music Theory  

Sean Parsons
Assistant Professor of Music Theory & Jazz 

Music Theory program information:  


Preparing for Success in Music Theory


Students who plan to be music majors and enroll in core theory and aural skills courses (Music 1010 and 1040) will be best prepared for all of their classes and studio work if they are already fluent in basic music rudiments. Many high school musicians already have completed mastery of these rudiments. Others may not have had opportunity yet to focus on these skills. In order to determine the level of your theory and aural skills, you will be given a placement exam at your audition.

The following skills are necessary for entry into core theory classes:

  1. Read the treble and bass clefs fluently.
  2. Read and understand basic time signatures and rhythmic notation.
  3. Be familiar with the piano keyboard.
  4. Write and identify half steps and whole steps.
  5. Write and identify all major and minor key signatures.
  6. Write and identify all major scales.
  7. Write and identify diatonic intervals.
  8. Write and identify simple triads. 

The following skills are necessary for entry into core aural skills classes:

  1. Match a given pitch vocally in a comfortable register.
  2. Identify whether two pitches are in tune or out of tune with each other.
  3. Repeat a given series of five to seven pitches.
  4. Given the key, identify the pitches in a short melodic pattern.
  5. Identify errors in the notation of a short aural pattern.
  6. Identify the correct rhythmic and metric notation for a given melody.
  7. Identify diatonic intervals presented aurally.
  8. Identify triads presented aurally.

Concentrate on achieving fluency!

It is not enough to be able to "figure out" the answer; you should know it automatically. The more automatic these basics, the more you can focus on more musical issues of interpretation, analysis, and so on.


What if I don't know any music theory yet?

You have plenty of time to get prepared. Use the resources listed below to get started. Your private music teacher or director at your school also can give you some guidance in getting started. There are many basic music rudiments books for sale in music stores, but many are expensive or inappropriate. Many of these skills can be mastered without the purchase of special books. You will need to purchase some music staff paper. We also recommend:

     For music theory fundamentals:

  • Joseph Straus, Elements of Music, Prentice Hall; OR
  • John Clough, Joyce Conley, and Claire Boge, Scales, Interval, Keys, Triads, Rhythm and Meter: A Programmed Course, Norton.

     For aural skills:

     You may also find the following (free) web sites useful:

What if I don't pass the theory placement exam at my audition?

If you prepare using these materials, it is unlikely that you will not pass the theory placement exam. But if you do not pass, depending on your score, you may be eligible to take an online music fundamentals course during the summer before you enroll. A passing grade in the music fundamentals course will allow you to register for Music 101 and Music 104 in the fall.

What if I already know basic music theory?

Great! You are well-prepared to succeed as a musician. If you have extensive training (e.g. AP exam) you may elect to take a placement exam. If you complete the placement exam with a high enough score, you may place out of portions of first year theory and aural skills.

Does Ohio University grant credit for the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in music theory?

Ohio University grants credit for a score of 3 or above the Advanced Placement (AP) music theory exam. Please see the Ohio University advanced placement web site for more information.


Allyn Reilly

Professor Emeritus of Music Theory
(740) 593-4244