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COVID-19 UPDATES: Spring Semester Information

Musicianship Placement

All incoming students take a musicianship placement test to determine their starting place in the music theory/aural skills course sequence. The placement test consists of an online written portion plus a supplemental aural skills evaluation.

In order to complete the written placement test, students will need to download/install the free Harmonia app, found at: Instructions for accessing the placement test through Harmonia will be provided to students after they are accepted to the Music Department. Students may complete the online written theory test on campus in the James Black Music Center.

The required music theory/aural skills course sequence for music majors is:
MHIS 145: Music Theory and Aural Skills I
MHIS 146: Music Theory and Aural Skills II
MHIS 245: Music Theory and Aural Skills III
MHIS 256: Musicianship Practicum

To be eligible for  MHIS 145, students must demonstrate competency with the following basic theory elements:

  • Pitch identification in treble and bass clefs, including octave designation
  • Interval identification and spelling
  • Triad identification and spelling
  • Major and minor key signatures
  • Major and natural minor scales
  • Simple and compound meter

Students who demonstrate competency with the above written theory concepts will be asked to complete a short aural skills evaluation, which can either be done in person, or via Skype/FaceTime. The aural skills evaluation will consist of:

  • Matching pitch vocally
  • Sight-singing a simple melody, using solfege syllables
  • Counting a rhythm in 4/4 and 6/8, while conducting

Based on the placement test, students may be placed into MHIS 115: Fundamental Musicianship, which addresses all of the theory and aural skills content that is required for MHIS 145.

If students would like to review theory and aural skills fundamentals prior to taking the placement test, a good source of free lessons and exercises can be found at:

As part of the advising process for incoming transfer students, the Department of Music will evaluate the music theory and aural skills credits earned at other institutions to potentially substitute for one or more of the required VCU music theory/aural skills courses. Transfer students are still required to take the placement test, and will receive a suggested starting place in the course sequence. If a student has earned credits that are approved to substitute for VCU courses, they may choose to begin their coursework at VCU with the subsequent music theory/aural skills course, even if their test results place them earlier in the course sequence.

Contact Prof. Taylor Barnett at with any questions.

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