Basic Music Theory Exam

Here’s the most basic music theory material I consider to be the very basic music theory knowledge. In fact, most of those concepts should be familiar, but I believe they are truly only the basic vocabulary of music on top of which the study of counterpoint and harmony will be the grammar. Knowing the words is a great start, but a much greater and deep understanding of music can be reached through the study of counterpoint and harmony.

This is just a quick guide to help you get started in your studies of music.

Basic Music Theory Vocabulary:

  • Major and minor scales (includes: major, minor natural, minor harmonic, minor melodic)
  • Knowing key signatures for Major and minor scales up to 5 sharps & flats
  • Relative scales and keys
  • Chords: Major, minor, diminished, augmented, dominant 7th, minor 7ths
  • All Intervals

I think those concepts should be mastered in writing, reading and also ideally in playing to be really acquired.

Question I could ask in a written test:

  • What is the key signature of ___?
  • What major/minor key has  x amount of flat or sharps?
  • Finding the relative minor or major key
  • intervals
  • Writing chords (major, minor, diminished & augmented)

Understanding the Basics of Tonal Music

This section is an introduction to the basic elements of musical grammar of musical grammar without diving deep into harmony

  • What are the 2 most important degrees in tonal music?
    • I and V
    • Tonal music is based on tension and movements around “poles”.  All notes and all degrees are not equal.
  • What degree should a song start and end with?
    • We start and end with 1, because it’s the most stable
    • V-I cadenza at the end
    • Why? Affirming the key
  • What is particular about the Vth degree in minor?
    • In minor, the “natural” chord is minor, but in tonal music, we want to raise the third (lead-tone) so the chord becomes major.
  • What are the 2 compulsory movements when you resolve your Vth degree?
  • How many voices do we write for in scholastic harmony? (what we usually write)
  • What is the minor harmonic scale for?
  • What is the minor melodic scale for?