MUS1103 : Essentials and Structures of Music Theory


Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module is designed for students new to or wishing to refresh their understanding of Western European Music Theory and by the close of the module the student should have achieved a level of attainment that is similar to the professionally recognised equivalent of the ABRSM Grade 5 Theory before moving into learning the principles of musical construction through historically tried-and-tested analytical and compositional approaches, beginning with principles of ‘strict’ counterpoint and moving to freer stylistic practices, emulating the styles of composers in the Common Practice period.

Students will also undertake an e-learning journey, using the software Musition in support of the weekly lectures to enable the students to practice and embed their skills outside of the immediate learning environment, and to monitor their own learning gain through weekly and incremental formative assessments.

Outline Of Syllabus

Western European Music Theory comes from a privileged background, it was formulated and proposed by those that had access to a formal education, monies to be able to publish their treatises, and was most likely expounded by white, upper-class, males. As such, it should be a considered a theory rather than 'the' theory of music. That said, it is a theory which has held prominence across art musics since the 16th Century and its presence can often be found in the multitude of globally rich musics in the 20th and 21st Century; this makes it a topic worthy of critical study.

The module begins in Semester 1 with an exploration of written musical materials both by hand and by digital notation software, moving onto nomenclature and terminology, clefs and pitches, key signatures, primary and secondary triads, modulations and key triangles, transposition, time signatures and metric rhythms, four voice (SATB) harmony, Roman numerals and figured bass, and three chord cadences.

Within these scheduled learning and teaching activities, there will be also be Take Away Learning Exercises (TALEs) where students will learn and practice aural skills through embodied learning strategies. The themes of these workshops will begin with intervals, and move onto rhythm, melody, bass, harmony and the short score.

Students also undertake an e-Learning journey, using the software Musition (with a specifically created online curriculum authored by the module leader) in support of the weekly lectures to enable the students to practice and embed their skills outside of the immediate learning environment, and to monitor your own learning-gain through weekly and incremental formative assessments.

In Semester 2 student engage with an exploration of Species Counterpoint: moving from Cantus Firmus (Bass Line) and First Species (one note against the bass line note) to Second Species (two notes against the bass line note), Third Species (four notes against the bass line note), Fourth Species (a rhythmically offset melodic line against the bass line), to Mixed Species. This journey moves from the basic principles of consonance and dissonance to an analytical practice that is the underpinning of tonal music composition. Subsequent case studies explore works from the Common Practice era from both compositional and analytical perspectives. The next part of the module concerns methods of rhythmic reduction (analysing) and compositional practice (composing) with regard to a Common Practice Minuet that has been specifically created for this module. The work undertaken by the student in this module prepares them for the assessment (and a potential future mode of employment) which assumes the role of a music editor in receipt of a fragment of music that needs to analysed and then completed in a complementary style.

The module leader is an active researcher in Authentic Music Theory meaning that the learning and teaching in this module will be from the following perspective: students will be encouraged and assisted to engage with critical, creative, and self-reflective thought and practical and real-world tasks will drive the modes of assessment. For more information on this position see: Fleet, P (2022), ‘Parental Advisory: Making Explicit the Value and Authenticity of a Music Degree’, in: Dromey, C. (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Applied Musicology, New York: Routledge.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:3033:00Lectures with workshops embedded into the sessions.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion222:0044:00In between the sessions - reflect on learning outcomes and skills in relation to the assessment..
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities161:0016:00Online learning using the MUS1003 customised package within Musition.
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities222:0044:00Handwritten & digital notation skills by copying and creating extracts from parts & scores.
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity110:305:30Independent practice of Take Away Learning Exercises in relation to aural training.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study157:3057:30Used by student to analyse and evaluated learning & create from skills being explored.
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
MUS1001Essentials of Music Theory
MUS1102Applications and Structures of Music Theory
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Semester 1 is designed to bring a student up to a level of FHEQ Level 4 conversational and critical music theory and literacy and to be able to pass a Grade 5 ABRSM Music Theory paper the lectures, workshops, and on-line delivery of materials targets the students’ different modes of ‘learning and performing’ (following the Eduardo Briceño pedagogical model) inside and outside of the classroom. Semester 2 begins with the fundamentals of Species Counterpoint with exercises drawn from the foundations of a cantus firmus through to harmonic dislocations to create tension. With this in place, students then explore the structure and space of Common Practice musics through the principles of rhythmic reduction and composition. By unpacking and investigating such materials they will gain a critical appreciation of Common Practice music from the perspectives of an analyst and a composer. The curriculum is devised to enable the student at the close of the module to be able to communicate, construct, and create musical materials with their peers in a professional and/or undergraduate academic environment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Case study1A50This will be a take away paper that will assess the intended knowledge outcomes 1-5, and the intended skill outcomes 1-12.
Case study2A50This will be a take away paper that will assess the intended knowledge outcomes 6-8, and the intended skill outcomes 1, 13-15.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment1MThese will be weekly assessments undertaken on the software package Musition.
Computer assessment2MThese will be weekly assessments undertaken on the software package Musition.
Written exercise1MIntended Skill Outcome 1-12 will be assessed in weekly formative tasks.
Written exercise2MIntended Skill Outcome 1, 13 – 15 will be assessed in weekly formative tasks.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The students are being tested on their abilities to write music (by hand and by software), talk about music using the correct terminology, listen and comprehend musical materials, and then close the circle by writing and writing-about the materials to which they have just listened. The rationale is to enable the student to engage with music theory and literacy to a standard that then enables them to work with other literate musicians.

Further, the assessment is designed to contextualise and enable the student to consider the materials outside of the University learning environment and in real world situations. Whilst these templates for presentation are different, the briefs will be written to ensure consistency of required musical materials and their discussion across the templates to ensure parity of assessment across the cohort.

Reading Lists