Module Catalogue 2022/23

MUS1103 : Essentials and Structures of Music Theory

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Paul Fleet
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



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.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1.       To explain and discuss the materials of music using appropriate theoretical language.
2.       Notate music using C, G, F and neutral clefs.
3.       To recognise and apply key signatures.
4.       Understand the basics of four-part harmony.
5.       To categorise and compose perfect, imperfect, plagal and interrupted cadences in major and minor keys.
6.       To appraise and analyse the principles of Species Counterpoint.
7.       To appraise and analyse the principles of a rhythmic reduction.
8.       To appraise and analyse the structures of Common Practice musics.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1.       To produce music notation both by hand and digitally to a publishable standard.
2.       To produce short and full score musical examples with annotations and explanatory graphic elements.
3.       To analyse and construct harmonic modulations to the dominant, sub-dominant and relative key signature.
4.       To transpose the musical material from one key signature into another a tone higher or lower, and a fifth higher or lower.
5.       To discriminate and apply time signatures in duple, triple, quadruple common and compound values.
6.       To compose and apply the intended knowledge and skill outcomes in four voice harmony.
7.       To analyse and categorise harmonies using Roman numerals and figured bass.
8.       To analyse and categorise a perfect, imperfect, plagal and interrupted cadence.
9.       To identify, recall and reproduce sequential intervals within a major scale using embodied learning strategies.
10.       To identify, recall and reproduce random intervals within a major scale using embodied learning strategies.
11.       To identify, recall and reproduce all intervals within an octave using embodied learning strategies.
12.       To compose and place in harmonic context second inversion chords in Common Practice Harmony.
13.       To compose and create musical material with the historical practice of species counterpoint.
14.       To reduce a musical score in Common Practice to its rhythmic skeleton.
15.       To compose a piece in the Common Practice style from a given rhythmic reduction.

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.

Reading Lists

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
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.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.