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Music Department Examinations

Musicianship Placement Exam

Relevant to: Incoming Transfer Students; Incoming Freshmen with advanced Music Theory/Aural Skills/Keyboard knowledge.

The Musicianship Placement Examination is based on the three subject areas covered in the first two years of theory studies in this music department: Music Theory, Aural Skills, and Keyboard. Each student completes those parts of the examination which are appropriate to the student’s level. When the examination is evaluated, a faculty advisor will use the results to design an appropriate course program.

  • First-time freshmen are not required to take the Musicianship Placement Examination, and will instead be enrolled in MUS 108 Language of Music automatically. However, any incoming student with advanced Music Theory, Aural and Keyboard skills may request to take the exam in order to register for higher courses within the Music Theory & Musicianship sequence.
  • Transfer students must take the Musicianship Placement Examination in order to facilitate advising and correct level placement.

The Musicianship Placement Examination, which is administered by the Music Department, is not to be confused with the Advanced Placement (AP) Examinations as explained in the Cal State East Bay University Catalog. The CSUEB Transfer Admission Requirements can be found through the CSUEB Admissions Office. It should also be noted that receiving advanced standing within the Music Theory & Musicianship sequence does not automatically award units for those classes that are waived. The student would substitute the waived units with music electives.

Piano Proficiency Exam

Relevant to: All Music Majors.

The Piano Proficiency Exam at the Cal State East Bay Department of Music assesses competencies that demonstrate basic functionality at the keyboard, appropriate to a Bachelor of Arts student in Music.

In order to graduate, all CSUEB Music students must pass the Piano Proficiency Exam OR complete four (4) semesters of group keyboard study. All music students are required to complete Basic Keyboard I (MUS 118A) and Basic Keyboard II (MUS 118B).

The most efficient way to complete the Piano Proficiency requirement is to enroll in Intermediate Keyboard I (MUS 218A) and Intermediate Keyboard II (MUS 218B). Students who pass Intermediate Keyboard I and Intermediate Keyboard II with a minimum grade of C are not required to take the piano proficiency exam.

While some students elect to work on proficiency requirements independently, it is highly discouraged and may significantly delay graduation. Students not enrolled in Intermediate Keyboard I or Intermediate Keyboard II who wish to demonstrate their mastery of proficiency items may only do so during the fall and spring Final Exam period.

Contact Dr. Shimron at least 14-21 days in advance to schedule the exam.

Please follow the guidelines and use the examples below to prepare for the Piano Proficiency Exam. All examples are taken from Alfred’s Group Piano for Adults, 2nd Ed., (Lancaster, 2004)

Harmonization and Transposition:
  • Students will be asked to play two (2) harmonizations and transpose each one.
    • Harmonization No. 1 will contain a melody with no given chords. Students will need to choose and play tonally appropriate chords in LH while playing the melody in the RH, followed by a transposition to a different key. Chords should be derived from primary triads (I, IV, V7), with a logical progression that builds on the common practice Phrase Model. Students will need to play chords in LH (blocked or broken) while playing the melody in the RH, followed by a transposition to a different key.
    • Harmonization No. 2 will contain a melody with given chords in the form of lead-sheet symbols (pop/chord symbols) or Roman numerals. Students will need to play chords in LH while playing the melody in the RH, followed by a transposition to a different key. Chords may contain diatonic and chromatic chords (secondary dominants, etc.)
  • Prepare the following examples or equivalent examples with prior approval of Dr. Shimron.


  • Choose one of the excerpts below or another excerpt of equal or greater difficulty.
  • Sing the melody on (a) neutral syllable (“la”) or (b) solfège or (c) text/lyrics.
  • Play an accompaniment throughout based on the pattern at the beginning of the song
  • Use appropriate harmonies based on the chord symbols and use a variety of chord inversions.
  • Accompaniment must match the character of the song

Sight Reading

  • Students will be asked to sight-read excerpts at the difficulty level of the examples given below. Excerpts might be in major or minor keys.
  • Students will have one minute to silently study the example before playing.
  • Play with an emphasis on continuity. Rhythm is more important than pitch here.
  • Choose one piece of equal or greater difficulty compared to the examples below. You must obtain prior approval from Dr. Shimron for any substitutions. Prepare and perform, paying attention to the grading criteria listed below. Memorization is not required.
  • Note accuracy
  • Fingering accuracy
  • Harmonic accuracy (harmonizing melodies with tonally appropriate chords)
  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Tempo appropriateness
  • Pulse stability
  • Expression and musicality: including dynamics, articulation, tone quality, etc.
  • Technique: including hand position, posture, etc.
  • Continuity
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