Piano Proficiency Exam

Relevant to: All Music Majors in the B.A. program

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 three (3) semesters of group keyboard study (at a previous institution, or at CSUEB).

The most efficient way to fulfill this requirement is to complete the Keyboard Musicianship sequence (MUS 118, MUS 119, and MUS 218). Students who pass the sequence 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 Keyboard Musicianship courses who wish to demonstrate their mastery of proficiency items may only do so during the first two weeks of the Fall or Spring semester.

Contact Omir Shimron promptly 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)

Piano Proficiency Guidelines

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

Theory & Musicianship Placement Exam

Relevant to: All incoming transfer students

The Theory & Musicianship Placement Exam asses the incoming transfer student's theory and musicianship proficiency in order to better determine their placement within our theory sequence, as well as determines if they are ready for our upper division theory courses. All transfer students must take this exam before registering for upper division music theory courses.

In order to prepare for the exam, we suggest students review Chapters 1-34 of our theory textbook (Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony), and Chapters 1-61 of our Aural Skills textbook (Manual for Ear Training & Sight Singing). Both at available at our bookstore and library.

If you have any questions about the exam, please contact Inés Thiebaut: