Academic Programs Catalog

College of Music

Graduate Study

Music Theory - Master of Music

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Music students must meet the requirements specified below.


To be considered for admission to the Master of Music degree program in music theory, an applicant must submit to the College of Music:

  1. A one–page, type–written statement, written in English, that addresses the applicant's interest in the field of music theory and in Michigan State University's music theory program.
  2. At least two examples of original compositions, arrangements, orchestrations, or counterpoint exercises, as well as a scholarly writing sample. Applicants are invited to include items representative of their work in music theory.

To be admitted to the program on regular status, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree in music theory from a recognized educational institution, or have completed the courses in music theory that are required for the Bachelor of Music degree in music theory at Michigan State University or their equivalents.

Requirements for the Master of Music Degree in Music Theory

The program is available only under Plan B (without thesis). A total of 30 to 32 credits are required for the degree. The student’s program of study must be approved by the student’s academic advisor, who must be a member of the music theory faculty. The student must meet the requirements specified below:

1. All of the following courses (13 credits):
MUS 830 Research Methods and Materials in Music 3
MUS 874 Schenkerian Analysis 2
MUS 876 Keyboard Skills and Practical Musicianship 3
MUS 970 Pedagogy of Theory I 3
MUS 979 Proseminar in Music Theory 2
2. One of the following courses (3 credits):
MUS 870 Advanced Modal Counterpoint 3
MUS 871 Advanced Tonal Counterpoint 3
Students who take both MUS 870 and 871 may count one of the courses towards requirement 4. below.
3. One of the following courses (2 credits):
MUS 873 Post-Tonal Techniques 2
MUS 974 Proseminar in Post-Tonal Theory and Analysis 2
Students who take both MUS 873 and 974 may count one of these courses toward requirement 4., below.
4. Two of the following courses (6 credits):
MUS 875 Analysis of Musical Scores 3
MUS 971 Pedagogy of Theory II 3
MUS 972 Advanced Keyboard Skills 3
MUS 976 Performance and Analysis 3
MUS 977 Schenkerian Analysis II 3
MUS 978 Analysis of Contemporary Music 2
5. Complete either two semesters of MUS 973 Readings in Music Theory totaling 4 credits, or one semester of MUS 973 plus MUS 971 Pedagogy of Theory II totaling 5 credits. If MUS 971 is counted toward this requirement, it cannot be counted toward requirement 4. above.
6. Complete an additional 3 credits in musicology at the 400-level or above. MUS 830 may not be used to fulfill this requirement.
7. Participate in music activities during two semesters of enrollment in the program. The activities must be approved in advance by the student’s academic advisor and selected from band, chamber ensemble, chorus, jazz band, new-music ensemble, or orchestra.
8. Pass a Keyboard Skills Examination. Materials are prepared from a booklet given to the student at the outset of studies in the program, and will involve the playing of various harmonic progressions and sequences, realizing figured basses, composing accompaniments to simple melodies, transposing, and improvising. The examination will be graded by a committee comprised of two members of the music theory faculty selected by the area chairperson.
9. Complete a Teaching Demonstration. The demonstration must take place after the student has completed MUS 970 Pedagogy of Theory I. A 1 to 2 page proposal outlining the instructional objectives, proposed topic(s) and approach(es), and schedule for completion will be submitted to the advisor for approval at the start of the semester in which the demonstration will take place. The demonstration will occupy a class period of an undergraduate course in music theory to be determined by the area chairperson. It will be graded by a three-person committee selected by the area chairperson and comprised of the advisor, another member of the music theory faculty, and one faculty member from outside the area. The grade will be pass/fail, based upon a majority vote of the three committee members.
10. Complete a capstone research project and publicly present it at a music theory colloquium, to be advised and approved by a member of the music theory faculty. The project may be on either a research-related or a pedagogical topic, and must be similar in scope and format to a conference presentation. Students may choose a project begun or completed as part of either MUS 973 Readings in Music Theory or MUS 971 Pedagogy of Theory II and revise and expand it as determined by the faculty advisor or, with the approval of the area chair, they may work on a new project or expansion of a research paper from a different course.
Procedures for the Capstone Requirements of the Master of Music in Music Theory Degree
Capstone Presentation:
The capstone presentation must be completed no earlier than the student’s enrollment in the course on which the essay is based: either MUS 973 Readings in Music Theory or MUS 971 Pedagogy of Theory II. The student must work under the guidance of a member of the music theory faculty, who approves the final version of the presentation in advance as well as the student’s public presentation of it. The public presentation will be in the format of a conference presentation, with a lecture of approximately 30 minutes followed by an opportunity for questions from those in attendance.
Keyboard Skills Examination:
The Keyboard Skills Examination may be taken at any point while or after the student takes MUS 876 Keyboard Skills and Practical Musicianship. A committee of two faculty examiners from the music theory faculty hears the examination. The examination materials are available upon request from the MUS 876 instructor. Upon successful completion, both faculty members sign the Capstone Requirements Form. The student who is not successful may retake the examination no earlier than the start of the following semester. Students are urged not to wait until their last semester in residence.
Teaching Demonstration:
The Teaching Demonstration may be undertaken once the student has completed MUS 970 Pedagogy of Theory I. The student who plans to take MUS 971 Pedagogy of Theory II is urged to wait until after completion of that course as well. The student must teach an entire 50-minute lecture of an undergraduate music theory course different from the one the student is currently teaching as a graduate assistant. The music theory area chairperson determines which course and assembles a committee of three faculty members, of which at least two must be on the music theory faculty. The student works with the course instructor, in consultation with the other committee members, to determine a date, topics, and learning objectives. All three committee members sign the Capstone Requirement Form upon the student’s successful completion of the Teaching Demonstration.