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Theory and Ear Training

What is the Theory and Ear Training audition test?

The Theory/Ear Training test is a required test for all students auditioning for the Degree program. This test is administered during audition days, prior to your scheduled instrumental audition. It is approximately 30 to 50 minutes in length. The test is in two parts: a written theory portion, and an aural dictation portion. There is no sight singing component.

My audition time is listed as ___ (am/pm). What time is my Theory / Ear Training test?

Your listed audition time IS the time for your Theory/Ear Training test; it’s the first thing you’ll do when you arrive. For instance, if your information says that your audition is at 9am, your Theory / Ear Training test will be from 9-9:50 am. Once you complete the test, you’ll meet with your major instrument department head, at which point you’ll be assigned a time for your instrumental audition. Depending on your instrument, you may need to remain on campus for a total of 3-4 hours altogether.

What do I need to bring?

Please bring a pencil and an eraser. No additional staff paper will be required.

Which topics are covered on this test?

The Theory portion of the test is designed to assess your ability to write and identify the following:

  • Time signatures: simple, compound and composite meters
  • Key signatures: all major and minor
  • Triads: major, minor, augmented, diminished, in open and closed position
  • 7th chords: major, minor, dominant, diminished, with alterations of the 5th or 7th when applicable
  • Intervals: all simple and compound, up to 2 octaves
  • Scales: major, harmonic minor, melodic (jazz) minor, natural minor
  • Modes: all modes of major scale
  • Clefs: ability to write and identify the preceding concepts in both treble and bass clef
  • Notation skills: proper notation of noteheads, rests, beaming, stems, and bar lines

In the Ear Training portion, you will be asked to dictate and aurally identify:

  • Scales: major, harmonic minor, melodic (jazz) minor, natural minor
  • Intervals: all simple and compound, up to 2 octaves
  • 7th chords: as listed above
  • Rhythms: Short rhythmic phrases in simple or compound meters
  • Melodies: Short diatonic melodic phrases in simple or compound meters, in major or minor keys
  • Chord progression: Short chord progressions (4 chords in length) that are typical in jazz turnarounds

How do I prepare for the Theory portion of the test?

For a review of the Theory topics listed above, consult Humber’s Theory text, Jazz and Contemporary Music Theory, 3rd edition (by Mike Downes and Brad Klump), available in the Humber Lakeshore Bookstore. This is the text used for all of Humber’s Theory classes, and it contains numerous exercises and musical examples. If you have additional questions, please sign up for an Audition Preparation Workshop.

How do I prepare for the Ear Training portion of the test?

For melodic, harmonic and rhythmic examples, please consult Humber’s Ear Training text, The Ears Have Walls (Dickinson), available at the Humber Lakeshore Bookstore. This text is used for all 4 semesters of Ear Training at Humber. If you have a weakness in this area, we urge you to practice dictation examples with a private tutor. A working knowledge of the piano will also help a great deal.

For more ear training drills, try the "jazz" exercises under Music Theory and Ear Training Exercises at Teoria.com.

I have Royal Conservatory Theory training. Do I need to take the test?

Yes. All auditioning students are required to take the test, regardless of prior background. Be aware that the terminology that we use may be slightly different from Royal Conservatory or other programs. Pick up a copy of the Theory textbook (listed above) to get familiar with these terms, regarding scales, intervals and chord symbols in particular. 

I’m doing a distance audition. How do I write the test if I’m off campus? 

Out-of-province applicants, as well as those within Ontario who are not within a commutable distance to Humber College will be required to complete a proctored Music Theory Evaluation Test. 

View information posted on your MyHumber about how this is arranged. 

I didn’t do well on my Theory / Ear Training test. Will I still get in?

All auditioning students are given an overall grade. This grade is based primarily on the instrumental audition results, however the Theory/Ear Training test counts towards a portion of that grade as well.

If you are accepted, but told that you need to upgrade your theory/ear training skills, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you do so before September. Be sure to review the concepts listed above by studying from our texts, seek private tutoring, or both. The degree program is very demanding and you will benefit from basic theory knowledge in order to keep up with your classes.

Theory Contact

Shirantha Beddage 
Head of Theory and Harmony department, Humber Music
shirantha.beddage@humber.ca