Music Theory & Composition

Music Composition

Music Theory & Composition Classes

Monday-Saturday| 30, 45, or 60 minute classes per week
Tuition Rates

All musicians, regardless of age, experience, genre, or goals, encounter theory throughout their musical lives. The RSC Theory curriculum is designed to offer multiple points of entry and a great degree of freedom in the approach to the subject.

Learn what is beyond the “notes on paper” and how to use this knowledge when learning repertoire or expressing yourself with your own compositions. Core areas of study include notation, ear training, dictation, solfège, rhythm, harmony, form, and analysis. When possible, students are urged to apply theory concepts to their instruments – playing all 12 major scales, arpeggiating triads, analyzing pieces they are performing – so that they see how their theory study is relevant to their solo and ensemble studies.

Classes are added based on student interest and scheduling.
Contact Theory Chair Dan Loschen for more information:

Dan Loschen,

Levels of Study
There are as many approaches to music theory as there are musicians;
what is easy for a pianist may be difficult for a violinist, and what is easy for
a singer may be difficult for a pianist. As a result, it is difficult to define an
objective universal standard for curriculum levels. At RSC, we work from
these general guidelines:

Fundamentals I
Subjects Covered:

  • Basic notation
  • Pitch identification in treble and bass clefs
  • Diatonic solfege singing and dictation
  • Rhythms in simple meter, notes/rests as short as 8ths (dictation and
  • General intervals up to an octave, precise intervals up to a 5 th
  • The structure of a major scale
  • The Circle of 5ths and major key signatures

Fundamentals II
Subjects Covered:

  • Continuing with subjects in Fundamentals 1
    • Pitch dictation and performance
    • Rhythm dictation including compound meter
  • Precise intervals up to an octave
  • Minor scales in all forms; minor key signatures
  • Relative keys
  • Triads (major/minor/diminished)
    • Primary triads in a key
    • Inversions
    • Intro to figured bass notation
  • Beginning composition exercises
Form & Analysis I
Subjects Covered:

  • Cadences
  • Modulation
  • Analyzing pieces from the repertoire
  • Types of non-chord tones (melodic analysis)
  • Forms in classical music
    • Binary, ternary
    • Sonata allegro form, theme and variation, rondo, etc.
  • Cantus firmus and first species counterpoint
  • Composition exercises; harmonization of melodies
  • Modes of major
  • Continued dictation and solfege studies

Form & Analysis II
Subjects Covered:

  • More advanced harmonies
    • 7th chords
    • Secondary dominants
    • Augmented 6th chords
    • Neapolitan chords
    • Diminished chords
  • Solfege including non-diatonic notes and modulations
  • Second, third, and fourth species counterpoint
  • Fugue
  • 4-part chorale harmonization – constructing and analyzing
  • Introduction 12-tone-row theory
  • Analysis of larger works

Advanced Form & Analysis
Contact Lindsey Robb for information on more advanced classes

Theory Classes
Studying theory in a class setting is often more enjoyable, and more
economical, then taking private lessons. The classes below are set up at
times when large numbers of students are available – but you can join
these classes even if you are not in the groups listed.

Fridays: Theory After Orchestra
14 classes per semester, 45 minutes each

RSC has a very robust orchestra program on Friday afternoons. Many
students opt to attend music theory classes immediately after their
orchestra rehearsals finish. The high number of students involved
enable us to tailor classes to all ability levels. To coordinate
seamlessly with the orchestra, these classes will not meet during
weeks when the orchestras are holding extended rehearsals – roughly
four times a year. As a result, the Theory After Orchestra program is
registered for 14 weeks per semester (rather than the usual 16 for
other classes). Tuition is $280 per semester. Classes for the younger
students start at 5:45 (after the Primo and Prep orchestras finish at
5:30); classes for the older students run from 6:30-7:15 (after RSO).

Mondays: Theory Before Wind Ensemble
16 classes per semester, 45 minutes each

Prior to the Wind Ensemble rehearsals on Mondays, RSC is offering theory
classes to interested students. You do not need to be a member of the
Wind Ensemble to join this class. Expected time would be 5:45-6:30;
Level(s) and tuition are TBD at this point (8/22/22).

Piano Theory
16 classes per semester, 45 minutes each

An understanding of the piano keyboard is a huge advantage to any
student of music theory. Pianists experience the interaction between
melody and accompanying harmony on a regular basis, and so can
master concepts others find difficult. To that end, the Piano Theory class provides an excellent opportunity for students to connect piano
repertoire and the theory concepts underlying it.

Jazz Theory
16 classes per semester, 45 minutes each

While jazz and European Classical music share some common concepts,
studying jazz theory quickly diverges from more standard theory classes.
This class is available on a TBA basis, and so can be tailored to meet the
interests of the student, from basics to more complex repertoire and
composition. Jazz theory has an even greater emphasis on performance:
playing and understanding need to be integrated thoroughly.

1:1 Theory and Composition Lessons
Theory and composition can also be studied in a private lesson setting.
These lessons can be 30, 45, or 60 minutes long. RSC has traditionally
offered great opportunities for student composers, with many having their
compositions performed in our renowned Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young.