Music Theory & Composition

Music Composition

Music Theory & Composition Classes

Monday-Saturday | 45-minute group classes per week; private lessons also available
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
  • Analysis of pieces from Baroque and Classical eras
  • 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 – simple harmonization of melodies
  • Continued dictation and solfege studies

Form & Analysis II
Subjects Covered:

  • More advanced harmonies
    • 7th chords
    • Secondary dominants
    • Diminished chords
  • Solfege including non-diatonic notes and modulations
  • Second, third, and fourth species counterpoint
  • Fugue
  • Introduction to 4-part chorale harmonization 
  • Modes of major
  • Analysis of larger works

This class will prepare students for taking the Advanced Placement Music Theory test, typically in mid-May. In the past, students who have taken theory at RSC through the “Form and Analysis 2” classes have been very successful, scoring 5s on the AP exam.

The subjects covered in Form and Analysis 2 are continued and expanded upon. Emphasis is placed on 4-part chorale harmonization, with attention to the 18th Century rules of counterpoint. Extensive practice leads to mastery of many topics, including specific definitions of non-chord tones, modulations, form, transposition, and other complex concepts.

This class can be arranged for students who have already completed the AP music theory. Typically, the AP test covers theory concepts up to through the Classical Era (roughly 1800). Many more complex theory concepts were introduced in the Romantic Era, and in the 20th and 21st centuries!  

This class can be a bit student driven, studying what students would like to discover and delve into. In the past it has included:

  • Move advanced harmonies, such as Augmented 6th chords, borrowed chords, passing diminished chords, Neapolitan chords, and more
  • Schoenberg’s 12-tone theory
  • An introduction to jazz theory

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.

12 classes per semester, 45 minutes each

Starting in the fall of 2023, RSC will be offering a theory class from 5:30-6:15, taught by RSC’s Wind Ensemble instructor, Claire Nalven. If enrolment allows, it will be split into beginning and intermediate sections, with a second instructor. This class is not restricted to RYWE students.

Much like the “Theory After Orchestra” classes, these are designed to coordinate with the RYWE rehearsals. As a result, they will meet 24 times over the course of the academic year, with a tuition of $250 per term, $500 for the entire year.

12 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 or are not rehearsing. As a result, the Theory After Orchestra program is
registered for 12 weeks per semester (rather than the usual 16 for
other classes). Tuition is $250 per semester. Classes start as early as 5:15 PM and as late as 6:15 PM, designed to follow the varied orchestra rehearsal schedules.

16 lessons per semester (30, 45, or 60-minute lesson)

While jazz and European Classical music share some common concepts,
studying jazz theory quickly diverges from more standard theory classes.
Jazz Theory is offered as a private lesson, so it 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.

This will be billed as a private lesson in music theory.

16 lessons per semester (30, 45, or 60-minute lesson)

In addition to classes, students may opt to study theory as a private lesson. Such classes can be tailored to your educational and scheduling needs, and are billed at the usual private lesson tuition rate.

16 lessons per semester (30, 45, or 60-minute lesson)

RSC is now offering both private composition classes and small seminar-style classes in composition. The time and day of these classes depends on scheduling with the instructor(s).