This seminar is designed to equip the student with fundamental knowledge of musical notation and language. Clefs, time and key signatures, the staff, symbols for pitch and duration, and musical grammar and vocabulary will all be covered. We will also consider the relevancy and value of various analytical models and techniques. Emphasis will be placed on making the participant’s listening experience more rewarding. A rudimentary ability to read notes is required.


Copies of this syllabus will be distributed in class.

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How to Register

Click here to register online or simply call the Graham School at 312/464-8655

Optional Reading

Other than a rudimentary familiarity with note reading, no preparation is necessary for this seminar. These materials are optional recommendations for additional study before or after the session.

Web resources for some music theory basics:

  1. Basic note reading. You should be able to recognize treble and bass clef and know the pitch names by their letter. For instance, you should be able to understand that the bottom line of the treble staff is “E.” I won’t use many notes that go above or below the staff.Here’s a handy reference.

  2. Intervals. An interval is the distance between two pitches. Each interval has its own sound and affects the character of the music by changing the color of melodies, chords, etc. This article goes into more detail than you need, but the introduction is very useful, basic introduction.

  3. Scales and Keys. Catherine Schmidt-Jones has articles on major keys and minor keys with sound samples. Advanced: explore the expressive characteristics of musical keys.

  4. Primary Chords. Here’s where you learn about tonic, dominant, etc. This podcast will help you learn to recognize the sounds of the three primary chords in western music.

  5. “Circle of Fifths”. The circle of fifths models how musical keys relate to each other. Wikipedia has an explanation, and Rand Scullard has created an interactive circle of fifths.