Music to My Ears: Theory of Tonal Music and Goodbyes!


Hey ya’ll! I’m Vicki: class of 2019, ethnomusicology and applied-math economics double concentrator, and your blogger for the Music to My Ears column. I’ll be writing all about Brown’s diverse and bustling music scene each week, so stay tuned!

This has been something I’ve been involved in all year, so it’s only fitting that I should end the year with it! Theory of Tonal Music, or MUSC 0550 and 0560, is a year-long course that all music concentrators must take in order to graduate from Brown. It’s a sort of rite of passage in the music department. But what does it entail?

The first semester is mostly counterpoint – think Bach, with just two lines, and implied harmonies. Two lines sounds easy, but there really are quite a few rules to follow in order to write in this style. In the lab portion, it’s all beginning ear training – this includes recognizing, identifying, and writing intervals.

Second semester gets a lot more interesting. In the lecture portion, we move on to harmonic progressions and interesting chords, and later on to the beginnings of formal structure (binary and ternary), and end with the Sonata form. We actually got to compose both a binary form piece and a full sonata exposition in class as our final project! The lab portion definitely got a bit trickier, with melodic dictation and harmonic dictation both starting to modulate, with more interesting chords such as the Neopolitan.

With heavy fingers, I write to you in my last post of the Music to My Ears column. It’s been a great year, and I’ve had so much fun pushing myself to really discover Brown’s diverse music scene for this column. Have an awesome summer, Brunonians!

Questions, comments, or concerns? I want to hear ’em. Seriously! Shoot me an email at


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