MUSC 121: Fundamentals of Music I

This course covers the musical building blocks of pitch, melody, rhythm, meter, harmony, and form, along with the notation system used in Western art music. Students will explore these materials in both a written and an aural form, developing skills in each domain. This course will be helpful for students who wish to read and write conventional musical notation; to understand the concepts and systems behind music they play, sing, and hear; and to prepare for further academic studies in music theory, composition, or performance.

The basic repertory students will use is Western art music, which is sometimes casually called “classical music,” along with some examples from folk song and contemporary popular music.

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • compose and notate simple melodies
  • harmonize simple melodies
  • recognize basic musical forms
  • understand the fundamental relationships between melody, harmony, rhythm, and meter
  • identify by ear and by sight intervals, major and minor triads, major and minor scales
  • read treble and bass clef notation.

Required Text:

  • Straus, Elements of Music, 3rd edition (2011) ISBN: 978-0205858200

Required Software:

  • MuseScore music notation software (current edition; or later)—This is free software available from the MuseScore website.

Other Course Requirements:

  • This course requires a high-speed Internet connection. Students may be required to download software and configure their computers to interface with the University’s password-protected music library. Complete instructions will be available in the course.
  • To submit assignments electronically, students will need access to a scanner. Assignments can also be submitted by mail.
  • You will need to print out assignments and exercises each week. Your printer must be able to handle PDF documents.

View a sample course syllabus.

Contact the Friday Center at with any questions or for more information.

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