Music is a form of communication—the communication of feelings and emotions through organized sound. Well-rounded musicians make use of three interrelated and interacting elements—musical techniquemusical intuition, and musical intelligence. You might think of this as a three-legged stool. All three components are necessary for an accomplished musician. Musical technique refers to performance skills or the craft of musical composition. Musical intuition provides us with the creative, imaginative, and emotional aspect of music. Musical intelligence involves multiple capabilities—facility in aural perception and discrimination and in comprehension of the written score; insight into the relations of musical structure, style, and interpretation; understanding of the materials and stylistic elements of music; and so on. This understanding of the language of music is the essence of music theory.

Peterson Theory Class

Information for New Music Students

Members of the music theory area of the School of Music would like to express our pleasure that you might be coming to JMU to study music. Your chance to succeed as a music major substantially increases if you cultivate your skills in the following three areas before your first semester of study:

Master the basics

Be sure you can:

  • Easily read and notate both treble and bass clefs
  • Write basic notation correctly (stems and beams)
  • Understand note durations and time signatures
  • Identify and write major and minor key signatures and scales, interval qualities, triad qualities, 7th chords

Becoming fluent in these rudiments is crucial to your success in more advanced music topics.

Develop your ear

Take every opportunity to train your ear. Sing as much as possible (scales, intervals, arpeggiated chords, melodies, etc.). Sight singing and dictation (melodic, rhythmic and harmonic) are important skills in developing the ear. Developing the ear is a lifetime job. The earlier work is started, the better your chances for success.

Practice the keyboard

Keyboard ability is important for the life work of musicians. Students with piano keyboard skills have a head start as music majors.

Music theory, the study of the language of music from both aural and written perspectives, helps musicians develop all three of these skills.

Music Theory Professors and Instructors

Jason Haney

Jason Haney
Professor, Composition/Theory Area Coordinator
Contact Information

Composition Professors and Instructors

Jason Haney

Jason Haney
Professor, Composition/Theory Area Coordinator
Contact Information

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