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WMU Music Graduate Entrance Exams

Overview, Instructions and Exam Format

Music History Review







Music Theory Review


20th-century Techniques

Musical Form


20th-century Scales, Modes, and Chord/Cluster Concepts

Underlined terms are hotlinked to an example

Traditional Modes

-The easiest way to remember these is to know the modes in order of their alphabetical starting pitch: 
   A, B, C, D, E, F, G

-To build one of these modes on a different starting pitch, just follow its exact whole-step, half-step model



Whole-step/half-step Model

Aeolian (A)

A     B  C     D     E  F     G     A

half steps are between 2-3 and 5-6, (just like "natural" minor)

Locrian (B)

B  C     D     E  F     G     A     B

half steps are between 1-2 and 4-5

Ionian (C)

C     D     E  F     G     A     B  C

half steps are between 3-4 and 7-8, (just like a "major" scale)

Dorian (D)

D     E  F     G     A     B  C     D

half steps are between 2-3 and 6-7

Phrygian (E)

E  F     G     A     B  C     D     E

half steps are between 1-2 and 5-6

Lydian (F)

F     G     A     B  C     D     E  F

half steps are between 4-5 and 7-8

Mixolydian (G)

G     A     B  C     D     E  F     G

half steps are between 3-4 and 6-7


Modern Modes and Scales
- To build one of these modes on a different starting pitch, just follow its exact whole-step, half-step model



Whole-step/half-step Model

Lydian Minor (F)--used in jazz
(compare to Lydian)

F    G    A    B  C  Db    Eb     F
F    G    A    B  C       D      E  F (lydian)

half steps are between 4-5 and 5-6

Whole-Tone Scale

C    D    E     F#   G#   A#   B# (=C)

All whole steps (only 7 notes in an octave)

Octatonic Scale
(in jazz, this is called a "Diminished" Scale)

C     D  Eb    F  Gb   Ab  A     B  C
C  Db   Eb  E    F#  G     A  Bb   C
(in jazz, these are the two options for a "diminished scale"; in classical music there are 42 other possibilities)

The most common ones alternate whole-step/half-step or half-step/whole-step to create 9 notes in an octave

Gapped Scale

C   D     E        G     A
this example is a "pentatonic scale"made by using only 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of a major scale

Selected pitches derived from a larger scale (omit certain notes from a larger scale, such as using only five pitches from a seven-note scale)


Terms for Chords, "Sonorities", "Simultaneities", or Clusters


An Example



 A B C D E F# pitch cluster

a cluster of just 2nds


 G   Bb   D   F   A
the pitches listed above can also be described in triadic chord terms as a "minor ninth" chord:  Gmi9

a cluster of just 3rds


 E       A       D       G

a cluster of just 4ths


 C#        G#       D#      A#

a cluster of just 5ths

Whole-tone Chord

 E    F#   G#  A#  B# 

a cluster of pitches related by whole-steps




Mixed-Interval Chord

 G Bb D    F  A  C
the pitches above can be seen as a "tertian bichord"("G minor chord" plus an "F major chord" stacked together)

Two chords on top of each other (a combination of two distinct chordal sonorities)

Not structured from one consistent interval
(dissonant, so lends itself well to atonal music)

Mystic Chord

 C  F#  Bb  E  A  D

A "quartal" hexachord (has 6 notes built in combinations of Perfect 4ths, diminished 4, Augmented 4ths)--developed by the Russian composer Scriabin


Pandiatonic planing

Stravinsky and Copland's "neo-Classic" styles

Free use of diatonic scale resources
(freely make chords from the notes of the diatonic scale without worrying about resolving them functionally in a traditional sense)

"Pandiatonic planing" is the free harmonic use of all 7 diatonic notes in a "floating chord" style

Tone Cluster (harmony)

Use a 12-inch block of wood to press down black and white keys on a piano

A dense block of PITCHES

Sound Mass (texture)


A dense block-like musical TEXTURE
(focuses more on texture, color, dynamics than on pitch)


A melody and its variation played together

Simultaneous variation in different layers/textures



Diverse musical elements assembled into a composite


A clarinetist plays a note while humming a different note through the instrument

Simultaneous multiple sounds/partials

Modern Terms for Rhythm

Additive Rhythm

A larger meter (such as 5/8) constructed by combining smaller irregular units (2 + 3  or 3 + 2)

Metric Modulation

Transition from one meter or tempo to another through constant common-note values (Carter, etc.)

Non-retrogradable rhythm

A rhythm that is the same forward and backward (doesn't change when done in retrograde/backwards)

Polyrhythm (polymeter)

More than one meter performed simultaneously

Serialized rhythm

Added values


A rhythm that is controlled by numbers in the manner of a 12-tone-row (Webern, etc.)

When a note/rest/dot (usually 16th-note value) is added to disrupt an otherwise "square" rhythm.

A rhythmic/melodic figure that repeats over and over


Other General 20th-century Techniques and Terms:

Aleatoric: ("alea" means "dice") Music in which some elements are left to chance.

Atonality: Absence of tonal center in a complex chromatic structure

Diminished (octatonic) scale: A linear structure comprised of alternating half and whole steps.

Doedecaphonic: 12-tone music ("dodeca" means "12")

Heterophony: simultaneous multiple sounds or partials (overtones), such as playing a note and humming a different note through the same instrument at the same time

Invariance: Hexachordal sets containing like pitch content (this happens when "6-note hexachords" from two different versions of the same 12-tone row contain exactly the same pitches, so those parts of those rows are interchangeable)

Pointillism: A musical texture with frequent rests, short melodic lines, with an emphasis on tone colors and dynamics (focuses on isolated "points" of sound separated by silence).

Klangfarbenmelodie: Notes or chords that are assigned different orchestral colors (a "multi-colored" melody achieved by distributing the pitches among different instruments as it unfolds)

Minimalism: a repetitious musical style based on limited musical material or elements

Musique concrete: the use of environmental sound resources in electronic music (using sounds found in the "every day" world and then electronically manipulating them such as Varese did in his "Poeme electronique")

Third Stream: 20th-century music employing some jazz techniques (such as in the works of Gunther Schuller)