Theory Studies

Mirandi Herrenbruck | mherrenbruck@overturema.org


Music Theory is the study of the grammar of music. In rehearsals at Overture, directors place an emphasis on training students in theory matters that are pertinent to their level of repertoire as well as to their overall musical development into lifelong music lovers.  All ensembles are encouraged by the directors to understand the essentials of music theory and to grow as holistic musicians, which includes skills in aural training, sight-reading, and solfège.  

At OMA, students can strengthen their overall musicianship if they wish to study the language of music more deeply. Students wishing to enroll in classes in MTAS I and MTAS II will be given an assessment after registration to determine placement. Overture offers three theory course options – the scope of each is outlined below.  

Music Theory Fundamentals 

Music Theory Fundamentals is a one semester class offered for students wishing to spend more time each week studying concepts of Theory outside of ensemble time.  In addition to serving as a foundation for more effective ensemble participation and general music-making, it will also prepare students for MTAS I.  This 30-minute class has homework required outside of weekly class time.   No previous theory study is required.  Topics covered include Basics of Rhythm, Foundations in Pitch, Major and minor keys, Major and minor scales, Solfège, Musical Terms and Signs, and Circle of Fifths.   Grades are based on in-class participation and homework assignments as well as exams.  Google classroom access is a requirement.  

Recommended age: 10-18 years

Cost: see Enrollment information


Music Theory and Aural Skills I

Music Theory and Aural Skills I is suitable for a student who has had several years of playing or singing experience and some minimal formal instruction in the grammar of music outside of ensemble time, or who has completed Music Theory Fundamentals at OMA. The course assumes a working knowledge of concepts in the essentials of theory but takes those further and goes deeper. Notational practices, scales, tonality, advanced rhythmic concepts, chord structures, key signature and scale relationships, interval distinction, beginning transposition skills, functional harmony, dictation skills, and beginning musical analysis will be among some of the topics covered. Development of level-appropriate aural skills will be an ongoing focus.  Working independently outside of the weekly class meeting is crucial:  at-home work will comprise both reading assignments and written exercises, as well as journaling on listening assignments that help students build a historical framework for the development of music composition from the Medieval Age to present.  Total weekly time commitment outside of class is an average of 2 hours.  Most students will take this as a high school elective credit, since students will accumulate over 100 hours of work in the matter, equivalent to the hours for a full credit of elective.  Grades are based on in-class participation and homework assignments as well as exams.  

Required texts and supplies for MTAS I:

  • Three-ring binder with both lined and manuscript paper 
  • Pencil and eraser in class each week
  • Composition Notebook or bound journal-style notebook for listening assignments
  • Google classroom access is a requirement
  • Student purchases: 

Music in Theory and Practice, Vol I, 8th Edition by Benward & Saker. This text is used for a minimum of two years. Gently used copies of this text are encouraged and available for purchase on Amazon and similar websites using ISBN-13: 978-0073101873

Mrs. Herrenbruck can make this available as a print-at-home .pdf file, in the event that a satisfactory published copy is unavailable for purchase. Contact her directly to make arrangements.  If a family doesn’t have the option for print-at-home, Overture can provide a printed copy of the pdf for $20 in addition to the class supply fee.

  • Provided by OMA: Aural Proficiency by Barbara Wallace – paid for in Supply Fee for MTAS I

Recommended age: 12-19 yrs

Prerequisites: Music Theory Fundamentals, or by instructor approval

Cost:  see Enrollment information

Music Theory and Aural Skills II

Music Theory and Aural Skills II is for the student who demonstrates proficient and working knowledge of concepts such as key signatures, M/m scales & chords, rhythms, as well as some basic skills in harmonic analysis, and level-appropriate aural skills. Topics studied will include qualities and inversions of chords, modes, cadences, harmonic progressions, voice-leading, musical texture, transposition, forms in music, functional harmonic analysis, composition techniques, and counterpoint. Both dictation and aural skills are an ongoing & integral part of the class. This class can serve as preparation for the AP Music Theory test, though it goes beyond the scope and sequence of the AP Music Theory coursework requires.  Students who complete MTAS II will be able to take college placement exams for Music Theory with ease.  Total weekly time commitment outside of class is an average of 3 hours.  Most students will take this as an honors high school elective credit, since students will accumulate well over 100 hours of work in the matter, equivalent to the hours for a full credit of elective.

Grades are based on in-class participation and homework assignments as well as exams.

Recommended age: 13-19 yrs.

Prerequisites: MTAS I or by instructor approval.

Cost:  see Enrollment information

Required texts and supplies for MTAS II:

  • Three-ring binder with both lined and manuscript paper 
  • Pencil and eraser in class each week
  • Composition Notebook or bound journal-style notebook for listening assignments
  • Google classroom access is a requirement
  • Student purchases:  Music in Theory and Practice, Vol I, 8th Edition by Benward & Saker. This text is used for a minimum of two years. Gently used copies of this text are encouraged and available for purchase on Amazon and similar websites using ISBN-13: 978-0073101873

Mrs. Herrenbruck can make this available as a print-at-home .pdf file, in the event that a satisfactory published copy is unavailable for purchase. Contact her directly to make arrangements.  If a family doesn’t have the option for print-at-home, Overture can provide a printed copy of the pdf for $20 in addition to the class supply fee.

  • Aural Proficiency by Barbara Wallace – MTAS I students will use this for a second year.  It is paid for in Supply Fee for MTAS I or as an additional fee if the student didn’t take MTAS I.  Contact Mrs. Herrenbruck for details.

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