Aural Comprehension Guide

David Loberg Code          Western Michigan University

Performance Exams

Performance exams, or recitations, are conducted privately (usually in the instructor's office) and take from 5-10 minutes. While you will be performing some material at first sight, it should not be unexpected material. Your instructor will tell you, at least a week in advance (usually 2 weeks), what type of material will be on the exam. This does not mean that all prepared material will be determined and assigned at that time. For example, you could be asked to prepare 5 new melodies just two days before the exam, BUT you would have been told this in advance (1-2 weeks) and you would have also been told what kind of melodies these would be (e.g. in major, with leaps of 4ths and 5ths), and given some examples. You will never be tested on wholly new material introduced for the first time within a week of the exam.

For each performance exam, your instructor will go through a practice run of each activity, exactly as it will be done during the exam. There should be no surprises. You will be told in advance what you will and will not be allowed to do during the recitation:
if you are allowed to use your own music
if you are allowed to play the piano (or touch the keys)
if you will be able to choose which part of a duet you will sing
if you can sing any scales or triads out loud as a warm-up
Usually you can expect not to be able to do any of the above. You will also be told how much time you will have for each activity (e.g. 30 seconds to study a sight-rhythm), and what kind of preparation you will receive (e.g. starting note, tempo, etc). Once you know what to expect, practice mock-recitations with eachother so that you learn how to use your time effectively.

The following criteria will be used in evaluating graded performances.
10 Pitch, rhythm and syllables (if applicable) completely accurate; musical and convincing.
8-9 Minor inaccuracies, generally continuous performance, demonstrating ability to recover and correct mistakes without stopping or back-tracking; also the grade for a "perfect" but "unmusical" performance.
6-7 Mediocre or careless performance, lack of continuity, unconvincing feeling of tonality, unsteady tempo. This is also the score for an otherwise "perfect" performance that contains false starts, interruptions, or requires the instructor's assistance
4-5 Major pitch and rhythm errors, limited understanding of structure and style.
2-3 Serious deficiencies in all areas.
1 Thank you for showing up.
0 Did not appear for performance


David Loberg Code, School of Music, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 49008. E-mail: 
Revised: 28.Feb.99       (c) 1999