Aural Comprehension Guide

David Loberg Code          Western Michigan University

Written Exams

Written exams may include melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic dictation; identification of intervals, chords, and scales; and error detection. They will be given collectively in your regular classroom or the lecture hall. For some courses, the instructors will rotate giving the exams, thus you will not always be taking the exam from your individual instructor. Every attempt will be maintain consistency among the various sections, so that the exam is equally fair for all. Unless you are told otherwise, always bring pencils and blank manuscript paper to exams. As with the performance exams, your instructor will go over what material is to be covered and how it will be presented. You will be told ahead of time how many times you will hear each musical example and what kind of preparation you will receive (i.e., tempo, key, starting note, etc.). The presentation of materials in exams should be consistent with how you have worked on the material in class.

You will have quizzes or mock exams in class to prepare you for the exams. You must practice mock exams on your own, so that you learn to use your time effectively. Use one part of your paper for taking dication and another for copying it out. You don't have time to write neatly while you are taking dictation, but you must turn in a clean, legible copy for your instructor. Take advantage of the time in between listenings to plan what to listen for the next time. Learn to focus your attention so as not to be distracted by external sounds. Unfortunately, these walls are not soundproof, so you might hear a marching band practicing while you are trying to take your exam. We can't do anything about the marching band, but you can learn to tune it out. More importantly, don't be a distraction to anyone else. Don't hum, sing, whistle, tap your foot, clap, or anything that would make sound--both during and between listenings. Don't talk (or sigh or moan) in between listenings--especially not during that split second right after the excerpt ends. In other words, don't invade people's sonic space, it really bugs them.

The type of material on the exams will be similar to your performance material form the Rhythm & Pitch book. You should use your sightreading exercises as a source for dictation materials. Each week, a melody or rhythm adapted from your book will be recorded and put on Reserve in the Library under: CODE, MUS 162 (or 163 or 259), "Tune of the Week." Your instructor may use some of these as assignments or simply as practice material. As a supplement, you have been provided with dictation materials in your CopyDesk Packet. Some of these exercises can be found on the Musicianship Tapes on reserve. These exercises have been indicated on your syllabus. You will not be able to get by just on what is done in class. You must practice outside of class on a regular basis.


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